“Sustainable architecture and rammed earth go hand in hand. It is one of best techniques of sustainable architecture used mostly in rural India. Builders, developers and consumers are still not very familiar with it. This is a technique, perhaps, oldest among human civilization in the world; extremely durable and futurist”
When we introduce many saying that this is among few green buildings in Delhi NCR, people look amused. Ironically, most of them have never heard of one of the most ancient techniques in the world “Rammed Earth”. Craft Village made of only rammed earth construction is the Green Building in Delhi, and the journey started by exploring the materials for future few years back. Most of the world today is moving towards 0% carbon emission, fast and quick construction method, less use of ground water, and earth quake and fire resistance besides the quality of air that needs to be considered while designing such futuristic architecture.
After working for almost a year we could figure out that rammed earth which has been used mostly in rural India, is one of the most innovative techniques which builders, developers and consumers are not known to. This is a technique, perhaps, oldest among human civilization in the world; extremely durable and futurist. We, thus, decided to go ahead with rammed earth construction for Craft Village, for sustainable and modern architecture in Delhi. Today Craft Village has become the central attraction for its architecture and sustainable design, and the project was initiated in collaboration with Hydraform.
Recently, the air quality was measured and found out that despite ‘Being in Delhi it feels like being in mountains’ the Air Quality index level in Delhi is 200 Micron (2.5 PPM) and UN prescribed limit is 130, but at Craft Village it is only 30 Micron despite being in the heart of Delhi NCR (5-minutes away from T-3) which is equivalent or less than being on Himalayas! Now that’s what a green architecture can do by improving quality of life.
While we were traveling in Gurgaon, we realized that builders are digging up huge areas for creating the parking lots, ironically, they would throw the entire soil to a different location, pay trucks lakhs of rupees and the huge piles of soil emerged as a great headache. Interesting part is the same soil could have been used for creating those building in half time and cost, with much better construction quality, but who cares about these new and innovative techniques, after all each one here has a habit of aping the other. This soil could have been used to create architectural marvel as well as sustainable designed green buildings. Most of the designers have been out of touch from latest happening in the world and stuck to 3-D Max, same modified models. Perhaps that limits their imagination and creativity. Rammed earth is more than a construction technique, it is a philosophy and thought in itself to use local material and create best in the word. Some of the benefits and details of rammed earth construction is given as below:-
Rammed Earth walls are sometimes known as pisé walls — from the Latin origin pisé de terre. First used in Lyons, France, in 1562, the term applied to the principle of constructing walls at least 500mm thick by ramming earth between two parallel frames that were then removed, revealing a completed section of compressed earth wall. While 500mm thick walls can still be constructed if desired, with or without cement, most modern rammed earth construction has changed the world landscape being sustainable and Eco-friendly, creating the most uber looking buildings today.
Appearance: Rammed Earth produces natural textures that no paint or machine today can achieve, it look extremely beautiful with variety of texture depending on the soil of that region creating different colors and textures.
Structural capability: Rammed earth is very strong in compression and can be used for multi-storey loadbearing construction. Research in New Zealand indicates that monolithic earth walls perform better under earthquake conditions than walls made of separate bricks or blocks.
Thermal mass: Rammed earth behaves as heavyweight masonry with a high thermal mass. Thermal mass absorbs or ‘slows down’ the passage of heat through a material and then releases that heat when the surrounding ambient temperature goes down, making it warmer in winters and cooler in summers.
Sound insulation: One of the best ways to insulate against sound is have monolithic mass, which rammed earth provides very well. It has excellent sound reverberation characteristics and does not generate the harsh echoes characteristic of many conventional wall materials.
Fire and vermin resistance: There are no flammable components in a rammed earth wall and its fire resistance is thus very good. In tests by the CSIRO a 150mm thick Cinva-rammed earth block wall (similar to rammed earth) achieved a near four hour fire-resistance rating. There is no cavity to harbour vermin and nothing in the material to attract or support them so its resistance to vermin attack is very high.
Durability and moisture resistance: The basic technology has been around for thousands of years and there are many rammed earth buildings still standing that are centuries old. Rammed earth does possess a generally high durability but all types of rammed earth walls are porous by nature and need protection from driving rain and long term exposure to moisture.
Breath-ability and toxicity: Provided it is not sealed with material that is impermeable to air molecules, rammed earth maintains its breathability. Finished walls are inert but take care in the choice of waterproofing or anti-dust finishes to avoid adding toxicity to the surfaces, thus acting as a natural air purifier.
Environmental impacts: Rammed earth has potentially low manufacturing impacts, depending on cement content and degree of local material sourcing. Most rammed earth in the world uses quarried aggregates, rather than the ‘earth’ it is popularly thought to be made from. On-site materials can often be used but materials need to be tested for their suitability. It consumer 1/10 of water as compared to conventional construction and has no pollution content.
Build-ability, availability and cost: Rammed earth is an in site construction method. Although its buildability is good, form-work for rammed earth demands good site and logistics planning to ensure that other trades are not adversely affected in the building program. It uses locally available material in abundance making it highly cost effective and logistically easy way for constructions. Effective management can bring cost down to as well as 50% of brick & mortar construction methods.
Like other constructions, it would not be wise to say that it may have some disadvantages as well, but in totality rammed earth scores more on overall areas than a conventional construction and hence can become a hot pick for construction and real estate industry.