Digging Up The Past: How Rammed Earth 'Dirt Homes' Are Back In Vogue


Developers, architects and builders around the world are increasingly borrowing from the past and using rammed earth construction to create more sustainable buildings.

The rammed earth construction method has been around for more than 1,000 years, with examples of the technique found on every continent in the world apart from Antarctica. Famous buildings using rammed earth construction include parts of the Great Wall of China and the Alhambra in Spain.

The Alhambra in Spain.[/caption] The Han ruins of the Great Wall. Source:

Rhizome Lance[/caption]The method has been popular through the ages due to its simplicity, durability, sustainability and thermal properties.

For these very reasons, architects today are again returning to this ancient construction technique to build contemporary 'green' homes.

Garangula Art Gallery is an example of a rammed earth building.[/caption] Rammed earth home in Wyoming. Source:

Mother Earth Living[/caption]

The technique

Traditional rammed earth walls are constructed using a mix of gravel, clay, sand and silt. A natural stabiliser like animal blood plant fibres, animal urine or bitumen is often incorporated. Modern methods utilised today favour using  use a bonding agent like cement. The mixture is then placed between removable formwork's (i.e. flat panels). The mixture is then compressed by repeatedly ramming the earth with a wooden pole. The  formwork is removed after the mixture had dried and hardened.


Tiny House Design[/caption]  Source:

Tiny House Design[/caption] The colour of the walls is determined by what aggregate is used during the construction.

The Green Factor

Rammed earth homes have a high thermal mass, which is extremely desirable in hotter climates.  This means that the building has the ability to store heat then release it hours later - basically, the house is cooler during summer and warmer during winter. A rammed earth home should use only one-third as much energy as a conventional home if built correctly [source:

The New West magazine]Rammed earth homes have a smaller environmental footprint as well, as the materials are natural and readily available.

They are also extremely durable. There are many examples of rammed earth structures from hundreds of years ago that are still standing. The UNESCO world heritage Ait Benhaddou in Morocco - a large fortified city located between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert  - was built of rammed earth centuries ago.


Casbahs, Camels and Cous Cous[/caption]With the world's growing interest in sustainable construction, rammed earth homes could be the way of the future.

Show Comments
advertise with us
The Urban Developer is Australia’s largest, most engaged and fastest growing community of property developers and urban development professionals. Connect your business with business and reach out to our partnerships team today.
Article originally posted at: