The Rammed Earth House: Rediscovering the Most Ancient Building Material

The Rammed Earth House: Rediscovering the Most Ancient Building Material Author(s): David Easton

Publisher: Chelsea Green Pub

Paperback: 306 pages

ISBN: 0930031792

ISBN-13: 978-0930031794

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How-To Editor’s Recommended Book, 10/01/96:
The beauty and grace of rammed earth construction is described in fascinating detail by David Easton. The photographs of different structures, both modern and ancient, by Cynthia Wright, create a breathtaking glimpse into a building technique that is as old as human history, but exactly suitable for today’s resource-conscious and environmentally friendly building needs. Trees may be getting a bit scarce these days, but there’s no current shortage of dirt, the main component of rammed earth homes. From such a prosaic material, gold has been spun in these timeless, graceful, and nearly indestructible homes and buildings. Card catalog description The Rammed Earth House is an eye-opening example of how the most dramatic innovations in home design and construction frequently have their origins in the distant past. By rediscovering the most ancient of all building materials – earth – forward thinking home builders can now create structures that set new standards for beauty, durability, and efficient use of natural resources. Rammed earth construction is a step forward into a sustainable future, when homes will combine pleasing aesthetics and intense practicality with a powerful sense of place. Rammed earth homes are built entirely on-site, using basic elements – earth, water, and a little cement. The solid masonry walls permit design flexibility while providing year-round comfort and minimal use of energy. The builder and resident of a rammed earth house will experience the deep satisfaction of creating permanence in a world dominated by the disposable.

Customer Comments , 02/24/97, rating=8:
Excellent, lacks some detail on construction. In Venezuela, South America, there is some interest in reviving an old method of construction, called tapial in spanish (rammed earth). Many old building remain in South America from the time of the spaniards. The book illustrates how a modern engineer, David Easton, in California, has taken over the problem of building with rammed earth in country where there is very little tradition, hence know how, on building with rammed earth. The book lacks detail on the rammed earth system employed by the authors. More drawings and pictures would be very useful to translate modern technology to underdevelopped countries. Best regards, Miguel A. Megias, Professor of Engineering Universidad de Carabobo Valencia, Venezuela e-mail

Table of Contents
Ch. 1. The Evolution of Earthbuilding
Ch. 2. The Point of Beginning
Ch. 3. The Architectural Plan
Ch. 4. In Preparation for Building
Ch. 5. Foundations
Ch. 6. The Essential Soil
Ch. 7. The Art of Formbuilding
Ch. 8. Soil Preparation and Compaction
Ch. 9. Doors, Windows, Niches, and Nooks
Ch. 10. Bond Beams and Other Connections
Ch. 11. After the Wall
Ch. 12. The House in the Garden
Builders’ Resources: A. A Photographic Step-by-Step
Builders’ Resources: B. A Sample Home Design Program
Builders’ Resources: C. How to Identify Soils
Builders’ Resources: D. Restoring the Chew Kee Store
Builders’ Resources: E. Structural Engineering Design

Ageless Adobe: History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

Ageless Adobe: History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

Author(s): Jerome Iowa

Publisher: Sunstone Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2005)

Paperback: 160 pages

ISBN: 086534034X

ISBN-13: 978-0865340343

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The American Southwest possesses an extraordinary depth of cultural heritage and much of its history is preserved in its architecture. Particularly prominent in the region’s man-made landscape are the historic structures made from the earth itself: adobe. Attention has turned to ways of preserving and maintaining the old buildings of the Southwest partly because of the growing national interest in historic preservation. However, in the Southwest there has also been an increased awareness of the inherent viability of native architecture. Adobe structures present unique challenges and require special treatment and until now, much of that information has been unpublished. Ageless Adobe provides practical details on methods of preservation and maintenance for old adobe buildings. The over 200 illustrations in the book along with directions on ‘how-to’ will enable the do-it-yourself home owner as well as the professional architect or contractor to plan and carry out renovation. The author presents solutions to the problems of keeping an historic structure intact while repairing it and making it 20th century livable. The issue of energy conservation is discussed at length and the premise of the book is that historic integrity does not have to be sacrificed for energy efficiency. Rehabilitation is always preferable, usually possible and often more profitable than demolition.

Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

Earth Construction : A Comprehensive GuideAuthor(s): Hugo Houben, Hubert Guillaud

Publisher: Intermediate Technology

Paperback: 372 pages

ISBN: 185339193X

ISBN-13: 978-1853391934

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Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide
Reissue Edition
Paperback Publication date: October 1993

This comprehensive, illustrated handbook deals with the world’s oldest and most widespread building material. Although earth is extremely versatile and can be used at relatively low cost, it is essential that users have a good knowledge of its real potential in order to use it to best effect, and to avoid misuse.

This book assembles, orders and clarifies information about building with earth which has up till now been available only in scattered form. Text supported by illustrations deals with the essential aspects of earth construction, taking one step at a time–decision-making, planning, design and the realization of a project–so that the procedures, benefits and precautions are easily accessible and understood by those involved at every level. The accumulated knowledge and experience of centuries of use are presented alongside current technologies and research findings. There is a chapter devoted to disaster-resistant construction techniques, and extensive bibliographies throughout for those who require more details about a particular subject area.

This is essential reading for anyone involved in construction projects at all levels, including decision-makers and planners, building inspectors, architects and engineers, technicians, building promoters and bricklayers, and sub-contractors–as well as students and academics–enabling them to visualize and plan programs which profit from earth’s wide range of qualities and ameliorate its defects, to test, stabilize and build with the local soil, and to find solutions to problems as they arise.

Table of Contents
1.Earth construction
3.Soil identification
4.Soil stabilization
5.Soil suitability
8.Construction methods
9.Production methods
10.Design guidelines
11.Disaster-resistant construction
12.Earth wall finishes

Adobe & Rammed Earth Buildings

Adobe & Rammed Earth Buildings

Author(s): Paul McHenry

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press

ISBN: 0816511241

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AEarth is the oldest and most widely used building material in the world today. It’s abundant, inexpensive, and energy-efficient. But if you’re building with earth, simplicity of material needn’t be an excuse for poor planning. Paul Graham McHenry, author of the best-selling Adobe – Build It Yourself, here provides the most complete, accurate, and factual source of technical information on building with earth. Lavishly illustrated with scores of photographs and drawings, Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings spells out details of: • soil selection
• adobe brick manufacturing
• adobe brick wall construction
• rammed earth wall construction
• window and door detailing
• earth wall finishes
• foundations
• floor and roof structures
• insulation
• mechanical considerations. Whether you’re designing a new building or renovating an existing structure,Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings can show you how to achieve better results.

Discovering Your Old House

Discovering Your Old House

Author(s): David Iredale and John Barrett

Publisher: Shire; 4 edition (March 4, 2008)

Paperback: 176 pages

ISBN-10: 0747804982

ISBN-13: 978-0747804987

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(Discovering handbook 14) 111 pp, 90+ b/w ills.

Great for cob and earth builders and timberframe builders- shows many houses with thatch, timber peg, crucks, cob, Inglenook fireplaces; with photos and drawings of design and layout.

Every house has a story to tell. David Iredale and John Barrett describe how, step by step, the history of your old (or not so old) house may be discovered.

The life story of an old house is told by the stones, bricks, timber, tiles and thatch that make up its walls, floors and roof. Its history is also discovered in manuscripts and printed books, in archives and public libraries. These crucial sources are described and explained with the help of apt quotations from old documents and reproductions of maps, plans and pictures.

‘…outstandingly well informed about the documentary sources concerning old houses and their occupants … of great help to the historian as well as the general reader.’ – Times Educational Supplement; ‘… will be fascinating to owners of old houses. It very readably gives an introductory guide to dating houses from their architectural styles, plans and materials, and to racing their history from documents… As the book sensibly concentrates on modest houses rather than mansions it will have a wide appeal.’ – Solicitors’ Journal; ‘This sort of information is not contained elsewhere in such concise and usable way.’ – Architects Journal

About the Author

David Ireland and John Barrett are both professional archivists whose lifetime experience of local records and historical fieldwork has been shared in published articles on prehistory, local history, archive administration and genealogy. They are co-authors of three other books for Shire, ‘Discovering Local History’, ‘Discovering Your Family Tree’ and ‘Discovering Old Handwriting’.

The Small Adobe House

The Small Adobe House

Authors: Agnesa Reve, Robert Reck (photographer)

Publisher: Gibbs Smith; First Edition edition (July 18, 2001)

Hardcover: 76 pages

ISBN-10: 1586850652

ISBN-13: 978-1586850654

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Building or remodeling an adobe house is an artistic endeavor, with all the satisfaction–and occasional frustration–of any artistic effort. But once you’ve lived sheltered by adobe wall, you won’t want anything else. Whether the small adobe house is a work of art or a model of simplicity, it is by far the most appropriate house for the Southwest. The adobe serves as natural insulation, keeping the interior cool in summer and warm in winter, and muffling noise. No draft ever penetrates an adobe wall. The spaces of such a house accept with equal grace the basic curve of an Eames chair or the sumptuous gilding of Louis XIV. It is an easy house to live in. It is also easy to reshape. You may incorporate all sorts of modern ideas and still keep the classic look of the small adobe house, affording enjoyment of the newest conveniences within an enveloping tradition.

Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home

Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home

Author(s): Laura and Alex Sanchez

Publisher: Sunstone Press; Revised edition (April 9, 2008)

Paperback: 230 pages

ISBN-10: 0865346623

ISBN-13: 978-0865346628

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Since Adobe Houses for Today first appeared, interest in energy efficiency has exploded. Showing the pathway to smaller, solar tempered, easy-to-heat homes using adobe, one of the world’s most energy efficient building materials, makes this book about adobe houses not only for today, but also for tomorrow. Adobe Houses for Today features 12 plans for compact, beautifully proportioned adobe homes in modern and traditional styles. The richly illustrated text shows how the basic houses, designed for today’s smaller families, can be expanded and adapted to fit readers’ own budgets, family sizes, style preferences, and building sites. After a brief look at adobe’s rich history, Adobe Houses for Today surveys adobe’s advantages as a building material, illustrates adobe construction, and gives an eye-opening tour through the facts and fantasies of energy conservation. The heart of the book details the plans, using them as examples of design techniques that increase livability and control costs in any house. The book and its minimal-cost construction drawings are valuable, enjoyable tools for those buying, building, or remodeling a house. With this new edition, which includes an additional chapter with stories from people who have built the houses, construction drawings are now available for some of the expanded versions.

Adobe Houses for Today features 12 plans for compact, beautifully-proportioned adobe homes in modern and traditional styles. Yet the book offers much more. The richly-illustrated text shows how the basic houses, designed for today’s smaller families, can be as flexible as a set of building blocks. Intriguing drawings demonstrate how readers can expand and adapt the plans to fit their own budgets, family sizes, style preferences, and building sites.

After a brief look at adobe’s rich history, Adobe Houses for Today surveys adobe’s advantages as a building material. Next, readers take an eye-opening tour through the facts and fantasies of energy conservation. Then, the heart of the book illustrates the basic and expanded versions of the plans, using them as examples of design techniques that increase livability and control costs in any house. The book also explains site requirements, adobe construction, and estimating basics with an adobe house that “assembles itself.” Adobe Houses for Today and its associated construction drawings are valuable, enjoyable tools not only for those buying, building, or remodeling a house, but also for contractors, drafters, drafting teachers, and real estate professionals.

Award-winning author Laura Sanchez previously ran a drafting business that specialized in adobe houses. She called it quits sometime after the 250th set of plans, but maintains an abiding interest in designing the very best, most cost-effective houses possible. Alex Sanchez, who grew up building houses, has taught courses in adobe construction and solar energy. He founded and currently heads the renowned computer-aided drafting program at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus. The authors’ previous books and CDs concern architectural computer graphics.



Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Author(s): Bruce King

Publisher: Chelsea Green

ISBN: 0964471817

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Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Paperback, 169 pages
Publication date: April 1997

Chelsea Green’s The Rammed Earth House and The Straw Bale House chronicle the possibilities and realities of straw bale and rammed earth construction. Buildings of Earth and Strawfills in the gaps for professional builders, contractors, engineers, inspectors, lenders, and architectural students. It includes special construction requirements of earth and straw, design capabilities and limitations of these materials, and documentation of testing data for use in addressing the concerns of officials. This book offers the nuts and bolts of rammed earth and straw bale building techniques, and why they are so spectacular, durable, and earth-friendly.


“Bruce King has produced a book that is both long overdue and quite timely. While I find most technical books to be dry, uninteresting, and difficult to read, Bruce has managed to provide technical information in an accessible and entertaining manner. Although parts of his book will admittedly require engineering training to understand, even the uninitiated builder will find a wealth of usable material here.”
Bob Fowler, FAIA, PE, PBO past Chairman, International Conference of Building Officials, founding member, International Codes Council

“A revolution in environmentally friendly house construction is arriving. In this book, Bruce King explores the details and methods for building durable and safe earth and straw houses.”
Sim Van der Ryn, Architect, Educator, Author of Ecological Design


Table of Contents



Who Would Want to Read This Book, and Why?
Earth and Straw: Natural Companions
What We Will and Will Not Talk About
A Footnote About Bamboo…

Part One: BASICS

Abbreviations and Acronyms
Structures and Forces

Physical Forces That Act On Structures
Some Other Variables
Gravity Loads
Lateral Loads
In-plane Forces
Out-of-plane Forces
Earthquake Loads
Other Lateral Force Systems

Part Two: EARTH

The Material

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Stabilized Earth Mix Design–A Case Study

density and chemistry tests
compressive strength tests
moisture exposure tests
bond strength tests
fastener tests
admixture tests
absorptivity tests
erosion and wear resistance tests

Design in Non-seismic Areas
Design in Seismic Areas
Bond Beams
Lateral Loads
Analysis Method
Design and Construction Considerations

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Seismic zone 2B

check h/t ratio
axial compressive stress at top of footing
Case 2: Seismic zone 4, wall cantilevered

check h/t ratio
horizontal earthquake load
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
Case 3: Seismic zone 4, same wall restrained at top

horizontal earthquake load
design fc
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
wall connection at top
Appendix E-1: Soil References
Appendix E-2: Soil-cement References
Appendix E-3: Sample Specification

Part Three: STRAW

The Material

Bale Variables
Bale Wall Types
Test Results–Straw Bale and Wall Properties

Bou-Ali test, Tucson, Arizona
SHB AGRA test, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ship Harbour Project test, Nova Scotia
Fibrehouse Limited test, Ottawa, Ontario

Load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Gravity (Vertical) Loading
Lateral Loading: Wind
Lateral Loading: Earthquake
Non-load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Design and Construction Considerations

Bales and Pinning
Wall Settling
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
check plaster skin in compression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Case 2: Non-load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Appendix S-1: Straw Panels

Pyramod International, Inc., City of Industry, California
Stramit, U.S.A. L.L.C., Perryton, Texas
BioFab, Redding, California
Meadowood, Albany, Oregon
Appendix S-2: California Straw-bale Code

Stabilized Earth
Seismic Zone Map of the United States
Unit Conversion Tables

Base Units
SI Prefixes
SI Derived Unites with Special Names
Conversion Factors


Built By Hand

Built By Hand
Authors: Eiko Komatsu, Athena Steen, Bill Steen
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Gibbs Smith, Publisher; 1 edition (September 26, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 158685237X
ISBN-13: 978-1586852375

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A modern, full-color version of the Bernard Rudofsky classic ‘Architecture without Architects’, this book takes readers on a magnificent journey to distant corners of the earth in search of the world’s most amazing vernacular architecture. It is the most comprehensive and groundbreaking documentation of hand-made architecture ever published. (Prarie Avenue Bookshop Holiday Gift Guide )

From elaborate bamboo structures in Sumba, Indonesia, to houses carved out of volcanic rock in Cappadocia, Turkey, and homes made from earth-block in Chipaya, Bolivia, Japanese photographer Yoshio Komatsu (assisted by spouse Eiko) has traveled the world photographing vernacular structures. The Steens (The Straw Bale House) provide captions and notes on construction techniques in stone, reeds and many other materials. With more than 700 full-color photos in an 8″X9″ format, the book takes readers to Ethiopia, Iran, Japan, Spain, Venezuela and many other places. (Publishers Weekly )

“more than just a collection of amazing photos” (The Last Straw Journal )

Product Description

Shelter the Human Family is the most extensive documentation ever published of traditional (“vernacular”) buildings throughout the world. With examples from nearly every continent, the book documents the diverse methods people have used to create shelter from locally available natural materials, and shows the impressively handmade finished products through this truly stunning compilation of photographs. Unlike modern buildings that rely on industrially produced materials and highly specialized electric tools and techniques, the shelters featured here represent a rapidly disappearing genre of handcrafted and beautifully composed structures. They are the work of simple and real people who, as builders and homesteaders, have integrated artistic beauty and practical form into their shelter needs. Shelter the Human Family offers insights into the world of vernacular building, along with potential solutions to many of the problems that plague modern architecture. It is a must-have collection that preserves and documents the rich cultural past of each structure and its community, and offers inspiration for those looking to build in a way that is motivated by something larger than speed, efficiency, and economic profit. Bill and Athena Steen are the authors of The Straw Bale House and The Beauty of Straw Bale. They are active in community building programs that teach low-income families how to build their own shelters, and known for their efforts to incorporate artistic techniques based on local and natural materials into the world of modern construction. They live in Elgin, Arizona. Yoshio Komatsu has been photographing buildings and people around the world for 25 years. His photographs were collected in the Japanese book Living on Earth, and his work is regularly published in books, magazines, and calendars throughout Japan. This is his first book in English. He and his wife, Eiko, live in Tokyo.

Drawn from African Dwellings

Drawn from African Dwellings

Drawn from African Dwellings

Author(s): Jean-Paul Bourdier, T. Minh-Ha Trinh, Trinh T. Minh-Ha

Publisher: Indiana Univ Press

ISBN: 0253330432

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“… an elegant and lyrical work…. It opens up our understanding of space and built environments in new and exciting ways.” — Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review

“The book offers marvellous drawings of complex patterns of structure, design and object, coupled with connections to the daily lives of the inhabitants. In itself, this book is an essential addition to what Indiana University Press has aptly described as ‘the understanding of vernacular architecture’.” — West Africa

“… a magnificent achievement; [the authors] set an objective and a standard in vernacular architecture research which is without parallel. The text is clear and careful, sensitive to the cultures yet quietly rigorous. The drawings are outstanding and have been exceptionally well reproduced in a book whose quality of production matches that of the content.” — Paul Oliver

“… a lasting monument to African architectures…. a fine creation, a collage of marvelous graphic images, earnest research, good writing, careful thinking.” — Henry Glassie

“Scholars are realizing how important it is to provide a rich, thick cultural and social setting when they attempt to explore art…. This book does that for architecture.” — Patrick R. McNaughton

“… will be regarded as an important contribution to the understanding of vernacular architecture.” — Berkeley Tri-City Post

“… a stunning piece of work… An important contribution to architecture…” — FIST, Afrocentric On-line Magazine

“The photographs and drawings are fascinating. ” — The New Brunswick Reader

Architect Jean-Paul Bourdier and cultural critic and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha take us into the traditionally built dwellings of African society in this richly illustrated book. Through this “life-in-architecture” we see material evidence of a culture, its socio-economic and cosmological organization, its way of living, and its world view.

About the Author

JEAN-PAUL BOURDIER, Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, is the editor and co-founder of Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review. TRINH T. MINH-HA, Professor in the Departments of Women’s Studies and Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of a number of books, including Woman, Native, Other. Her films are Reassemblage, Naked Spaces — Living Is Round, Surname Viet Given Name Nam, Shoot for the Contents, and A Tale of Love.