Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rammed Earth Walls

Rammed Earth Walls

I recently returned from a road trip through the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley is the home to a budding Wine Industry. I was pleasantly surprised with our stop in Osoyoss to visit The Nk'Mip Winery and Resort. NK’MIP Winery Resort is a four-season aboriginal tourism resort destination that features deluxe accommodation and visitor experiences including an award-winning winery, gourmet dining, desert golf, a cultural centre and full-service spa.

It was a feast for my eyes to view the walls of the Cultural Center from the parking lot at Nk'Mip Winery. I was struck by the beauty of this facade that looked like a giant slab of the most sumptuous marble. On closer inspection and inquiry I was informed it was built with "Rammed Earth Walls".

Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos

Rammed Earth Walls at Nk'Mip Winery and Resort also known as pisé de terre or simply pisé

(above left) Notice how thick these walls of rammed earth are - approximately 20% thicker than standard concrete walls.
(above right) The rammed earth walls are formed in layers of approximately 6" thick , which gives the walls a beautiful horizontal variegation resembling quarried marble.

Rammed Earth, also known as pisé de terre or simply pisé, is a type of construction material. Pisé de terre (rammed earth) walls are an ancient building method that has seen a revival in recent years as people seek more sustainable building materials and more natural building methods. Traditionally, rammed earth walls or pisé de terre walls buildings are common in arid regions where wood is in scarce supply.

The basic recipe for rammed earth walls starts and ends with plain old dirt.

- Soil about 5 litres Water
- Water about half a litre
- Cement 10 percent
- Pigment 1 percent (about 1 tablespoon)

The mixture for rammed earth walls is compacted in layers between forms. Each layer of the rammed earth walls is approximately 6 inches deep. As each form is filled, another form is placed above it, and the process begins again. This is continued until the desired height of the rammed earth walls is achieved. Forms can be stripped off as soon as the form above is begun, as the compressed rammed earth walls are self-supporting immediately. Most builders of rammed earth walls use pneumatic rammers to compact the earth within the forms.

Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos

Deep inset Window detail in Rammed Earth Walls Nk'Mip Winery. My Dad and me.

Some interesting facts about Rammed Earth Walls and Rammed Earth Walls Construction:

  • Rammed earth walls are 20 percent thicker than most concrete walls so it is better insulating against heat and cold.
  • Rammed earth walls improve Indoor Air Quality because of the simple finish of exposed rammed earth walls have no toxic finishes.
  • Rammed earth walls are so solid that they boast superb acoustics and rank with the best in terms of fire resistance.
  • Because rammed earth walls don't rely on wood the structure will never rot, nor will it be host to carpenter ants or termites.
  • Rammed earth walls evolved in hot dry climates, where wood is too rare and precious to be used as a building material.
  • Rammed earth walls have been the standard in house construction in Southern Europe and the Middle East since biblical times.
  • None other than the Great Wall of China, or at least most of it was built of rammed earth wall construction.
  • Does anyone know why it is called Rammed Earth Walls?

Rammed Earth Walls - Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China - Rammed Earth Walls construction

Rammed Earth Wall Construction
Rammed Earth Walls

Rammed Earth Walls Construction in Residential Bathroom with a Stump window made from base of tree that was growing on the house site.

Rammed Earth Wall Construction
Rammed Earth Walls

Iron oxide layers have been added to these rammed earth walls in sedimentary layers with inset of abalone.
Above 2 photos or rammed earth walls Terra Firma

Rammed Earth Walls Rammed Earth Walls Construction
Rammed Earth Walls

The Rammed Earth House Walls Book available at Amazon - details the construction of building homes with Rammed Earth Walls construction technique.

Additional Resources on Rammed Earth Walls Construction
Wikipedia Rammed Earth Walls Construction
Terra Firma Rammed Earth Walls Builder / Why Rammed Earth Walls in Construction?
Walls of Rammed Earth Rammed Earth Walls
DIY Rammed Earth Walls Construction
Nk'Mip Winery and Resort, Rammed Earth Walls Cultural Center
Rammed Earth Walls Construction Diagram
You Tube Rammed Earth Walls Video
Images Rammed Earth Walls

Patricia Gray writes about 'WHAT'S HOT 'in the world of Interior Design, new and emerging trends, modern design,
architecture, and travel, as well as how your surroundings can influence the world around you.
© Patricia Gray Interior Design Blog, 2009