Saturday, 11 April 2015

Rammed Earth Cylinders and Background Information

Tony Johnson founded Earth House Holdings Ltd in order to follow his passion to build with rammed earth.
Tony’s past experience as a concrete contractor specialising in polished flooring and countertops coupled with his experience building with rammed earth, has put him in a position to create a special residence affectionately referred to as ”The Cabin In The Woods”.

Currently the project has Tony overseeing the design, contracting, testing and construction of the rammed earth walls for our “Cabin in the Woods”

This video demonstrates the process of ramming earth.  Here Tony is ramming earth into a cylinder form to submit for scientific testing by engineers.  The engineers subject the cylinder to destructive testing to ensure that the cylinder meets their compressive strength requirements of 2900 psi.  Our preliminary tests have shown our cylinders to have strengths of up to 4600psi.  We will share the engineering results when they are returned to us.

With all the extra demands on the contractor for testing and permitting, one would wonder why we continue on the path to build a rammed earth home.  We push forward with the intention to build a home that has minimal environmental impact, whose building practise respectfully honours the land and environment, has long term sustainability, is energy efficient, has low VOC and is healthy for our children.  These goals are what keep us inspired and driven to continue on with our dream even with the presenting challenges and “extra” steps required to build an environmentally friendly home.  
We also hope that our experiences with this build can be an example and inspiration for others who wish to build sustainably and make a healthy living space for themselves and their family. 

Currently stick frame construction is the most common construction method for residential structures in North America but it falls short environmentally.  It is carbon intensive and chemically toxic through the materials used in building and the thermal inefficiencies.  The materials used in stick frame construction can or will:

1-grow mould
2-contain many VOC’c and other toxic materials
3-contribute to deforestation
4-allow thermal bridging at every stud and opening thus requiring constant heating and cooling
5-breed pests and wood destroying organisms in the walls
6-burns easier than a structure containing less wood.
7-eventually ends up in the landfill as most of the materials have a short functional life but stick around as landfill waste for thousands of years.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates the average stick frame house to last less than 80 years, which means most stick frame houses will be rebuilt during one humans life.  Rammed earth structures can last for many centuries. 

Next month will see the project at the permitting stage.  Already at this early stage in the project our learning on what it takes to build something different and environmentally responsible has been both in-depth and extensive in scope.  Preparing us well for the next stage in building the “Cabin in the woods”.    

Please feel free to contact us at with any questions you have about this project or for further information on rammed earth building.

Please share on your social media pages, and follow our blog.  We look forward to sharing in our building journey with you.

Cheers, Tony and Wendy

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