The use of rammed earth in UK and European architecture is on the rise. Scott Boote, associate at Webb Yates Engineers, makes the case for using this ancient method in contemporary construction.
For a long time contemporary earth buildings in architecture were often stereotyped as ‘Earthships’ in the deserts of New Mexico, ‘eco’ visitor centres or aid projects completed on gap years. But could this vernacular building method be a viable low-carbon approach in a world of risk-averse clients and inflexible supply chains?
With the right preparation, the material can be used at scale. There is no reason why rammed earth shouldn’t be used for a new office block or housing scheme. The material has very low embodied energy. Using earth construction could easily reduce the carbon footprint of a wall by two thirds.
As we move towards 2030’s carbon and energy targets, adopt circular economy principles and engage with the AJ’s own RetroFirst campaign, architects and engineers must commit to greater levels of investigation, testing and analysis at the very start of a project. Meeting our climate commitments will require new ways of working and thinking.