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Our Rammed Earth Workshop In London

Updated: Jun 4

A few weeks ago we hosted a rammed earth workshop in the UK in collaboration with BFA and Pem People at the Livesy exchange in London. 

We got in touch with BFA because we had a planned trip to the UK and also we've been following their work for some time now. BFA is a black social enterprise based in London founded to connect and support black women within the architecture, design, and construction industry.

Working with earth in the UK has always been something that we have been interested in as the material is so different from what we get in Ghana.

From our research, we noticed that a lot of the materials here were darker in color and stonier in texture than what we are used to in Ghana. We also noticed in the UK there are some things that are more accessible than what we can get in our country, like different color clays and hydrated lime.

Rammed Earth in the UK is something that has been around for many years. Rammed earth experts in the UK such as Rowland Keable of rammed earth consulting CIC have been at the forefront and championed earth buildings in the UK for years using pure rammed earth walls. 

One thing that we noted about earth buildings in the U.K. and in Europe is that the industry is made up of earth builders that push the use of pure rammed earth walls. 

Companies such as Lehm Ton Erde is also another company that we have admired their work for years, they create beautiful rammed earth structures using prefabricated rammed earth blocks. 

We wanted to do this workshop as we wanted to see what types of materials we could work with. We also wanted the chance to be able to make unstabilised earth samples and demonstrate the differences between the rammed earth and stabilized rammed earth. 

In Ghana, we have constructed rammed earth buildings without cement but funny enough they have all been with clients that are coming from Europe and don't believe in mixing cement with earth.

In Ghana, we are used to seeing mud homes when it comes to earth construction, so the perception of building homes without cement is still negative. 

Slowly attitudes are shifting from using cement and we are looking forward to introducing more rammed earth buildings in Ghana that don't contain any cement. 

Rammed earth buildings without cement can even open up the conversation at looking at building affordable homes. 

We managed to source all the materials and tools within a day. For our equipment, we used film-coated marine boards and cut them into pieces to create 8 formworks for our samples. We made our own rammers using wood and purchased nails and clamps to hold the formwork in place. 

For our materials, we bought a few bags of ballast, a mixture of sand, stones, and gravel, we also purchased a range of stabilizers. We bought clay, hydrated lime, and cement for our stabilizers. 

The Agenda For The Day

The workshop started at 9 am and went on till about 7 pm. On the day we had about 20 participants who attended the workshop which was a great turnout considering that we started advertising just a few weeks before.

We had a mixed bag of people, from students to developers, architects, and people who want to build a rammed earth building back home. 

At the beginning of the session, we went through some of the rammed earth theory and what we do as a company in Ghana. 

Towards the middle of the session, we got more practical. 

We had created 5 pipe samples a few days before as we wanted the class to have a look and feel of what rammed earth is. 

Out of the 5 pipe samples, 4 of them were pure rammed earth, and just one stabilized with cement. 

After we got ourselves acquainted with the samples we proceeded to take off the formwork of more samples that we had done the day before. 

The idea was to give the participants a chance to see how formworks are taken off and also to give the participants an idea of what sample we would be making. 

Out of all the 4 of these samples, 3 were pure earth and 1 of them was stabilized with cement. 

Once we had taken off our formwork, we then proceeded to start creating a new one from scratch, so that participants could have a go of the rammed earth process, from creating the formwork to mixing and then ramming.

Here participants had an opportunity to see how we created our mix, all the mixes we created were all unstabilized rammed earth with either clay or hydrated lime. 

After the mixing, the participants were given the opportunity to ram themselves. 

We would love  to conduct rammed earth workshops worldwide, exploring the diverse types of earth each location offers. This journey will not only enhance our understanding but also promote sustainable building practices globally.

Where should we go to next?

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