Today we got to mix and pour and ram earth to create the north wall of the Hall of Life. Joss Krayenhoff, SIREWALLs Master Earth Mason, came down from British Columbia earlier in the week to instruct the team on-site and prepare us all for today…the big day. It turned into a family affair, three generations of us came to watch and participate in the action. We took the opportunity to get a bit ceremonious, writing a blessing for the house to be placed into the wall and compressed between the layers of earth. It will be fun to think about it (well, the remnants of it anyway) being just above the windows near the boys rooms as we walk up and down the hallway.
We now have a better understanding of how SIREWALL is made. There is a simplicity and beauty to the process. We watched a mini-loader scoop and mix just the right mixtures of sand, aggregate, cement, and water to create the substrate, which was then shoveled into the forms and compressed with a pneumatic press. Even we could do it! I was hard not to imagine myself looking a bit like a cartoon character operating a runaway jackhammer, but it was good fun and more than satisfying to feel the earth compress under the device and begin to rattle the wood board forms once it was sufficiently “rammed” down.
We also had the pleasure of having Jason Lear, owner of Batt + Lear, out to the site to work with the team.
We learned about potential projects for B+L that may include SIREWALL in the future. We have been very impressed with Batt + Lear, their learning mentality, their enthusiasm for building science, and their eagerness to bring materials like rammed earth/SIREWALL into more design-build projects. Rammed earth, in general, has a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional concrete walls and structures. The creation of rammed earth relies heavily on soils and ingredients found within the ground where the project is taking place, tying its appearance and constitution to the native land it is built on. Historical examples of structures built of rammed earth include the Great Wall of China as well as many ancient churches and homes throughout Europe that still stand today. A material that is long lasting with a low carbon footprint certainly qualifies as a sustainable building material!
Next week, we will unveil the finished SIREWALL for Silver Rock once complete. Simultaneously, we will be watching the radiant heat system go in, followed by the pouring the interior concrete floors, followed closely by framing getting underway. I will be standing on the south end of the site chipping our enormous pile of dead wood and branches that were collected from the woods for fire safety prep. Should be another fun week. Onward.