Rammed Earth

This 7,000-year-old building technique is making a resurgence.

How The World Does Rammed Earth

rammed earth building
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in the South Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada. Successive layers of differently colored local soils were placed into the 600mm wide formwork and a pneumatically powered tamper was used to compress each layer to about 50 percent of its untamped height. The technique results in a physically strong, durable wall with excellent thermal qualities, heating up slowly during the day and releasing heat in the cool evenings. Architects: Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects + urbanistes.

Rammed Earth Building
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Osoyoos, British Columbia
Architects: Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects + urbanistes.

rammed earth home
Rammed earth, a low-cost, easy to build material. A mini-city in Luanda, Angola, Africa. Designed by the team of Pedro Sousa, Tiago Ferreira, Tiago Coelho, Bárbara Silva, and Madalena Madureira, 2010. archdaily.com

rammed earth building
Rammed earth mini-city in Luanda, Angola, Africa. Designed by the team of Pedro Sousa, Tiago Ferreira, Tiago Coelho, Bárbara Silva, and Madalena Madureira, 2010. archdaily.com

rammed earth building
A 30% clay—70% sand combo has proven reliable for raw rammed earth. Too much clay should not be used as the wall can shrink and crack. More than 40 percent of the world’s population uses earth as a building material.

rammed earth building
Earth House in Victoria, Australia was constructed in rammed earth using local Dromana crushed rock. The massive walls keep the wnds at bay. Architects: Jolson Architecture Interiors.

In the past decade, cement stabilised rammed earth (4-10%) has become a popular building material in Australia and New Zealand. Injidup resiedence, Wright Feldhusen Architects. archdaily.com

Rammed Earth House. Paradise Valley, AZ. eartharchitecture.org

rammed earth
Rammed Earth Building. Glenhope Residence Australia, joharchitects.com.au

rammed earth architecture
Rammed Earth Building. Copper House Las Vagas, Nevada. The upper level is supported on rammed forming a grounding to the design. Architects: assemblageSTUDIO

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Home in Westlake Hills, Texas, has 2-foot-thick walls that make the building so energy efficient, it received a 5-star energy rating from the City of Austin Green Building Program. Lou Kimball, architect, loukimball.com

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Home in Westlake Hills, Texas. The two foot thick rammed earth walls are a very efficient thermal mass, and minimize the need for air conditioning. loukimball.com

rammed earth
Rammed Earth Building. Elamang Avenue, Sydney, Australia. luigirosselli.com

rammed earth home
Rammed Earth Building. Elamang Avenue, Sydney, Australia. luigirosselli.com

rammed earth house
Rammed Earth, Hinterland House, Australia. MorrisPartnership.

rammed earth house
Rammed Earth Walls and Fireplace in Germany.

rammed earth wall
Rammed Earth Building. The Tidal Resonance Chamber, Tacoma, WA.
Local earths were slighlty colored with iron oxides to match the patina of the port. Using different oxides will color your walls. Designed by Robert Horner, 2010.

Rammed Earth Home, Taos.
By Nick Noyes, California.

Rammed Earth House in Wyoming.
Love the painting mimicking the view.

rammed earth building
Rammed earth is known as pisé de terre or pisé (puddled clay) in France where the technique has been popular for millenia. batimieu.fr

Rammed Earth Building

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building. You are basically changing the soil into sandstone with the help of pressure. iagram.com

Women build an extension to a home in North Vietnam. In this technique, strips of wall are built horizontally, 2 wooden panels are held together with wooden clamps and keys or rope. Once one portion of a wall is completed, the formwork is immediately dismantled and moved further along the wall. Every course is rammed till the soil gives a clear sharp sound and the rammer is not making anymore marks on the layer. wikipedia.org

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building. Chantier de l’hôtel Casa Mojanda à Otavalo (Ecuador)
Photo: Paul De Neyer, 1995.
rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
The Pokara in Tibet is an earth rammed structure. Rammed earth has been popular in Nepal and Tibet for thousands of years. Plaster is a popular finishing technique. traveltotibet8908.blogspot.com

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Hinterland House, Australia. Morris Partnership.

rammed earth building
Rammed earth left rustic.
Eden Project in Dorset, England. en.wikipedia.org

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Osoyoos, British Columbia, blends in beautifully with its surroundings. Architects: Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects + urbanistes.

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Osoyoos, British Columbia. Seems it could be a good medium for sculptures as well. Architects: Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects + urbanistes.

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Numerous farms, rural homes and chateaux in Europe where built in rammed earth, known in French as pisé de terre or simply pisé. Here, the Vaugirard château built in 1605. champdieu.eu

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Here rammed earth is layered with slabs of stone. Depending on the amount of water used during the preparation, each layer can have a different aspect.

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth House in a Glass House. Medellin, Colombia (© A. Jesus Antonio Moreno, Living Earth Foundation / Mauricio Patino) mini-panda.blogspot.com

rammed earth
Rammed Earth Home by David Oliver, the most renowned rammed earth architect and builder. David Oliver Greenway Architects, Mooloolaba, Australia. arquitecturasdeterra.blogspot.com

Rammed Earth Home in Paslek, Poland designed by Faculty of Architecture
at Warsaw University of Technology. kobieta.onet.pl

Rammed Earth wall.
Vidal Sassoon, Shanghai, China.

Rammed Earth Building Styles

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
Modern practices of building use pneumatically powered tampers to compact each layer. The soil should not contain more than 10% moisture. To test it, make a ball of the material and drop it; it should hold its shape. archdaily.com

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
A vertical technique has also been popular for ages, whereby after a course is completed, the side panel is raised and the next higher layer is added and the process goes on till the entire height of the wall is completed. lejsl.com

rammed earth building
Today, lightweight, stackable steel frames are popular. archdaily.com

Rammed Earth Village

rammed earth building
Rammed Earth Building
The entire village of Ait Benhaddou, Morocco is rammed earth. morocco-holidays-guide.

The Basics of Rammed Earth Building

Rammed Earth building, also known as taipa (Portuguese), tapial (Spanish), and pisé (de terre) (French), has been in use for millennia, the earliest surviving examples from 5000 BC in China.* Formerly time-consuming yet dirt cheap, today the technique can be as costly as stone in the hands of certain architects. For some big projects soils have been imported, large quanities of cement and insulation have been incorporated, and the expense of elaborate frame work and machinery can be sky high. Yet, if you have a nice 30% clay/70% sand soil on your building lot (or chalk, lime and gravel) and are good at constructing simple frames (or have access to prefabricated formwork), rammed earth building can be one of the most inexpensive and sustainable building methods on the planet. Whereas trees are being cut down by the thousands-of-acres-a-day, and cement is polluting to manufacture, soil is abundant and the earthiest of earth friendly.

Rammed Earth Walls

This termite-resistant, non-toxic, fireproof technique is also good to build walls, benches, supports, columns and thick blocks which can then be layered like bricks with a mud slurry between. Rammed earth using rebar, wood or bamboo reinforcement should be employed in earthquake prone areas. Although rammed earth has tremendous thermal mass and holds and releases heat slowly, it is not a good insulator. For colder climates, rammed earth walls can be insulated with a panel of recycled styrofoam. Rammed earth keeps interior humidity between 40 and 60 percent where walls containing clay are exposed to an internal space, the ideal range for asthma sufferers and for the storage of susceptible items such as books and artwork.

How Long Rammed Earth Building Takes

The process is time consuming and repetitious, but rewarding. And now with power tampers, the job is a bit less demanding. A newly tamped section of wall is so solid that, if desired, the forms can be removed immediately. If wire-brushing is needed after the forms are removed, to even out the framework edge imprints or to add texture, it must be done in the first hour after the form is removed, for the wall dries to the touch quickly, yet will not be fully dried throughout for months. Exposed walls may need to be sealed to prevent water damage if the walls will be exposed to heavy rain.

A Popular Form Of Building, Still

Worldwide, more than forty percent of the population live in earth built structures, yet earth building disappeared in western countries after World War II, when suburbs sprung up and speed reigned. The skill was lost. Although never given up in developing countries, the west now is relearning this ancient art and begging building authorities to allow them to build in this very natural technique. Let’s hope the building regulators allow this building method to take its rightful place of prominence. We need to step back and learn from the past, but with pneumatic tamper in hand and openness of mind.

A history of Rammed Earth per continent: historicrammedearth.co.uk

An interesting read from 1915, Cottage Building in Cob, Pise, Chalk & Clay by Clough Williams-Ellis – gutenberg.org

Rammed Earth Building Resources

Soils for rammed earth construction: earth.sustainablesources.com


How to in French: archiverte.canalblog.com



Courses, British Columbia, Canada: sirewall.com

The Best Books About Rammed Earth Building

The Rammed Earth House: Rediscovering the Most Ancient Building Material by David Easton.

Earth Building: History, Science and Conservation by Paul Jaquin and Charles Augarde

Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings: Design and Construction by Paul Graham McHenry

International Conference on Rammed Earth: The 1st International Congress on Conservation of Rammed Earth was held in Australia, Feb. 2015 and will bring together experts in earth construction from several continents. ecm.uwa.edu.au

Turning dunes into architecture: Architecture student Magnus Larsson details his bold plan to transform the harsh Sahara desert using bacteria and a surprising construction material: the sand itself. TED Video, youtube.com


Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.


Leave a Reply
  1. hey, great article, did notice that the eden project is marked as dorset in england. actual location is near st. Austell, Cornwall.

  2. a very complete article thank you very much from morocco north africa, a few miles from ait ben hadou rammed eath village …looking foword to know about this modern technique formworks technical details ..

  3. Thank you for this interesting article. I am an architecture master student at the TUDelft in the Netherlands. I would like to ask some more technical questions from your experience on rammed earth walls. Could I send you some questions?

  4. Rammed earth wall:

    Thanks a lot and I am thinking of construction of my own house with a Rammed earth technique. I love it because it is eco-friendly and more over it is locally available materiel.

    One thing that I stuck with is, how to get a frames for the wall to build?

    Please if anybody can advice me how to build a frame for the rammed earth.

    I appreciate if any can help me on that.

    thanks a lot in advance.

    Tshering, from Bhutan

  5. just loved it the way itz explained …. truly inspiring ….. and changes the ones thinking to go for grren building

  6. Another helpful resource for rammed earth construction is the NEW MEXICO EARTHEN BUILDING MATERIALS CODE which I authored for the State with the assistance of local NM rammed earth contractors at the time. The code was developed and adopted through the State of New Mexico Alternative Materials & Methods in Construction process. The code is available online through the New Mexico Construction Industries Division website.

  7. FANTASTIC, ALL, your article, blog, pictures, the comments on each and every one of the pictures, short, precise, beautifully and simply said.

    I want to build an adobe house. Now, after looking at all this wonderful information. Mmmmmmmmmm, now I am having a hard time making a decision between adobe and ram earth. My opinion of ram earth, changed completely. The view I had of it, was not as beautiful as adobe homes, or cal-earth dome homes. I will probably start the construction next year. The site is 60Km. from sea, and very high humidity, around 95%. Any comments welcomed.

    THANK YOU SO very MUCH!!!!!!!


  8. The last photo is not Indian, it is written in Persian (Farsi). Besides, the Indian alphabets are not anything near Persian alphabets I’m not sure who first decide that this is in Indian but I assume it would be only scientifically right to correct the information given in this page.

    In the above it is written: two person named tabarkonandegan (as earth stocking mans) then from two stock of soil, make a wall…

    By the way thank you for the information you provided here. Extremely helpful!

  9. the house in the 8th photograph from the top is the Lacey Residence, in Paradise Valley, AZ, and was covered in detail in the Earth Architecture blog posting of August 12, 2012.

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