Rammed Earth

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Fíonnadh McGonigle



• History (page 2)

• The Use of Rammed Earth within the UK (pages 3 & 4)

• Rammed Earth as a Sustainable material, Thermal and Insulation properties (pages 5 & 6 )

• Weather Protection (page 7)

• Construction week

o Aims (page 8)

o Risk Assessment (page 9,10 &11)

o Prototype I (pages 12,13 & 14)

o Prototype II (page 15)

o Earth preparation (pages 15 &16)

o Prototype III (pages 17, & 18)

o Final Wall (pages 19, 20 & 21)

o Revised Risk assessment (page 22)

• Conclusion (pages 23, 24 & 25)

• Bibliography (page 26)

Rammed Earth

Historical Use

The use of earth itself in construction dates back thousands of years, the first recorded city – Jericho was built of earth. The first recorded use of rammed earth was by the Babylonians in 5000BC. Parts of the western portion of the Great Wall of China 300BC are built of rammed earth. Almost every European country has a history of rammed earth construction but is usually a material associated with arid areas.

1780-1850 Rammed earth experienced popularity in the USA until mass production of fire bricks and sawed lumber became readily available. These materials were now favoured for being more elegant and modern than using rammed earth – or “dirt”. However during World War I and the Great depression, supply shortages prompted a return to Rammed Earth.

Rammed Earth remained fairly unpopular then until the 1970’s when it began to be rejuvenated by the environmentally conscious.

Despite Rammed Earths extensive use throughout history, its use is still not so popular within the UK. Reason for this is largely due to architects/ Builders not knowing enough about the material and sticking to the familiar concrete, timber and brick ways that they know, rammed earth can often also be perceived as having cruder finishing and not in keeping with the clean-sharp lined finished which are so often preferred in today’s architecture- Though with the appropriate shuttering clean finishes can be achieved. Building with rammed earth is considered to carry greater risk and uncertainty, the material is yes, more suited to arid climates, but even in arid climates modern method of construction using rammed earth are being continually tried and tested e.g.in Australia. Rammed earth is a perfectly viable and good material to be used within the UK – there is a need to get past the reluctance to use and experiment with it more here - the climate presents a challenge which can be won in innovative ways.


The Use of Rammed Earth within the UK

Things which prohibit the wider use of Rammed earth within the UK

• The longer than average period needed for construction.

• The formwork and Labour costs.

• The climates high humidity climate – Moderate external temperatures.

• Concerns which are had about the careful detailing which can be required.

• Poor thermal resistance – The need for external walls to require additional insulation.

• Not all soil types are appropriate importation of soil for a rammed earth construction will significantly detract from its environmental credentials.

• The Quality control required for rammed earth constructions is quite high.

• Moisture movement can be caused by high clay content.

• The UK has few modern examples of rammed earth buildings – relatively untested in this climate – comparative to other countries.

• There are currently no UK codes of practice on rammed earth construction.

• Adding cement stabilisation can compromise its attributes as a...
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