earth - walls, shelter


What is going on with earth as a building material? How about earth-sheltered housing? I'm not an architect, just an interested observer. Earth seems like it holds such great possibilities - readily available, stabilizer of temp and humidity, endlessly recycleable, low-cost - and yet when I look into who's doing this work, I find outdated looking websites with 70's font, pre-fab designs and stock plans, nothing more. Any ideas?? Thanks!

Feb 10, 07 2:27 pm

rammed earth or lehmbau:

tom jones is doing a rammed earth waldorf school in charlottesville

rick joy is pretty masterful with pneumatic shot earth and rammed earth

marte.marte architekten with the cemetery extension in batschuns

reitermann/sassenroth architekten did an exquisite chapel in berlin

roger boltshauser did a sports facility in silhoezli

heikkinen + komonen's villa eila

and james cutler has a marbled rammed-earth guest house @ meteor vineyards

and john wardle in australia

and this website has some interesting projects as well.

oh, and rammed earth isn't neccessarily low cost, it's very labor intensive.

Feb 10, 07 3:13 pm

this is run by a professor from clemson university who has become a rammed earth master:

Feb 10, 07 3:19 pm

Adobe Alliance / Simone Swan

She was a student Hassan Fathi

Feb 10, 07 9:15 pm

monchichi is a god dammed hippie

Feb 11, 07 12:25 am

I've always thought that they should educate people how to specify it for building construction in school, as they should strawbale

Feb 11, 07 12:58 am
vado retro

don't forget the dirt floors!

Feb 11, 07 1:17 am

we wanted to know, so we built a wall. and then another. and then it became a house.
and i had a friend that designed and built a straw bale house.
none of us realised how heavy those bales would be.

Feb 11, 07 1:40 am

For the perfect craftsman it is no problem to build a staw house with a wonderfull straw roof and that house will stand long, when the roof is big enough water are inteligent led away and surely dirt floors work perfect as dirt floors alway's did still.
All these material dig out of the ground and stack to bet houses , bricks, concrete woods they all, are limited by those crafts, acturly putting them up. Also --- I don't find it enough that a master straw roof artist, can claim the CAD is fully intergrated by just knowing from a 3D model , how many cubic meter straw is required.
Again , what vorry me, is how CAD is not even registrated as a proud crafts even, --- if this is a tool then you also accepted the craftsmen mastering just this tool so why are this hippie thing ,why restrict these wonderfull materials to Lego thinking pached with vraftsmans fiddle ; is this going to solve the call for a mountain of new houses, stronger than the old.
And even they are cheap --- then what if the materials are refined just a bit further offering rat-free water tight ever lasting lightweight straw sheet for 3D-H. -- that's just how it is ---Gee, that would build a house the price even a third of these hippie houses and also compared that, four times as strong. And yet this is percived as the grave old crafts versus the cold new technology , and yet bricks now been tested for thousands of years all materials ; isn't it time for just a bit progress.
For me it seem like everyone realise the goods of natural materials but then the choice of crafts to put them together must be the trivial and known way's ,and then you compeed. And I don't see how the computer help in any way being the servant to provide the bill or at top level be used gridvise in a rigid steel lattrice logic , realy there shuld be develobed new crafts and new methods othervise I can never see how to deliver what is the order in the future.

Feb 11, 07 1:31 pm

Here ya go, Vindy...

Feb 11, 07 2:07 pm

Listen I couldn't get any links working but if this, is about an oversize instant prototyping mashin moveing around small quantities of not yet hardened cement please laaow me to state I find that silli.
To engineer a building structure and have the property of various way stronger materials for one shuld classify such method. If you realy blame 3D-H that creativity the way you reconise it, is taken out of it, then dripping a building how can that be better ; realy in terms of need for craftsmanship skills and innovation it sack long behind putting intiligent into computing a building structure assembly.
Beside the only things you can make with such a concept are heavily tigh in the ability of just the building cement, --- the top vision being organic hippie caves the intire house build as a mud brick construction no.
Listen --- do the hippie dome get any better replacing the cement moulding hippie with an outdated technology ment for a compleatly different lead ?
Will a house clayed together with a new fancy cement become better just becaurse a mashin do it ?

Feb 11, 07 2:25 pm

No the newthinking and innovation shal not be scrapheap rebuild mashinery , and the fancy new methods must not be just the old ones made by a 3D robotic replacement of a hippie.
No the structure must be computed and the building part rendered by the use of 3D modeling programs and inteligent thinking, there have to be an ocean of possible side effects, new way's to enforce the idea to compute the building mass ,shape the new lego block, not limited visions like this.

Feb 11, 07 2:32 pm

and , a project held in istanbul technical university

Feb 11, 07 5:01 pm

vind been drinking again?

Feb 11, 07 7:41 pm

This was build way before the 70's...

Clan homes in Fujian
And some great pictures in this flickr set

Feb 12, 07 9:31 am

Here are some images of an adobe workshop I did last fall in Presidio, TX. It was an event hosted by the Adobe Alliance.

Feb 12, 07 9:49 am

Im'e sorry to say that every time I spot a link about adobe ,eco friendly building projects I also to often reflect like "monchichi " ,about the 70' touch to it --- And please don't take this wrong , I would love to see true new visions , new way's and instant solutions to the challance many of these projects bid in on , the fact that it would be nice with cheap materials and building methods that could deliver deliver the new houses where houses are lost.
But most of these projects do not deliver something that restand better, don't offer the efficiency that shuld be a part of it, and to often what I see is just thousand of years old methods reinvented or aproached in way's that never will deliver. I am sorry I mentioned the hippie touch, and I agrea that some hippie seem to have left a heap of long hair ontop my head to --- but I do fight it , try atleast to be a bit critic and ask the questions that must be asked, ask if this aproach realy are the solution, if dirt bricks and straw realy are the answer compared bad plywood and sabwood. -- If there shuldn't be something with a bit more visions and newthinking as realy there are not much newthinking in adobe houses.
Now I know that a well build straw house will stand longer , -- when maintained , than a fast build plybox industrial historic replica , it probelly also be cheaper to rebuild when you think about what is left of a plybox after nature show what it think of our light build housing --- but what worry me is that it is like construction and architecture, have taken a step backwerds with these projects , sure they are nice to live in, but things sort of stop there there are no real newthinking , and I guess that is my offense , that we been building like this for thousands of years and the brick can't teach us more , nomatter how we change the style nomatter how many aincient building methods we reinvent, then this do not deliver, deliver the new and cheap houses as efficient as the rigid plybox methods that seem to offer only 1925 style family houses. --- these methods simply can not mass produce the housing that is called for.

Feb 12, 07 10:25 am

cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Feb 12, 07 10:32 am

"cocaine is a hell of a drug."

Why do you say that ?

Feb 12, 07 11:44 am
le bossman

at arizona state they teach rammed earth, poured earth, and strawbale in the regular construction class. we had a two week segment just dedicated to strawbale.

Feb 12, 07 11:46 am

Mary Hardin does a rammed earth design build studio at the University of Arizona

Feb 12, 07 11:57 am

Hi, thanks for all the responses and the links - I'll check them out. Here are a few of my replies:

-- "rammed earth isn't neccessarily low cost, it's very labor intensive." Yes, you're right I know. But isn't rammed earth is only one option for using earth as a building material? And true, "labor intensive" is expensive when labor is expensive (as it is not in, what?, 3/4 of the world? more?)

-- "when you think about what is left of a plybox after nature show what it think of our light build housing..." I think that's an important point. It's not looking like major storms are going away anytime soon. Shouldn't we be devoting more attention to the ability of buildings, especially in coastal towns and cities, to withstand fierce winds and raging water? As for longevity in general, I've seen rammed earth buildings built in 1795 that are still in amazing condition.

-- I noticed no one mentioned earth-sheltered building. Any thoughts on this?

-- "god-damned hippie." No, a pragmatist asking questions. Hippies don't exist anymore. (Well, ok, a few leftover from the 60's.) It's funny to me how scared people get of appearing to be even an inch away from the cutting edge of technology.

Feb 12, 07 4:41 pm

found this about dirt floors:

yes! treehugger, not hippy!

Feb 12, 07 4:56 pm

Simone Swan uses dirt and linseed oil for her floors...multiple coats with a grater percentage of linseed oil on each coat.

Feb 12, 07 8:47 pm

adobe workshops & ghost lab?!?
please please please tell me you don't work for a bunch of hacks like i do.

Feb 12, 07 9:49 pm

Well, I don't think I do (I work for good folks actually) here & here ...But then again I have no idea where you work.

I did both because, well, I wanted the experience.

Feb 12, 07 10:22 pm

yeah, i'm definitely interested in ghost lab.
i sold out and took work with a large corporate firm to pay off loans. our office isn't too large (thankfully) but i can't take much more of it.
i've done a bit of design|build, both in college and professionally. i found it a lot more satisfying.
modulus has some nice work - the sw seems to be a hot place recently. how do you like abq? my girlfriend really wants to move to az or nm. i'm on the fence-it's not quite urban enough for me. though we like seattle as we can get into the mountains and out of the city relatively quickly.

Feb 12, 07 10:41 pm

Albuquerque is great. After grad school I am almost certainly coming back. Just ranked #1 by Forbes for places to live / do business. It is also accessible, as far as firms like Modulus actually do well for such a relatively small city. And when its snowing, like it is this year, you get the added benefit of some of the best winter sports snow in the world.

Arizona has a ton of design build activity, as does New Mexico...lots of affordable land in beautiful environments.

Ghost Lab was great...this years should be pretty amazing. I just got a letter from them...they already have site preparations underway.

Feb 12, 07 10:50 pm

yeah, saw the headlines re: albuquerque. i think it might be tough for us to break away from the birthplace of snowboarding, but we'll definitely be filing the info for future discussion.


Feb 12, 07 10:56 pm

check out

Apr 25, 07 11:45 pm

i am surprised nobody mentioned the name nader khalili who is an old practitioner of earthen shelters and actively engaged in this practice over 40 years. he still teaches at sci arc every now and then in addition to his own school.

Apr 26, 07 12:01 am

Hi Monchichi

This site I really like the best for rammed earth. Bold colors and they do insulated rammed earth which is way better energywise.

Feb 27, 09 11:14 pm

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