The Dirt on Rammed Earth
After a couple of thousand years, rammed earth is making a comeback. It has so many advantages- it`s local, it has great thermal mass and acoustic properties. Dan Whipple writes about it in New West Magazine:
When you look around the West at all the treeless spaces, it's a little surprising that earthen construction hasn't taken a greater hold on the architectural imagination.
Linda Kiisk, associate director of facilities planning at the University of Wyoming describes it this way: "Rammed earth basically works like the formwork of pouring a concrete wall. But instead of concrete, you are using soil from the site. The material is tamped down. This can be done with sledge hammers by hand or with a pneumatic device. Then you pull the forms off, and you have a stable wall.
Whipple continues: Earthen homes are wonderfully energy efficient, said Tom Ward of Ward+Blake Architects in Jackson, Wyo. He has designed several for second-home seeking clients in that upscale neighborhood.
The walls of a rammed earth home are sometimes two feet thick -- the acoustics are wonderful -- giving the house what's called "thermal mass," Ward said. Throughout the day, as an exterior wall is exposed to the sun, it absorbs energy, and then slowly releases it at night.