Building Healthy Rammed Earth Homes
Rammed earth construction is an ancient technique that combines sustainability, durability, and natural beauty. When constructed following Building Biology Institute's standards, a rammed earth home can significantly reduce harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Electromagnetic Radiation (EMRs), while considering Geopathic factors, orientation, thermal mass, and passive solar design. This guide will take you through the process of building a healthier, eco-friendly rammed earth home.
"Imagine a construction method that's fireproof, soundproof, impervious to insects, and even bulletproof. Picture a building material that breathes, repels mold, is non-toxic, and self-regulates humidity and temperature without the need for mechanical interventions. Envision a structure that is low-cost to operate, requires minimal maintenance, and is built to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
Consider a construction method that boasts ultra-low embodied energy, reducing its carbon footprint to a minimum. Picture a structure that can endure for centuries, between 500 to 1000 years, and is still completely recyclable at the end of its lifespan. Think of a building material that is locally available, accessible worldwide, and adaptable to any setting.
This is the promise of rammed earth construction. Isn't it time we build for a sustainable, resilient, and healthy future?"
RAMMED EARTH CONSTRUCTION - WHAT A CONCEPT
Creating a rammed earth home in compliance with the Building Biology Institute's 25 principles involves a wide range of considerations.
Building Biology Institute's 25 Principles The principles are aimed at creating sustainable, healthy, and ecologically sound living environments. They emphasize reducing energy consumption, using renewable energy, conserving natural resources, and minimizing environmental harm during construction. The principles also favor using regional building materials and providing the best quality of drinking water. It's important to design homes that meet human needs and protect the environment, with sufficient green space in both rural and urban residential areas. The goal is to create living and working environments that promote health, comfort, and a respectful living together123.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from certain solids or liquids, many of which are commonly found in building materials and products. Exposure to high levels of VOCs can lead to various health issues, including headaches, dizziness, and damage to the liver and kidneys. They can be found in a wide array of products used in the home, including paints, varnishes, and wax, as well as building materials and furnishings. In a rammed earth home, it's important to choose materials that are low in VOCs to ensure a healthy indoor environment.
Electromagnetic Radiation (EMRs) and Wireless Technology...EMRs comes from the electromagnetic fields generated by electronic devices and wiring in our homes. While the health effects of long-term exposure to low-level EMRs are still under study, some people are sensitive to these fields and experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Consideration need to be taken regarding the location of the home relative to sources of EMRs, such as cell towers and radar towers. It's also important to minimize the use of wireless technology within the home to reduce exposure to EMRs. Specialized home inspectors, like Eddie Hiscock from Healthy Living Spaces Canada, can perform Electromagnetic Pollution Measurements to ensure a safe living environment45.
Geopathic Stress This is a natural phenomenon which relates to earth's vibrations that rise up through the earth and are distorted by weak electromagnetic fields created by subterranean running water, certain mineral concentrations, fault lines, and underground cavities. These distortions can be harmful to living organisms. Geopathic stress can be assessed and mitigated by professionals.
Site Selection The site selection for a rammed earth home involves assessing the local environment and potential issues. Factors to consider include the presence of dumping sites, highways, high voltage power lines, farmland using chemicals, and oil & gas facilities. It's also important to assess the type of soil, prevailing winds, and regional climate to ensure they're suitable for a rammed earth home.
SIREWALL Construction SIREWALL (Structural Insulated Rammed Earth) is a leading standard for rammed earth construction. SIREWALLs are inherently sustainable, non-toxic, robust, and long-lasting, providing superior thermal mass, comfort, and aesthetics. They have been recognized for excellence in sustainable design and construction.
Building Rammed Earth Buildings Rammed earth construction involves compacting a mixture of damp earth, cement, and water into an externally supported frame or mold, creating a solid wall of earth. This process involves several steps, including preparing the mixture, setting up the formwork, compacting the earth, and allowing the structure to cure.
Shapes and Orientation The shape and orientation of your home play a significant role in its energy efficiency and harmony with its surroundings. Considerations include:
Orientation for sunlight: Maximize solar gain in winter and minimize heat intake in summer.
Wind direction: Utilize natural ventilation for cooling.
Land slope: Impact on drainage and foundation design.
Thermal Mass and Passive Solar Design Rammed earth walls have excellent thermal mass properties, meaning they can absorb, store, and gradually release heat over time. This helps to stabilize indoor temperatures, reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling.
Incorporating passive solar design can further enhance energy efficiency. Key elements include:
Window placement: South-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere) can allow sunlight to heat the home in winter.
Overhangs and shading devices: These can block high summer sun to prevent overheating.
Interior layout: Design the layout to distribute heat evenly throughout the home.