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RE: Rammed earth construction

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Bruce King also has a more recent book (Green Building Press, 2006) called Design of Straw Bale Buildings which addresses many of the engineering aspects of design: bale compression, hex mesh or WWR reinforcing strength, over-reinforcing, and attachment issues, plaster strengths, failure mechanisms, and lots of methods & results of more recent full-scale testing.  Also lots of moisture stuff & other interesting straw bale stuff.  Highly recommended. 


He sent me a copy of some lateral testing footage for different wall assemblies on DVD a few years’s impressive what these things can take.  Guess where the most common failure point is for these, all you Northridge graduates.  Yep, wood sill plate splitting.




Gordon Goodell




From: Michael Hemstad [mailto:mhemstad(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 11:17 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Rammed earth construction



I have a project in Rwanda on which my client wants to try some alternative means of construction.  Rammed earth and straw bale construction have come up.


(For those who haven't heard of these, rammed earth is made by building wall forms, placing soil in them, and pounding it until it rings.  It makes a durable, fireproof wall with local materials and labor.  Straw-bale construction involves stacking straw bales, often dowelling them together with wood dowels, then applying thick parging to each side.   This apparently results in a strong, fireproof, relatively durable wall too, although I know less about it than rammed earth.)  


Does anyone have information on either of these?  I am specifically looking for information on what soil properties are needed for a successful rammed-earth installation (e.g. clay content, sand content, moisture content).  I don't yet know whether a geotechnical engineer is available to the project; so information of the "holds together as a ball when dropped" type is also appreciated.


I appreciate any help, or alternate suggestions.



Mike Hemstad, P.E., S.E.


Minneapolis, Minnesota



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