We blog about earth building and efficient designs, but we pay our bills by building rammed earth walls on the east coast of Australia.
October 31, 2016
We have been partnering with Newcastle Uni’s Department of Engineering exploring the properties of unstabilised rammed earth for post carbon construction methods. We made a test panel from ‘average’ dirt that represented the worst case scenario. See previous post here.
The test panel was allowed to dry for a long period and was recently placed back into a thermal testing box. There were some surprising results in terms of actual performance and there will a paper published shortly.
The test panel was then tested for strength.
Dr Michael Netherton from Newcastle Uni, who conducted the tests, said the “wall is a lot stronger than expected.”
“Based on the Cylinder tests we did when the wall was first made, we expected the wall would crack @ 20 tonnes today; but, maybe the drying out has had an amazing effect?”
“In the end, we had to abandon the test, because we would have damaged our equipment which was limited at 50 tonnes. I’ve attached a few images from today’s “failed” test. Which isn’t really a failure at all, as the higher the strength, the better.”
They will now shift up to a 100 tonne ram.
August 16, 2016
It is worth noting when rammed earth gets mentioned in major newspapers, as just happened in the Australian Financial Review. And it well deserved recognition for Luigi Roselli‘s great wall of WA (constructed by Murchison Rammed Earth) described as “one of the most compelling residential projects of our times – a series of humble bungalows that has taken the world by dust storm.”
It was great to see the thermal approach to the climatic challenges of WA win so much recognition, with the Arch Daily, an architectural journal award Luigi Roselli the 2016 Building of the Year. The online poll of 55,000 users of the site – “pegs Rosselli alongside the likes of Pritzker Prize laureates Renzo Piano and Herzog & de Meuron.”
“Compacted from soil sourced in NSW, the rammed-earth walls of the $450-a-head eatery were intended to give the Noma dining room “a sense of solidity, of permanence”, says Foolscap principal Adele Winteridge. The walls also efficiently evoked the terroir that Danish chef Rene Redzepi famously scours for native ingredients.”
The Financial Review notes “as one of the world’s most sustainable building techniques, it speaks eloquently to the zeitgeist.”
Read the full article here.
July 29, 2016
Quite a significant award was announced recently in CRAterre in France. The Terra Awards was created to “not only to identify and distinguish outstanding projects, but also to highlight the audacity of the project owners for choosing to use earth, the creativity of the designers and the skills of the craftsmen and entrepreneurs.” It creates an overdue showcase that reveals what can be accomplished with earth.
A notable prize was for collective housing category for Australia/Italian architect Luigi Roselli and “The Great Wall of WA”. Built by Murchison Stabilised Earth in the Pilbara region of Western Australia , it represents a logical approach to desert living. The high thermal mass of the walls and earth embankment will even out the high night and day fluctuations of temperature. Naturally cooled… naturally cool.
The winner of the individual housing category was the “21st Century Vernacular House” by Spanish Architect Angels Castellarnau Visus. The house was built with rammed earth, but with a twist. They added barley straw to the mix to “increase the thermal behaviour”. I would question the actual performance of this method as the straw does not provide a thermal break (i.e. the insulative property of the straw is by-passsed by the thermal bridges). I love the look of the internal mud brick wall and their selection of natural materials like earth, straw and stone, hydraulic lime, ceramic tiles, sheep wool and wood and natural cork. It does a great job of continuing the tradition and vernacular of the region, whilst providing local employment and community.
In the Cultural Public Facilities category, local labour was used in the construction of a library in Sri Lanka. It was used for knowledge creation and retraining – and the subsequent transformation of the army into a society-building institution – intends to support the much needed demilitarization of the country in the aftermath of its 30-year civil war. It is great to see earth building tradition of asia acknowledged.
Another award goes to the Chinese government for their Post Earthquake rebuild. Using a master plan that emphasised excellent thermal performance with traditional designs and materials, they have shown what is possible on a large scale with some government vision.
Vision of another kind comes out of the plains of Morocco that creates the stairway to heaven. Created by artist Hannsjörg Voth over 23years, it received the landscape award and has towers of over 17m and uses local techniques.
Congratulations must go to CRAterra for their great effort in organising and presenting these wards! For more information, go to terra-awards.org.
May 31, 2016
May 20, 2016
This video shows some rammed earth walls we built in Pearl Beach, NSW, a couple of years ago. Great video and a great finished product!
May 20, 2016
Anna Heringer designs some beautiful buildings with earth and bamboo. This is a great interview in the architectural review – “winner of both the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the AR Emerging Architecture Awards for her educational buildings in Bangladesh, Anna Heringer reasserts her beliefs and ambitions with every project, staying faithful to her approach yet challenging what new architecture can be created from the same raw materials and with the same design ethos.”
April 22, 2016
March 21, 2016
I have always been a big fan of lime rendered rammed earth, which is quite a traditional way of sealing rammed earth in many cultures (as well as clays and oxides). We have several internal rammed earth walls in our house which we have lime rendered. The special feature of lime is that it allows the earthen walls to breathe as well as being antifungal and antibacterial.
Design Boom recently featured a Vineyard house in Portugal that has most internal walls plastered, but has left some sections exposed to frame the earth walls. It was designed by Lisbon based Blaanc architects. It looks stunning!
According to design boom, the “primary living space is contained within a rammed earth volume, which adjoins a sheltered outdoor terrace. internally, the use of rammed earth ensures greater thermal and acoustic comfort, providing a cool environment throughout summer months.”
February 22, 2016
Rene Redzepi recently open one of the world’s best restaurant in Sydney. ‘noma‘ Australia is located at Barangaroo in Sydney. We were commissioned to build two bars and an entry wall which doubled as a cloakroom. The walls were made to reflect the colours of Australia. This was achieved with oxides.
Rene has become quite influential with his use of foraged foods and local ingredients. I feel earth building sits nicely with his philosophy of using what is local and available. Here are some photos of the project.
February 4, 2016
CSIRO bushfire urban design research leader Justin Leonard said the best way to protect homes against embers was simple – use materials that don’t burn. He said using a steel frame for the house was a good place to start, along with building materials like brick or rammed earth.
Queensland University of Technology consulting research architect, Ian Weir told the SBS recently “there is a common misconception bushfire safe homes are very expensive to build. Simple design elements can be relatively cheap whilst minimising the amount of vegetation required to be cleared.”
Dr Weir said it was often complying with energy regulations that cost homeowners a lot of money, and many of the measures taken to keep a house energy efficient, like using rammed earth, would also keep it safe in a bushfire.
He said bushfire-proofing elements such as toughened glass, window mesh and window shutters could also fulfill everyday roles such as fly screens or shades. “Bushfire prone areas are often really hot in summer but quite cold in winter…and a lot of the things you need to make a house thermally comfortable are also bushfire proof,” Dr Weir said.
As a member of the Rural Fire service it would be good to see common sense prevail in respect of both building design and land clearing. Non combustible building materials would also have a big impact on house fires that claim more lives and houses than bush fires. Read the full story here.