From adobe to cob masonry, people all over the world have built with earthen materials to create their homes. Now, one form of earth building — rammed earth — has been given a technological update. In the San Francisco Chronicle article "Sonoma Couple's House Shows Mexican influence," husband and wife Bruce Needleman and Edna Hayes recount the process of building their beautiful earthen home.
The rammed earth building technique, which entails pounding layers of soil, mixed with a small amount of cement, into molds, has been around for literally thousands of years: Pliny, who wrote before the Common Era, recounts Hannibal seeing rammed earth towers in Spain. However, this ancient building technique is perfectly at home in the modern world.
To find out how the Hayes-Needleman's home used an update of rammed earth,
The Hayes-Needleman house used an update of rammed earth developed by David Easton. This technique is called PISÉ, or Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth. PISÉ utilizes a new type of mold, which is a quick-lock form that cuts down the time needed for the building process. In PISÉ, a cement, water, and earth mixture is sprayed through hoses into the forms, and a wall of two- to three-feet high can be constructed in about an hour.
The Hayes-Needleman's house, which utilized this method, is a gorgeous, Mexican-influenced 3,600-square-foot house. It features terracotta roof tiles, lavender and cacti landscaping, a tranquil pool and courtyard, and two-foot-thick walls that make heating and cooling the house a breeze. In fact, even in hot Sonoma county, this house doesn't require air conditioning. Read the entire article to find out more.