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13 Advantages of building with rammed earth in Africa


Rammed earth construction is quickly becoming popular with Africans and people in the diaspora looking to return home and live a cleaner more eco friendly lifestyle. Rammed Earth Construction is basically using the Earth under your feet or from a local quarry to build a wall, house, school or anything you can think of. Its a great eco alternative since it required little to no cement, iron rods and its non toxic as its natural.



1. 100% natural & non-toxic.

Laterite, clay, aggregates; these are all materials that are abundantly available in Africa.

When constructing a rammed earth building, in some cases these materials can also be found on the site or within close proximity to the construction site.

In the past we have used materials on the site to build schools, libraries and community centers. When constructing unstablised earth walls this consists of having a mix with no cement, therefore making all materials in your mix 100% local and natural.

Because you are only using natural materials when building a structure with rammed earth, you don’t need to worry about any toxic substances being part of the manufacturing process.






2. Very low carbon footprint

The process of building with rammed earth walls creates a very low carbon footprint. Unlike building with conventional building methods i.e. concrete this uses around 10-20% cement which in itself as a material goes through a process and contributes greatly to air pollution. The process that is also used to extract the natural resources consumes energy and causes environmental degradation.

With rammed earth construction, materials are sourced locally and doesn’t go through a process in order for it to be suitable to build with, it is simply extracted from the site, add a little water to create a damp mix and then its ready to use.

Rammed construction tends to be more labor intensive, if you’re doing it on a small scale it uses little to no machinery.



3. Great for indoor climate

Rammed earth walls have great thermal mass because they are dense and heavy, so it can absorb and store significant amounts of heat.

Walls constructed using rammed earth contain less than one twentieth of the embodied energy of traditional brick and mortar walls.

Rammed Earth walls have a high thermal mass absorbing heat energy through the day and releasing it into the building as temperatures fall at night. Experiments have shown that rammed earth walls can actually reduce daytime temperatures by 4 or 5 degrees.



4. Moisture control

Earth walls control humidity levels within buildings by absorbing excess water vapor and releasing it back when the environment is drier. This is particular good for cites like Accra where the humidity is particularly high and can be at times uncomfortable. Rammed earth walls give an overall better indoor air quality and a healthier, cleaner home overall. Rammed earth also has a detoxifying effect, it’s a living breathing material and has the ability to absorb toxins and smells from the indoor air.



5. Fire resistance

Earth is a material that isn’t combustible. A 300 mm thick wall has a fire resistance of up to 4 hours.



6. Affordable

Taking out labor cost, Rammed Earth construction can be very affordable. If you are able to find all suitable materials on or close to the construction site your spending next to nothing on materials.

Tools that are needed to construct Rammed Earth walls can also be low cost and basic, re-in forced ply wood boards for your form works can be purchased at your local hardware store. You will need something solid to compact the earth, something as basic as a log of wood is suitable.



7. Life cycle cost

Having an earth home is very low maintenance. Because of how rammed earth walls are constructed they can achieve a high compressive strength and dense compaction.

Also once the walls are built and spayed with a sealant they are finished, there is no need to paint or plaster. Every 10 years the walls can be re sealed if needed.

With the global cost of living going up, the rise in energy prices is one of the utilities that affect us all. Rammed Earth homes provide a lot of passive qualities; these passive qualities can help reduce energy costs, such as warming and cooling. The world is becoming more environmentally conscious every day, because of the many passive qualities rammed earth building provide, the value of earth buildings will constantly increase.



8. Zero waste

Building with earth is fully recyclable. When building unstablised rammed earth homes these can be broken down and rebuilt. They are easily returned to the ground when no longer required so the material is borrowed, not stolen. Building with earth is a great way to contribute to a circular economy, because there is no process to making the earth usable to build with. Earth doesn’t loose its strength or properties so it can be used over and over again.



Unstablised Rammed earth wall for the Eden project, UK.



9. Noise control – earth has low sound transmission levels.

Rammed earth buildings are great in the city, especially a noisy city like Accra. The thick walls aid in soundproofing a space.



10. Load Bearing

Rammed earth walls are load barring, a load-bearing wall is an active structural element of a building, which holds the weight of the elements above it, by conducting its weight to a foundation structure below it. The benefit of Rammed earth walls being load bearing is that in some cases there is no need for extra reinforcement like iron rods.



11. Durability Rammed earth buildings can withstand the tests of time; one of the most famous and oldest rammed earth walls is the Great Wall of China. Rammed earth buildings have already proven to be sturdy for more than a century, and evidence suggests that some structures could last for more than a 1,000 years. When you compare the cost of construction with other conventional materials, this eco-friendly method is very popular.








13. Pest protection. In Africa pests can be a big problem, Termites are very common when building a structure that is not treated.

When building with Rammed earth this material can provide you with a significant amount of protection. There are no cavities in the walls where pests can reside or find a way to your interior structures. Repainting and plastering are not necessary and reinforcements are rarely needed for this material. Once it cures, it is virtually impenetrable to most pests.



Conclusion


Rammed earth buildings overall are a great investment, especially in todays climate. If you are doing the work yourself the cost to build can be considerably low.

These rammed earth advantages may vary based on your location in Africa and the quality of materials available. Building with rammed earth is an easy way to support sustainable living while enjoying the comforts of modern life.






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