J. Dahmen
Assistant Professor
University of British Columbia - School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture





The use of rammed earth has grown considerably in the past half-century in the developed world, where perceptions about its environmental sustainability account for a large share of its popularity. Significant changes have accompanied its transition to the mainstream, including the use of chemical stabilizers, engineered soil blends, and mechanical placement and compaction. These alterations to the materials and installation techniques of rammed earth address the economic and structural demands of the developed world, but they also adversely effect its environmental impact. This paper assesses the effect of these changes on the embodied energy of rammed earth through a review of pertinent literature, which suggests that chemical stabilizers have the greatest effect on the embodied energy of rammed earth. The paper documents the construction of a rammed earth test wall on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology built without the use of cement stabilizers to evaluate its suitability in temperate climates. The paper offers recommendations for future research to develop a more nuanced understanding of the environmental effects of stabilized and unstabilized rammed earth in the developed world context.



Who's afraid of raw earth? Experimental wall in New England and the environmental cost of stabilization
Rammed Earth Construction: Cutting-Edge Research on Traditional and Modern Rammed Earth
Edited by Daniela Ciancio, Christopher Beckett
CRC Press. January 29, 2015
Pages 85-88
ISBN 9781138027701 - CAT# K25975