Source: BEC Green
October 26th, 2010 by Cathy
credits: BEC Green
When Sylvia Cook retired from being a high school physics teacher, she had a goal of building the most sustainable house possible. After a lot of very thorough research, Sylvia determined that the best material to built a house with was dirt. Think about it: it’s local, there’s plenty of it, it has a low embodied energy, it has a significant thermal mass, and is extremely durable. It was these last two criteria that sealed the deal sustainability for Sylvia. When all is said and done, Sylvia estimates that her house will last, at a minimum, for about 500 hundred years. That’s not a typo. Five hundred years is a far cry from the minimum standard Ontario’s current building code demands which, if built to minimum specifications, is only about 30 years. So I applaud Sylvia’s vision and far-sightedness to undertake the building of a home that will outlast her great, great, great grandchildren, and hope that the Policy Developers-That-Be will consider upgrading the building code so that homes are built to last even half that long.
But I digress. I confess that when I imagined a rammed earth home, I imagined something out of the wilds of northern England or Scotland, sitting on a desolate wind-blown moor amongst the heather….but as it turns out I was way off. Way, way off. Instead, this rammed earth home has a more “adobe,” southwestern feel to it, but that could also be because Sylvia tinted the mixture with natural terracotta pigment to give it a warmer tone than its natural cool gray concrete appearance.
Rammed earth walls consist of a mixture of dirt and sand with about 5% concrete mixed in. I asked if the dirt was off the property, but Sylvia said that the stones in the dirt on her property were too big to settle properly and would affect the structure of the hardened material. So, instead, she located a gravel pit about 5 km down the road from her property that has provided the dirt for her house. (...)
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