Our Field Superintendent, Anguss, talks about our affordable rammed earth home and what we’re doing with it. He’s going to go over a little bit of the procedure and give you a little look at what we’ve got started so far! Don’t miss our second part, where we will test the soil on the property so we can begin to build!
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What we’re going to do is utilize this spot to build our first example of Rammed earth housing on this location. Prior to the work being done, this hillside just followed its way down and we’ve cut this pad into here, allowing us enough room to put the house. We’ve ran into some issues with some hard rock, but that’s also a really good thing with this rammed earth housing, because you’re putting a lot of load on your foundations. So it’s very important whenever you’re doing rammed earth that you check what’s underneath of you. Luckily, here we have some really good blue hard rock granite underneath here that’ll work great as a solid foundation.
What we’re looking to do is explore all of the alternative and non-traditional building styles that will help us utilize all of the existing materials so that we’re as eco-friendly. And we have the smallest footprint on this place as possible. We’re gonna try and do all kinds of different alternative methods. We’re gonna start with rammed earth though, just because of the durability that rammed earth carries. There’s many examples of rammed earth all across the world with thousands of years old prior to even stabilized rammed earth. The Great Wall of China is approximately 60% rammed earth, non-stabilized, meaning there’s no clay, there’s no lime, there’s no Portland cement. It’s nothing but a compacted binding process that actually kept that together that long.
So here we are in our clay bank that we’ve discovered on the property, why this is so important is that the crucial part of rammed earth is the clay. That is your binding material. And that’s gonna determine how much stabilizer, Portland cement that you’re gonna need to add to your mix in order to create a solid wall.
So what I’ve done here is I took this clay bank and to get a better idea of exactly the yardage of material that we have, I’ve dug down alongside of the bank and found where the clay turns to the dirt. This clay is ideal for rammed earth because it’s free of sand and loamy-type organic materials. And so this is gonna work great to add straight to our soil mixture from around here. Basically all we’re gonna have to do is screen mix and tamp, and we can be on our way. You’re gonna want to size your material make sure that you get all organic materials out of it or loamy soils which would more or less boil down to a selection in the material that you use from the start.
This clay right here is gonna work really good. We should be able to run this at like a 20% ratio of nearly any of the soils we have on this property and create a whole multitude of different shades of reds and blues and what not to create a really textile look on these walls. This is a huge step forward because now we’re not having to try and isolate little veins of clay within the structure or the geology around the mountain here.
So soil testing is probably one of the first steps that you’re gonna do on your property. Once you get a location that you’re looking to build rammed earth with. The reason that it’s so critical is that if you don’t get the mixes, right, it’s going to change the composition of the wall. It’s gonna change your load bearing capabilities. It’s gonna change the structural integrity of it.
It is highly critical that you’re getting the correct ratios of sand, gravel and clay mixed together. It’s also really important that you check the size and the grit of the soil that you’re working with. You know, if you’re working in a Creek with Creek sand, it’s probably gonna be a really good idea that you’re gonna want to be adding some more aggregates types of materials into your wall, because what you want is angulation. You want non smooth surfaced materials so that they can really bind together. And a simple jar test is the best way to start. There’s all kinds of different outfits and companies that you can send for secondary verification, but the good old tried and true Mason jar, shake it and leave it in the shade will give you an amazing result for getting an idea of what you have on your property.
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