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Rammed Earth Houses

A New Zealand Master Builder, Don Parkes, has spent a lifetime building rammed earth houses. For Greenies visited him at his earth house subdivision in Rotorua, New Zealand.

When building a new house, earth is an inexpensive, abundant and sustainable material that should be considered. Over half of the worlds population live in earth houses and they vary from very modest and basic to large and grand. There are a few things they have in common though –

  • they are solid and strong and have a long life span of over 100 years
  • they are very efficient to heat and cool, thick earth walls being an excellent insulator and utilising passive solar heating in the winter and passive cooling in the summer
  • they remain termite free
  • earth is an abundant, cheap and sustainable resource
  • the thick earth walls are soundproof
  • they are timber free (therefore no trees are cut down. The forms although made of timber can be re-used)
  • they are non-toxic (if not using stabilised earth which contains less than 10 percent cement for added strength)

The only challenges and limitations are getting the right soil consistency, keeping the soil dry during construction, and the significant amount of time and physical effort that is involved in the construction. Some areas in the world don’t have access to mixing machines and pneumatic rammers so the soil is mixed with a shovel on a board and rammed manually.

2 Responses

  • February 23, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Nice interview! So good to hear from wise folks who have been doing this a while. My first building, the Boden-Haus, can be viewed on my website. I was one of those chaps who mixed by shovel on a board; however, I did this sort of mixing because I wanted to really know the whole process of rammed earth.

    There are some rammed earth homes in Southern France that have been inhabited for over 600 years!

    • February 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

      I checked your site – I’m impressed you did it by hand! So will you be building another one?.. by hand? I would love a rammed earth or strawbale building for my video edit suite so I can get good sound recordings. I have subscribed to follow your adventures 🙂

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