Principles

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An ancestral knowledge.

The rammed earth technique consists of compacting moist soil into a formwork.

The soil is extracted on site or locally.

The selection of the soil is essential. It should not contain any top soil (with organic matter).
 
Clay is the binder, binding sands and gravels, all of which are natural components of soils.
 
In the Rhône-Alpes region, it is possible to build with earth from April to October. In winter the material may freeze.
 
Preparing and compacting the soil cannot be done in the rain.
 
If necessary, lime can be added to the soil. This limits the effect of water on the clays and is referred to as stabilisation.
In rural and urban areas, in the mountains or on plains, rammed earth has been widely used in the Rhône – Alpes region, Auvergne and Brittany.

Since the ‘50’s, rammed earth was barely used in France, having fallen out of favour. .

Where has our wisdom disappeared to ?

In previous times builders knew how to satisfy demands of their communities and of individuals by using locally available materials.
 
Everyone agrees that a material is interesting for its physical, technical, economical or aesthetic qualities however, the choice of a material and more importantly, its manufacturing process determines the cultural, social and ecological impacts.
 
Therefore, centralising a production brings adverse effects already observed in the food, health and other essential industries, such as :
 

  • Loss of knowledge and diversity for actual and future generations
  • Favouring regulations
  • Subjection of the producers and consumers
  • Multiple interventions and dissolution of responsibilities
  • Loss of motivation
  • Energy waste
  • ...
     
    Considering the materials on the market these recent years in Europe ; it has become a necessity to resist against possible downward slip.
     
    It’s the user’s choice to either :
     
    satisfy their conscious by consuming pseudo ecological trendy products,

or
 
search for real solutions in the choices for their life : food, health, housing, education for them and their planet.
 
 
For our houses, it also falls on us to make decisions knowing their implications and effects.
 
A building is not a product of ordinary consumption but an investment, and the choices we make today will still have to be lived with in 40 years.
 
So we should ask ourselves the right question before choosing a building material :
 
For example :
 

  • Where does this product come from ? What transport will it need from its place of extraction to my building site ?
  • What does it contain ?
  • Who prepared it ? Who will apply it ? How ?
  • In which social conditions ? In which health and safety conditions ?
  • Which form and which quantity of energy was necessary for its production and for its application ?
  • How transparent are the manufacturers and retailers about this product ?
  • Which proofs can I have access to ?
  • What are the alternatives to meet my needs ?
  • What will happen with the materials after the building is demolished ?
     
    One third of the world’s population has no other choice then building its house with local soil available in the village, we should leave them this freedom, as they wouldn’t be able to buy materials in bags or on pallets.
     
    Since 1987, Nicolas Meunier has built with natural materials from a small local production.