Future looking bright for rammed earth homes

Future looking bright for rammed earth homes
The thermal mass of a rammed earth building regulates the temperature inside the building.

Richmond’s Mark Brewerton Builders is making a new way forward with an ancient building technique and a sustainable, energy efficient, and free building material – the earth taken from the land during site works.Mark is beginning construction of his new rammed earth home in Aniseed Valley this year.
Mark has been building for 40 years and has long been an advocate of using thicker framing on exterior walls and installing the best insulation possible for the build. Fifteen years ago, he built his first rammed earth home, and the feel of the completed home sold him on the concept.
“Rammed earth homes have this amazing, earthy feel, and the acoustic value is out of this world,” he says. Mark’s rammed earth homes will have 450mm thick and natural looking walls which don’t require any exterior cladding, internal linings, paint, or plaster.
Rammed earth is different from other types of earth construction in that a mixture of soil, a clay/sand mix, and a 10% measure of strength ensuring cement is placed into forms on site and rammed either by hand or pneumatically.
When the forms are removed, the walls stand complete and robust, like a man-made, vastly accelerated sedimentary rock. The thermal mass of a rammed earth building regulates the temperature inside the building.
The very thick earth walls store heat from inside the home and bring the temperature down, then when the internal temperature drops below that of the wall, it releases the heat and warms up a cooler room.
“Kiwis have built all these draught-proof houses which still have problems with mould and condensation because the houses aren’t allowed to breathe,” Mark says.
“Rammed earth walls absorb moisture when it’s around and if it’s really dry, it releases the moisture.”Mark recently joined Auckland’s Terra Firma Earth Building on site to refresh his rammed earth construction skills.
“There is a fair bit involved in learning the technique, getting the moisture content right and the particles in the earth at the right consistency,” he says.
As a farm owner, Mark’s tractor and rotary hoe are key pieces of gear which will allow for more efficient, less labour intensive rammed earth construction.
Since a rammed earth home in China won the 2017 World Architecture Festival’s World Building of the Year award, this method of construction has been recognised as intelligent and realistic for an increasing number of people looking for natural feeling and sustainable behaving homes.

Future looking bright for rammed earth homes

Rammed earth construction offers health, comfort, durability, low maintenance, low carbon footprint, and beautiful, original buildings.
Mark says there are many sustainable building products out there but people have been scared to use them when they have no New Zealand standards attached.
But he says the Earth Building Association of New Zealand has recently revised the three Earth Building Standards set out in 1998, and these will soon be updated with Standards New Zealand. “The future is looking for bright for rammed earth construction.”
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