Rammed Earth Home, Summerland, BC

Rammed Earth Home, Summerland, BC

Rammed earth is an ancient building technique using the raw materials of earth, chalk, lime and gravel. It has seen a revival in recent years as people seek more sustainable and natural building materials and methods. Rammed earth walls are simple to construct, incombustible, thermally massive, strong, hard-wearing, have great thermal mass and fantastic acoustic properties.

Sherrie’s kitchen is open to the living room

The home has an energy-efficient pellet stove in the living room

When we visited Sherrie’s newly built rammed earth home, we were blown away. The home sits on family property, high in the hills, seemingly part of the landscape, blending rather than competing with the scenery.

I loved the natural beauty of the rammed earth walls, next to the warmth of the cherry stained window frames and floors. The design was open and modern, yet it was warm and comfortable too.

When we stepped outside we could hear the highway below, but inside it was peaceful and very, very quiet.

This home has passive solar properties with a full wall of windows to the south. The thickness of the rammed earth wall acts as a superior thermal mass. During the day, the concrete will absorb heat and then let it off in the cooler evenings.

Insulation hasn’t been forgotten in this home as the walls consist of 6″ of rammed earth, 6″ of insulation and a further 6″ of rammed earth.

When the home was being constructed, environmentally friendly and healthy materials, were chosen and there were several other considerations. As Sherrie told me:

In addition to energy conservation, our building goals also included health (we minimized toxins when possible) and longevity (we hope our house will last hundreds of years rather than decades).

Sherrie has six rain barrels that are fed by rain chains or drains

A few examples of the materials that went into the home were:

  • A steel roofing material was chosen so clean and clear rainwater can be collected.
  • Six rain barrels fed by rain chains or a downspout
  • Upgraded windows were chosen. Although they are only officially double pane, they have the properties of a triple pane.
  • A solar thermal system is used to heat domestic hot water.
  • An energy-efficient pellet stove (will also burn other materials) was chosen in place of a gas or wood burning fireplace.
  • Energy star appliances
  • Low VOC paints and stains
  • Recycled glass countertop

Sherrie is careful of water usage and had low flow faucets and dual flush toilets inside and outdoor rain chains that directed rainfall to rain barrels for use in her gardens.

On top of these eco-friendly elements Sherrie also has Solar Thermal to supplement her water heating and a grid tied solar electric for her energy use.

It seemed that this home had all the green features available, yet the homeowners are looking forward to the installation of a living wall in the near future. The greenery should add a wonderful contrast to the rammed earth walls.

This home is one of my favourites in over 50 visited in Canada and the US. Modern, yet natural, it should sit on its hill for an exceptionally long time. It has been made to be efficient and made to last.

There are several books on the subject. I have this one: Rammed Earth House by David Easton.