Please Excuse our dust... On September 5th, 2011 we migrated our small site to a new platform. We will start blogging as we go through the process of building a rammed earth structure this fall and winter. We have signed the contract with our eco-consultant/builder and Stephen and Bill have begun clearing the land where the building will sit. Stay tuned for our blog entries, in which we will try to document each step of the process. We hope this will be informative for those wanting to "do it yourself" with rammed earth. Our current plan is for our builder to construct the foundation and roof- a basic rectanglular pavillion. We will build the external rammed earth walls underneath with plenty of overhang and room for a wrap-around porch.
Our secondary goal is to build a better rammed earth information site for you, to use and hope that it becomes a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Rammed Earth. Thank you for coming, please return and follow our progress. Follow our progress on the Rammed Earth Blog
Below is the content of the old site, this will be updated as well.
We are Bill & Stephen Betzen, a father and son team who started the planning process in 2004 to build a rammed earth home in Dallas, Texas by 2009. We are on schedule. We want to share research we have done and make connections with similarly interested Do It Yourself (DIY) people also interested in rammed earth construction and benefits.
Our home is planned to be a 2400 sq ft, 2 story home with a covered balcony and porch surrounding the home. The ground floor earthen walls will be 2 ft thick with 18" thick walls above the second floor. The goal is a home that will be as cool as possible in the hottest Dallas summer. With a home fully surrounded by both a shaded porch and a shaded balcony, as well as many trees, we hope the worst Dallas summer sun will never heat the thermal mass of the rammed earth walls. Combined with a ventilated, reflective metal roof over insulation, we hope that annual air-conditioning needs will be greatly reduced if not totally eliminated.
Our research shows rammed earth construction to be the most simple, environmentally responsible method for building the thermal shell of a home. It will be a strong, quiet, healthy, termite-free, fire-resistant, comfortable home, one weighing 300+ tons and lasting many generations. It will save thousands of dollars annually in utility and maintenance costs along the way.
Stephen's mother and maternal Hungarian ancestors were born in, built, and lived in rammed earth homes for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They speak fondly of the quiet, year-around comfort of their rammed earth homes. We will simply add about 3-5% cement to the mixture, with a reflective, ventilated roof, and extra shade for the Dallas heat.
As of 1-11-06 it is official! We have had the good fortune to have the
2006 EVHA (EnergyValue Housing Award) Builder of the Year
award winner as our mentor. See details below about Mr. Jim Sargent and how we met him.
The photos below, and in the training photo album, were taken during our training with Quentin Branch in Tucson, Arizona. His web site at http://www.rammedearthhomes.com/ gives good information on the rammed earth process. We think the 1,000 mile drive from Dallas to Tucson for the training during the summer of 2004, and other costs involved, were well worth the investment.
Quentin Branch is with the blue cap in both photos, and standing on the form in second photo.
Continue to explore what is already online about rammed earth with www.google.com or with some of the following links, including the web ring at the bottom of the page linking with similar web pages.
At http://www.rammedearthhomes.com/ you will find Quentin Branch's pages describing the work he does in Arizona with rammed earth.
You can find research done in 2004 in Del Rio Texas relating to the cooling qualities of rammed earth in an article linked online athttp://www.toolbase.org/techinv/techResources.aspx?technologyID=144. It is the research by John J. Morony titled "Logged Data for Heat Wave, Del Rio, Texas, 31 May - 2 June 2004." It shows the superior ability of rammed earth to stay cool, even in direct sun in a heat wave, when compared to cement brick or adobe construction. With our plans we need to know what happens when you keep these walls in the shade.
How To Build a Rammed Earth House is a 1973 article published in Mother Earth, written by John O McMeekin about the home he had build 25 years earlier of rammed earth, and continued to live in at that time. It appears he still lives there now but we are attempting to verify that at this time. His utility bills would be very interesting to compare with his neighbors in similar sized homes.
Introduction to rammed earth is a web site from the UK and covers the basic facts about rammed earth.
Steve Davis' rammed earth house web pages with FAQ's.
Rogers Rammed Earth, a DIY home with photos.
Green Home Building: Rammed Earth Questions and Answers by Leonard Jones, P.E.
If you know of rammed earth building resources near Dallas please let us know. We are searching.
Bill (farm raised and city settled) and Stephen (a science teacher) both have now (11-22-05) completed the class for "Secrets of a Texas Net Zero Home & How to Improve Your Own" at a local community college which started October 3, 2005. It is described online athttp://www.cedarvalleycollege.edu/eegbi/ce.htm. The teacher, Jim Sargent, is excellent, and the class was full with 31 attending. To date this class has been our best investment. Jim Sargent considers rammed earth to be one good alternative in Dallas, if you know what you are dealing with. He said the main negative for rammed earth is resale value. Few people know or understand rammed earth. We consider that to be a positive since we may be able to use that fact to fight any high tax appraisal value the city or Dallas County may attempt to saddle the home with after completion.
Jim told us these facts outside class as the class is about home energy basics and only occasionally mentions rammed earth. However, all the information presented in class is priceless information if you want to build any solid energy efficient home. The $110 cost for the course is gained over and over each class with priceless information.
Jim speaks of small homes he has built in the 1,000 square foot range with total heating and cooling costs of much less than $150 a year, or 35 cents a day on average. Based on what he has been presenting in class this is totally credible. Why have we not been doing this for many years all across the US?!
The above notes about the training by Jim Sargent were written 11-22-05.
This class will be repeated early in 2006 and is highly recommended. All the students in the current class were saying nothing but strongly positive comments about the class. Every session was full with no spare seats. Register early if you want to attend the next series of classes. Here is a link to the brochure just put out about the next series of classes Jim Sargent will give in 2006. This and other classes are also online athttp://www.cedarvalleycollege.edu/CommunityMembers/EnergyEfficientGreenBuildingInstitute/ContinuingEducationCourses.html
On 1-11-06 it was announced that Jim Sargent, and the company he helped start, AndersonSargent Custom Builder, LP, of Waxahachie, Texas, have received the 2006 EVHA (EnergyValue Housing Award) Builder of the Year award at ceremonies during the 2006 International Builders' Show in Orlando Florida. Details are online at the National Association of Home Builders Research Center web site, and on page 6 of the EVHA Magazine at http://www.nahbrc.org/evha/2006-EVHA-Mag.pdf. We have the best teacher in the US!
Bill & Stephen Betzen
A Father and Son planning & construction team
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