Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rammed Earth In INDIA

This is home was designed by Chitra Vishwanath Architects for Nishwath Hassan and Prakash Iyer, a Bangalore-based couple in their mid-30s. You can see more of this firm's wonderful work at and read more about this project here.

A. Slipform construction. Formwork is made from prelaminated plywood and mild steel angle sections to reinforce it. The formwork allows for 1 foot by 4 feet blocks.

B. The mud blocks are used as end panels here instead of having any formwork at all.

C. The formwork and how it's supported in place.

D. The walls are 9" thick. They have sufficient self weight to not need any other attachment or reinforcement. There is a nice rich mud mortar between the plinth beam (there's a beam above the stone foundation) on which the bricks rest and then the rammed earth. The bricks or mud blocks can be optionally done away with. The self weight of the wall structure is sufficient to hold it in place. In India we always have built in brick, stone and cement and reinforced cement concrete. Except for the roofs, beams and concrete columns (if there are any) steel is not used to reinforce walls. Our structural engineers say it's not necessary. The load bearing capacity of the RE walls or any walls is dependant on their own strength and by self weight they hold well in place.

E. Tamping walls by hand.

F. Scaffolding made of casurina poles.

G. Form work for RE in place.

H. Granite lintels.

I. That's the stone foundation made from locally available stone andthe rammed earth first course above it. One single course of mud blocks are first laid so that the skirting of the flooring can go overit without cutting off the rammed earth.

J. One can see the Jack arch roof/Arch panel roof between the rammed earth walls. The basement is 3 feet above the ground level to bring in ventilation. The soil that was excavated from the basement was used to build the house. It was mixed by hand with sand and 5% cement then transported without the use of machinery. The only steel reinforcement is in the Jack Arch ceilings. We have vaults made in the same Mud blocks in the house too, which do not need any reinforcement. These structures are all designed and validated by senior structural engineers. We are in seismic zone two.

K. This is the same rammer used on the walls.

L. The formwork for the corners in the centre of the photo. Just prelaminated plywood with Mildsteel angles to reinforce it. The walls here seen are of the stabilised mud blocks. They take the same mix as the rammed earth only are pressed using a manual machine.

M. These are the natural colours of the earth, no special pigments required.
N. This effect is created by ramming into a formwork of logs!

O. The finished house from outside. We design houses to suit their immediate climate. Its very important that we rely on external sources of energy least. Appropriate lighting and ventilation is necessary. Too much light would heat a structure quickly and too much air would be difficult to control during winters. Its important that the design makes way for hot air (vertically up) and brings light into the right parts without using humungous openings. Helps in controlling cost of structure too.
These Ecological homes that we make are cheaper than the conventional designer homes in the same city.

P. To the left of the door a bench upon which to sit and remove one's shoes. Cubbies beside for shoe storage are made of pipes put in place with Mud plaster and some mud blocks which are covered in mud plaster.


Q. View of a typical stabilized mud brick and rammed earth house from outside, a different project than the preceeding. The larger blocks are Rammed Earth Blocks. Meaning that the blocks were made aside and then placed like bricks. This was the first experiment with RE of the office. The mud mortar became necessary in this case as the blocks were bonded by the mortar. The stone used for the compound wall is a local stone that's found in nearby quarries in Bangalore.

R. The basement. The ceilings are made from 2 inch thick clay tileswhich are pre-cast with a little cement and reinforcement and placedon trusses or beams to make the ceiling. Above its filled up withplastic and such waste and with a thin layer of concrete to give the floor above _____?

S. The court inside and the steps that lead into the basement. We propose basements in our houses because that added earth that comes from that excavation can be used to make the rammed earth and the mud blocks we've used.Totally following the "cradle to cradle" theory.


Unknown said...

hey Kathy,

I was wondering if you got any feedback on this project!
thanks once again for putting it up :)

Rammed Earth said...

Hello Lavannya,
No feedback yet but I am seeing an upswing in traffic from India due to terms like jackroof and compound wall.
Have a peek at the tracking on the bottom of the page to see what kinds of searches/ keywords bring folks to our site.
Today we got our first hits from Afghanistan!
talk to you soon,

sahana said...

interesting usage- would like to visit this place though since im from bangalore too - would you mail me the address- even if i can just get a peek from the outside!
Regards and thanks,

Unknown said...

no words to say, its beautiful.

Unknown said...

no words to say, excellant work

Unknown said...

nice work.keep it up
yatin tanwar

morpheus factor said...

hey great work... how good is a rammed earth wall against earthquakes....

kumaraswamyram said...


Rammed Earth said...


You should contact the architects involved in this project for the best responses to your queries.( there are links to their website in the blog post).

The basic difference between Rammed Earth and compressed earth blocks is that each rammed earth wall is a single monolithic earth block compressed in-situ, whereas earth blocks are small and made individually, usually with a hand-operated "press".
Rammed earth uses less cement than earth blocks since there is no need for mortar.
all the best,

arkitect said...

it was of great interest to me, since i'm doin ma architecture thesis on rammed earth construction. i would like to know how many stories we can go up with rammed earth construction?

Rammed Earth said...

Arkitekt, that depends on your location, your budget and your engineering constraints.

There are rammed earth dwellings in Germany that are five and six stories high, the buildings in Yemen--ten or more.
Saltspring Island Canada? one storey only!

I'm not sure where the tallest modern rammed earth structure would be perhaps that hotel in Australia (Kooralbyn?)

Vee said...

Wonderful work. Bangalore stays fairly dry.
What're your thoughts on how this kind of construction would hold up in wetter and more humid areas?


Rammed Earth said...

There are long-standing examples of rammed earth construction on all but one continent.

When built properly this type of construction is excellent in wet and humid climates.

Unknown said...

i am very interesting this type material using for constructing building...please give me the full information on it...

sriweb said...

Like to know more on small is beautiful house using mud blocks. Please any one say how much it costs to construct for an area of 600sq

kishen said...

i was wondering wether such techniques are used in chennai???...becoz am a final year civil stdnt of a private college..and am interested in doing a project on rammed earth wall construction reply!!!!

Namgail said...

I am namgail from Ladakh , I am realy interested in rammed earth and another material which is found in ladakh region. If you organised a training on rammed earth, i wish to joint.

ER.Ankit Patel said...

hi dear sir i m in cept university and i want to do thesis on rammed earth so i need some guidance about different composition of rammed earth and design consideration of rammed house building

Francis Ouseph said...

Are rammed earth walls burglar proof ? Can robbers can just wet the wall and burrow in ?

Rammed Earth said...

You gave me a good laugh with your question, Francis.

Do you think an 18 to 24 inch thick wall with a compaction factor of 9 mpa could possibly resist burglars armed with hoses or pails of water?

If they brought a tank and sufficient armament, burglars COULD well gain entry to a rammed earth structure.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that it is not any cheaper, at lease what is posted on various websites by various artists. I've made a detailed inquiry. The cost is the same as the conventional one.

Rammed Earth said...

Only if you pay someone else to do the building, Jalia.

Anonymous said...

You're right. But building in big cities like Bangalore on individual basis is very tough. I doubt if one is allowed to do so. I commented in that vein. I liked this technique and art very much, and would build my house only this way, come what may. Though I don't have the muscle to counter the sharks, of course. Thanks a lot for this great information.

Rammed Earth said...

Building in municipalities is always more challenging but there is plenty of earth construction going on in Bangalore.

Anonymous said...

it is wonderful, please tell about the rural coman man in this story in kannada. any one translate to kannada
its more help to kannadigas.
thanks to all
nandi, malebennur.

Unknown said...

It is a great work,can not be expressed in words.Can only be felt.
Joy said...

your article fanttastic. thanks in informahie.....from Industrial Ventilators bangalore

Natural air Ventilators bangalore

Tanushree said...

Hi!im doing civil engineering and im in the first year of college. your project interested me. we're supposed to do our summer internship on manufacturing of any building material.. can you please tell me if such projects are taking place near jaipur (where i live)

Tanushree said...

Hi!im doing civil engineering and im in the first year of college. your project interested me. we're supposed to do our summer internship on manufacturing of any building material.. can you please tell me if such projects are taking place near jaipur (where i live)

Tanushree said...

hi i am doing civil engineering and we were required to work at any material manufacturing unit for our summer internship . i was interested by your project and i was wondering if you have similar projects taking place near jaipur (where i live)

Unknown said...

Hi, very nice article.Thanks for sharing it with us.i was interested in the yellow flooring in your last photo.Could you please tell more about it?.thank you.

Unknown said...

Hi, I am interested in making such house @ Gujarat, can any one help me out with contact details

ashwini rajesh said...

Hie , i am based in Nagpur . we have Black cotton soil here . as per my knowledge its very difficult to stabilize BC soil . is there any advancement and work done with Balck Cotton soil and rammed earth work in recent . plz suggest .
many thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I am trying to make few prototypes of rammed earth wall for various soils. Can you please tell me :
1. Is rammed earth wall possible by using black cotton soil?
2. How sensitive are rammed earth walls with rains? is overhang enough to protect them?

Hoping for the answer soon.



Unknown said...

Hey Kathy,

I am a Mud (Earth) House Contractor from India. I came to your blog and found it very interesting and useful. If anyone wants to learn Earth building techniques, could join our onsite projects. Also you can recommend us to the clients looking for Earth Contractors.

Rewati Pd Saraswat

Unknown said...

You can write me : URBUNHUT@GMAIL.COM

FOR any inquiry related to the Earth Construction. Also i had wrote a free e-book for beginners in Earth Construction Industry.

Nesara PS said...

I'm interested in building a small farmhouse in my village using rammed earth. Can you tell me how much it might cost approximately for a sq.ft?

Is it cheaper than normal brick and cement construction?

Thank you,
Nesara Puttaswamy

Unknown said...

Nesara Puttuswamy, Yes building a Rammed Earth Walls are much cheaper then the cement & brick walls if The Soil required will be aquired from the construction site only, skilled & expert workers, reinforced design and should be constructed as per planned drawings, otherwise its going to be more expensive then a brick wall.

Recently, we have designed a Chettinad style home with rammed earth technique nearby coimbatore & its estimated costing comes around Rs.800/- per Sq.Ft (Built-up area). Write us for any enquiry or earth construction requirement.

Rewati Pd Saraswat

Unknown said...

Beautiful green house with all basics.grt works grt

Unknown said...

How can I protect rammed earth from rain and earthquake?

Rammed Earth said...

A roof over the walls and a well-engineered foundation under the walls.

Unknown said...

I have experimented rammed earth block of 1sq feet dimension using 10% cement and 90% red soil and came out perfectly.How can I colour rammed earth wall and where can I get those colours? S.Gangmei, Imphal.

Unknown said...

What happens when rammed earth walls are exposed from both the side i.e for compound walls etc , is there a possibility of it coming out from the wall? or is it because of the weather or bad construction.

Rammed Earth said...

That depends on the climate conditions and the care taken in construction. In rainy environments, a cap or roof on the wall will improve durability.

Unknown said...

Is there any rammed earth contractor in northern India? I want to make one rammed earth home for myself.
Revati Saraswat is not responding.

reddy2323 said...

I wanted to construct a farm house , can any one help me with the design and Sourcing of construction material

Rammed Earth said...

You should leave your contact details if you want some one to get in touch with you.