Question

Are there any experts in the San Antonio area on rammed earth?

Asked by Debbie
San Antonio, TX

I have 5 acres south of San Antonio, TX and am interested in building a rammed earth house withint the next 8-10 years. Yes, I know that is a long way off, but I want to plan today and learn as much as possible to ensure everything works within an environmental scope. Are there ANY "experts" in the San Antonio region that is available for consultation?'

Answer

Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Answered by Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Los Angeles, CA

Polly Osborne Architects

November 14, 2011

In my opinion, the most knowledgeable person in the country on Rammed Earth is David Easton of Rammed Earth Works.  Unfortunately, he is located in Napa Valley, California.

  • I would suggest contacting him through his website and getting his recommendation for someone in San Antonio.
  • He has also written a good book called The Rammed Earth House.

Rammed earth is beautiful but has complexity

Rammed earth, once a simple idea, has become more complex through the years.

  • It has to follow the same codes as a concrete building and you need the architect, engineer, and builder who all understand the challenges of using an "alternative" material in this age of codes and bureaucracy.
  • It requires a special inspector as well as the professionals mentioned above, to test and insure each layer of concrete fulfills the compaction required.

Passive solar design

The insulation value of rammed earth is low, so a layer of EPS insulation on the outside is recommended. This is unfortunate, since it's such a beautiful material to show off. Your architect should be well-versed in passive solar design, in order to make use of the amazing mass of the rammed earth to maximum advantage, whether you are showing it off on the inside, the outside or both.

Stunningly beautiful

Rammed earth has resulted in stunningly beautiful walls, tying into the land from which it literally grew. I hope a standard that keeps it affordable is developed. 

Green building should involve, I think, a kind of poetry in its expression of harmony with the environment.

Rammed earth is certainly a material that can inspire this.

 

For more information:

Read "What are the best green construction materials for framing a house on the rainy Oregon coast?" a Q&A answered by Peter Kellner.

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