Casa Candelaria

Project: Casa Candelaria
Architects: Cheram Arquitectos
Location: Mexico City
Year: 2016

The design of the 1,500 sq meter home was based on the traditional Mexican hacienda, which focuses on living arrangements around courtyards. The walls of the home is made from 50cm thick rammed earth, using soil that was excavated directly from the site. Pigments were then added to create an ash-finish. The use of rammed insulates the home when temperatures drop at night, while minimizing solar gain in the day.


Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre

Project: Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre
Architect: Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects + urbanistes
Location: Osoyoos, Canada
Year: 2006

The award-winning cultural centre is located in the unique Canadian desert in Osoyoos, British Columbia - designed to exhibit the desert and culture of the Okanagan people. The potential of architecture to convey the rich past of the people is expressed through the sensitive siting of the building in the landscape, and the use of expressive, warm, and rich materials such as the rammed earth.

The center is part of the land of the Osoyoos Indian Band, with the fragile surrounding landscape guiding the sustainable design of the center. The center features the longest rammed earth wall in North America, standing at 80m long, 5.5m high, and 600mm thick. It is made from local soils with concrete and color additives, and its thermal mass is able to sustain thermal warmth and comfort in the cold winters, while providing a cool interior in the summer months.


Tuscon Mountain Retreat

Project: Tuscon Mountain Retreat
Architects: DUST
Location: Tuscon, Arizona
Year: 2012

The Tuscon Mountain Retreat is a beautiful home in the Sonoran Desert that uses rammed earth composed of the local soil beautifully as a building material. The minimal impact construction and the passive solar design of this home makes it an extremely eco-friendly home. Strategies to create a connection between the inside and outside include concrete stepping stones, floor to ceiling glass windows, and lack of internal hallways. Operable sliding walls allow for breezes through the house in the hot daytime, while the rammed earth provides thermal mass that slows the transfer of heat, keeping the house warm in the cool desert evenings.


Windhover Contemplative Center

Project: Windhover Contemplative Center
Architect: Aidlin Darling Design + Andrea Cochran Landscape Architects
Location: Palo Alto, California
Year: 2014

The Windhover Contemplative Center is a spiritual retreat located on the Stanford campus. It is designed to promote spiritual well-being of campus students, faculty, and visitors. The center is a place where architecture, landscape, and art come together within and around the thick rammed earth walls. Natural light lights the space in the daytime, and seating in the form of benches is scattered throughout the space, where one can sit back and admire art hanging on the calming and warm rammed earth walls, or take in the beautifully designed landscape.


Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Project: Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Architect: Weddle Gilmore Black Rock Studio
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Year: 2009

The Gateway was designed as an entry and passage into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, while minimizing the impact on the native Sonoran Desert environment. Rammed earth was used to construct the building walls, in essence utilizing only native earth materials that allow the building to blend into the landscape. It recalls the tradition of indigenous desert building, while adhering to modern sustainable performance requirements.

The roof of the building utilizes native desert rock cobbles, allowing the building to disappear into the landscape when viewed from afar. Other sustainable strategies include using more than 20% recycled materials for the building, a net-zero energy consumption due to the solar panels installed on the roof, and harvested rainwater and storage for meeting all landscape irrigation needs.


Torcasso Residence

Project: Rick Torcasso's Residence
Architect: Larry Speck
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Year: 2015

As rammed earth makes a comeback for its low maintenance and energy efficiency, architects are beginning to explore its potential and beauty for luxury housing. The Torcasso Residence is one example of the elegant utilization of rammed earth construction. The house takes its inspiration from the surrounding Santa Fe landscape, using the building form to create and capture extensive views of the valley. Large operable glass panels help create a continuous panorama and open terrace (indoor-outdoor) living. The warm tones of the rammed earth walls complement the natural landscape, and create beauty and interest within the house.

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Floating Architecture for Sustainability

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