Rammed Earth Explained
An old idea made new.
What is Rammed Earth?
Rammed earth is an ancient building technique dating back 10,000 years. Combined with modern building techniques, rammed earth buildings are making a resurgence across the globe for many reasons.
Modern rammed earth buildings are not only healthy for our planet,
Some rammed earth structures and products we offer:
- Veneer Walls
- Retaining Walls or Sound Barrier Walls
Learn more about our perfected process.
What is the process?
The rammed earth building technique uses available aggregate from your local quarry. Re-bar and a minimal amount of Portland cement to stabilize the walls and meet Canadian engineering requirements.
The mix for the rammed earth wall:
- Aggregate: Crusher fine sand and road base gravel
- Moisture: A small amount of water is added with these aggregates
- 8-10% of cement is added to this mix as per engineering specs
- Reinforcement bar (re-bar)
- Rigid insulation
Our construction method is sometimes referred to as the sandwich type method; the insulation is sandwiched within the rammed earth wall. The walls can range from 18″-24″ thick.
Forms are erected and secured in place. Insulation and re-bar is then installed within the forming system, the rammed earth mix with color is poured into the forms. Workers operate pneumatic tampers to ram down the mix on either side of the insulation.
What are the Benefits?
There are a number of benefits that rammed earth can provide. Ranging from aesthetics to health benefits and durability, there isn’t much of a downfall of using rammed earth. Let us explain why we are so passionate about what we do.
The ramming process is done layer by layer. This introduces the appearance of horizontal stratification to the walls. The layered look enhances the overall appearance of rammed earth.
Since aggregate material color can vary, finished rammed earth color and texture is dependent on the aggregate source. When you think of rammed earth, think of imperfection and uniqueness. The beauty of rammed earth is evident by its rawness; pieces of gravel can be exposed, as well as lines of cold joints.
You can personalize your product by adding elements such as stones or glass. Nooks or alcoves can be incorporated into rammed earth walls by fitting custom volume displacement boxes. Your unique art can be ‘stamped’ into your rammed earth wall by etching or adding shapes into the form work by Dremel. Once the wall has been tamped and cured, the forms are released and you will have your desired look.
Environmental Impact – Construction
As with all companies, we lessen our impact through our choices. The manufacturing impact is quite low since the majority of the building materials come from local suppliers and sources. The small amount of water and cement contributes to an Eco-friendly product.
The rammed earth building process has minimal waste compared to other conventional building methods.
We have recently collaborated with UBC Okanagan to create a lower embodied carbon rammed earth product. This will create our rammed earth wall system more Eco-friendly by using less cement as well as reducing the amount of waste from the landfill. This novel wood based fly ash rammed earth mix will be incorporated with as many of our future rammed earth projects as possible.
Our recent energy modelling has shown that rammed earth provides a high amount of thermal mass. This in turn will provide you an external wall that can double the R-value of the provided insulation.
Environmental Impact – Home Ownership
Passive solar design allows for bright light to reduce lighting needs. Solar heat gain is captured from the south facing windows. The thermally massive rammed earth walls paired with solar heat gain reduces your heating and cooling needs.
This is sustainable building. The structures built will be present and useable for generations to come.
In building a rammed earth home we ask you to be a part of a major paradigm shift. These homes provide long term housing for your great grand children and your community.
Our energy modelling has shown that rammed earth’s thermal mass creates an extremely efficient home. Thermal mass refers to the structures ability to slowly absorb ambient heat, store it then radiate this heat. It help’s regulate indoor temperatures and lead to energy savings. Our rammed earth wall system has a high thermal mass rating; energy modelling and energy performance tests prove this.
The density and mass of the walls control temperatures nicely during winter and summer. Keeping the house cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.
We are developing a system to build extremely efficient houses that will only need a heat pump in our northern climate. Paired with solar panels, this will exponentially reduce your carbon footprint and save money.
Graph based on energy modelling of a rammed earth duplex located in Sexsmith, Alberta. Construction projected 2021-2022
Rammed earth shouldn't break the bank.
Learn how we perfected our process and can save you money.
Most conventional home building materials contain many harmful chemicals. Using locally tested aggregate, a rammed earth wall contains none of the chemicals used in modern building.
Building your house with either Passive House or Passive Solar Index certifications will create a healthier home. Studies have shown that having a brighter home and workplace contribute to a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Another common problem in many conventional stick framed homes is moisture. Mold that can form in the cavity wall system of stick framed houses can lead to a myriad of health problems. This is not an issue with rammed earth walls as the wall system is not a cavity wall system, nor are there any suitable materials to hold moisture and feed mold.
Current building codes require that any structure built has to be able to last 30 years. Considering that parts of the Great Wall of China were built with rammed earth and are still standing is one of the best product endorsements we can think of.
To meet engineering requirements, the use of cement and re-bar further adds to both the strength and durability.
When natural disasters may hit your community and your rammed earth home, your family will be protected from the effects. The result of natural disasters on a rammed earth home are of minimal damage. Flooding also does not affect your rammed earth walls; with no mold growth or repairs needed. You will see significant amount of time and cost savings in clean up and repairs after a flood that has affected your home.
Rammed earth structures are similar in cost to concrete houses, which is around 5-10% more compared to a conventional house. We can certify your home as a Passive House or Passive Solar Index with Net-Zero ready specifications. This will create a very affordable home with low to zero utility costs.
Having low maintenance and a thermally massive wall system will save you money in the long run. You do not need to seal or replace any part of the wall system over time. Since thermal mass improves the R-value performance lower amount of insulation is needed, lowering material costs.
In case your home is hit by a natural disaster there will be minimal repairs needed depending on the intensity of the disaster. These are true cost savings you will see over time, this is what makes rammed earth a comparable price option to conventional homes.
As with any home, design will be of the utmost importance for energy efficiency and cost of the build. Talking with our builders and the design team will give you a clearer picture of the costs associated. Our staff will do everything we can to meet your budget.
Rammed earth homes are far less prone to bug and vermin for two main reasons. For one, there are no suitable building materials to attract pests. For two, there are no cavities in the walls for these unwanted pests to dwell into.
The acoustics of rammed earth are like all monolithic structures, amazing. Many theatres, libraries and other community buildings around the world are constructed with rammed earth because of the acoustic integrity of this building material.
In addition outside noise is absorbed by the thick earth walls which make rammed earth homes a compelling choice for inner-city residents.
Australians have embraced rammed earth home construction and have produced a wealth of data about the safety of these buildings. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) tested rammed earth homes and found that they had a four hour fire rating, the highest for Australian code.
Rammed earth homes are an excellent choice for those that live in fire prone areas. Using the modern rammed earth technique sees finished buildings far less prone to damage due to environmental factors such as fire, flood and earthquake.
Book your free consultation today.
We offer limited free consultation to help you determine your needs.