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Rammed Earth Homes

Chances are that, like many other people, you never heard of rammed earth homes. This ancient building technique involves using earth, lime, clay, chalk and gravel.

Rammed Earth Home
Rammed Earth Home

Over two thousand years ago people in some parts of our planet, due to lack of technical knowledge, proper building materials, or maybe both, used to construct their homes by compressing a damp mixture of the materials mentioned above. It was a difficult, laborious process and such homes were often washed away by torrential rains or simply crumbled and fell apart.

Rammed earth homes were known in ancient China, where some of them dated back to 5000 BC. Evidence of building such homes could be found everywhere in Europe and Middle East. They also existed in some parts of Africa.

The immigrants from colonial countries who traveled to the United States brought the knowledge of rammed earth homes with them. In the 1920s, particularly during the Great Depression, the U. S. government issued instructions to impoverished farmers on how to construct rammed earth homes. At the same time, such buildings were getting more and more popular in Australia, where lack of timber limited the potential of the traditional architecture.


Photo Courtesy of Bruce Lepper who is building his own rammed earth home - See More Pics Here

It's a Revival ...

These days nobody needs to build anything from earth and clay, but the rammed earth homes have seen an unexpected revival. This is due to people seeking alternative, eco-friendly methods of construction and changing their surroundings and building their homes.

Building an rammed earth home can be compared to the construction of a sand castle. The rules are similar, with some exceptions including often wooden structures, cinder blocks or cement are used to support the mass of earth, clay, sand and other materials and some heavy machinery is employed to do the ramming.

Building rammed earth homes without the machines, however, can prove to be very laborious.

That is why another version of earth homes exists, sandbag homes. Sandbags are filled with the same building material as used in rammed earth homes and they are then stacked on top of one another. This method, however, is limited. Sandbag homes are usually smaller in size and do not have the same esthetic effect as rammed earth homes.


Advantages of living in an rammed earth home:

First of all, rammed earth homes are cheap. All that is needed for an rammed earth home is some physical space and the building materials. Earth, rocks, gravel, sand, clay and other elements are cheap and readily available.

Also, very little labor is needed when carrying out the construction of such dwelling. In fact, smaller rammed earth homes can be completed as a hobby. A few hours on several afternoons spent on gathering the building materials and planning can produce and astonishing result in the end.

Rammed earth homes are usually fireproof by nature (earth or clay don't burn) except the exposed face of the home would not be fireproof if wood is used. rammed earth homes can be biodegradable if earth, wood and other bio building materials are used. Of course if cement, concrete blocks, PVC pipes are used then this limits the biodegradability.

 

Conclusion

Finally, why do people build rammed earth homes in the first place? We've already talked about the low cost for building. A secondary reason is energy savings. Earth, clay, dirt, etc. are not only organic but prove to be wonderful insulation. For people wanting to cut their heating and cooling bills drastically, burying 1, 2 or 3 sides of your house with Mother Earth will do just this. Rammed earth homes may not be for everybody. But, you're not everybody otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. So, rammed earth homes may just be for you and a few others like us.


 
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