Rammed Earth Walls

Rammed Earth Walls

I recently returned from a road trip through the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley is the home to a budding Wine Industry. I was pleasantly surprised with our stop in Osoyoss to visit The Nk'Mip Winery and Resort. NK’MIP Winery Resort is a four-season aboriginal tourism resort destination that features deluxe accommodation and visitor experiences including an award-winning winery, gourmet dining, desert golf, a cultural centre and full-service spa.

It was a feast for my eyes to view the walls of the Cultural Center from the parking lot at Nk'Mip Winery. I was struck by the beauty of this facade that looked like a giant slab of the most sumptuous marble. On closer inspection and inquiry I was informed it was built with "Rammed Earth Walls".

Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos

Rammed Earth Walls at Nk'Mip Winery and Resort also known as pisé de terre or simply pisé

(above left) Notice how thick these walls of rammed earth are - approximately 20% thicker than standard concrete walls. (above right) The rammed earth walls are formed in layers of approximately 6" thick , which gives the walls a beautiful horizontal variegation resembling quarried marble.

Rammed Earth, also known as pisé de terre or simply pisé, is a type of construction material. Pisé de terre (rammed earth) walls are an ancient building method that has seen a revival in recent years as people seek more sustainable building materials and more natural building methods. Traditionally, rammed earth walls or pisé de terre walls buildings are common in arid regions where wood is in scarce supply.

The basic recipe for rammed earth walls starts and ends with plain old dirt.

RECIPE FOR RAMMED EARTH WALLS - Soil about 5 litres Water - Water about half a litre - Cement 10 percent - Pigment 1 percent (about 1 tablespoon)

The mixture for rammed earth walls is compacted in layers between forms. Each layer of the rammed earth walls is approximately 6 inches deep. As each form is filled, another form is placed above it, and the process begins again. This is continued until the desired height of the rammed earth walls is achieved. Forms can be stripped off as soon as the form above is begun, as the compressed rammed earth walls are self-supporting immediately. Most builders of rammed earth walls use pneumatic rammers to compact the earth within the forms.

Rammed Earth Wall NK'MIP Winery Osoyoos

Deep inset Window detail in Rammed Earth Walls Nk'Mip Winery. My Dad and me.

Some interesting facts about Rammed Earth Walls and Rammed Earth Walls Construction:

  • Rammed earth walls are 20 percent thicker than most concrete walls so it is better insulating against heat and cold.
  • Rammed earth walls improve Indoor Air Quality because of the simple finish of exposed rammed earth walls have no toxic finishes.
  • Rammed earth walls are so solid that they boast superb acoustics and rank with the best in terms of fire resistance.
  • Because rammed earth walls don't rely on wood the structure will never rot, nor will it be host to carpenter ants or termites.
  • Rammed earth walls evolved in hot dry climates, where wood is too rare and precious to be used as a building material.
  • Rammed earth walls have been the standard in house construction in Southern Europe and the Middle East since biblical times.
  • None other than the Great Wall of China, or at least most of it was built of rammed earth wall construction.
  • Does anyone know why it is called Rammed Earth Walls?

Rammed Earth Walls - Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China - Rammed Earth Walls construction

Rammed Earth Wall Construction
Rammed Earth Walls

Rammed Earth Walls Construction in Residential Bathroom with a Stump window
which was made from the base of a tree that was growing on the house site.

Rammed Earth Wall Construction
Rammed Earth Walls

Iron oxide layers have been added to these rammed earth walls in sedimentary layers with inset of abalone.
Above 2 photos or rammed earth walls Terra Firma

 Rammed Earth Walls Construction
Rammed Earth Walls
Rammed Earth Walls
The Rammed Earth House Walls Book available at Amazon
Details the construction of building homes with Rammed Earth Walls construction technique.

Additional Resources on Rammed Earth Walls Construction Wikipedia Rammed Earth Walls Construction Terra Firma Rammed Earth Walls Builder / Why Rammed Earth Walls in Construction? Walls of Rammed Earth Rammed Earth Walls DIY Rammed Earth Walls Construction Nk'Mip Winery and Resort, Rammed Earth Walls Cultural Center Rammed Earth Walls Construction Diagram You Tube Rammed Earth Walls Video Images Rammed Earth Walls

Patricia Gray writes about 'WHAT'S HOT 'in the world of Interior Design, new and emerging trends, modern design, architecture, and travel,
as well as how your surroundings can influence the world around you.
© Patricia Gray Interior Design Blog, 2009


  1. P,
    welcome back.
    you were missed.

    this a so interesting, who knew ?
    the walls are beautiful.


  2. So beautiful, peaceful and eternal. Thanks for the tutorial.

  3. Patricia - I have seen these walls in books that I have on architecture in Santa Fe. I think they are beautiful and fascinating!! I love your post - especially the Great Wall of China! Who knew? Also, the stump window is amazing and just very cool. What a great education you got - thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  4. Interesting and beautiful construction! I've said it before but, I always learn something entirely new when visiting your blog. Deborah

  5. I love that place, I have had lunch on their patio overlooking the valley, gorgeous! Interesting what you as an interior designer chose to focus on!!

    Nice to have you back in town!

  6. Fantastic post, Patricia :-) Very informative and educational -- I had no idea that the Great Wall of China is mainly rammed earth.

    I absolutely LOVE the rammed earth bathroom wall with the tree stump window. That is absolutely GENIUS!!! I've never seen a window cooler than that!!


  7. That wall is so beautiful, with all of its varigated pattern. What a beautiful facade for a winery!

  8. I've never seen anything like it! Very beautiful! Tracey xx

  9. Oh that was a really interesting post. And that wall is amazing and looks really really good from your shots.

  10. I'm a big admirer, they are fascinating indeed these walls....great post, Patricia!

  11. Nature knows best on how to showcase her best assets. Colors all blend so naturally. What a great reminder of what really is beautiful.

    Great post!


  12. Very interesting! I have never heard of this! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Anonymous9/7/09

    Rammed Earth Walls are beautiful as well as practical and environmentally correct.

  14. Great post , the winery wall is a blast !!! I wish I could find out more about that technique , I want to use it in my architectural projects !!

  15. Interesting construction!

  16. What a fascinating and interesting post. Sounds like a great trip!

  17. Well at first I thought you were at the Santa Fe Opera! Then I soon realized that these are man made. The thought of designing your own walls & adding interesting layers is fascinating! You know...it's interesting to me that with all the "green" trends in the media, I have never heard of this process. Leave it to Patricia Gray to teach us all about it! I know I have said it before, you make me so smart! By the way have you been to the SF Opera? You would love it. Have a great weekend. Lisa

  18. I love learning new things! Thanks and I did wonder what you were up to!

  19. oh wow....these walls are amazing.....I hope to see more of this method....not only do they look fab but so much kinder to the planet ! Thanks for the lesson !!!

  20. Prehistoric construction methods still valid today... we should always look at the wisdom of the past to go into the future.
    It must have been a wonderful trip also for your Dad, being with such a caring and smart daughter.

  21. Hi Patricia,

    Great Blog.

    I love rammed earth too , there is a builder, I believe who lives in Vancouver now that makes some spectacular rammed earth.
    Here is the link www.rammedearth.info


  22. The Hughes Family Wines13/7/09

    We have successful vineyard in Cape Town South Africa.
    We sell top quality grapes to many cellars producing premium wines and we also have our own family wine brand.(google Nativo - The Hughes Family Wines)

    There are no houses or buildings in the farm, and we would like to build a small wine cellar and houses using rammed earth.

    We need to partner with someone with vision and willing to develop this project together as we will not be able to do it alone (yet..)

    Although the ideal candidate would be a winery with an stablished brand that would make use of the grapes, the alternative approach would be to find someone interested in the architecture and building of organic buildings and would love to have a piece of heaven here..

    Do you know anyone that would be interested?
    Let me know.

    .."and remember that life is too short to drink bad wine.."

    Billy Hughes
    The Hughes Family Wines
    +27 21 790 4824
    +27 (0) 82 493 1565

  23. Thank you for such an informative article. The pictures posted are gorgeous. I love the layers of color!


  24. The rammed earth walls are very unique. It never occurred to me before, but the material seems perfect for a spa or resort. It has a sense of depth that other walls just don't have.


  25. The builders of this beautiful wall are using the SIREWALL System for insulated rammed earth walls. Founder Meror Krayenhoff has adapted this ancient technology so that it's suited for a range of climates.

    More info available at www.sirewall.com

  26. Diana @ Sirewall13/7/09

    Hi Patricia,

    Saw your recent blog post on your visit to Nk'Mip in Osoyoos. When visiting the Desert Cultural Centre, so many people are inspired and curious about this, the longest rammed earth wall in the world.

    Thought you might be interested that Meror Krayenhoff of Terra Firma Builders, who constructed the rammed earth walls at Nk'Mip, is also the founder and inventor of SIREWALL, the technology used to build these beautiful walls.

    Thanks so much for the mention in your blog.



    Diana Mulvey
    Marketing & Communications
    T: 604.340.1847

  27. Anonymous14/7/09

    Rammed earth walls...how very cool.

  28. I love that picture of you and your dad...how priceless! The look of the rammed earth wall is amazing inside the space as well.

    And... I adore the shot of Valentino with all of the red dresses...I'd wear any one of them please...in a size 18???

    Can't wait to see the movie!


  29. Pamela14/7/09

    I love that you included a recipe for Rammed Earth Walls. How clever of you. Definetly not something I am going to whip up in my kitchen though.

  30. Anonymous16/7/09

    Fascinating! That sums it up in a word.

    Tricia - Avolli

  31. Hi Patricia,
    are you sure that the pic that shows a wall in China is "the Great Wall of China"?
    From what I have seen, the Great Wall is made of brick stones. And it does not run through a city. Maybe this is a normal city wall? Also the buildings witht the pagode roofs do not look like they are from the same period of time when the Great Wall was build.
    I am very curious! Let me know where you took this picture! If I am wrong, I have learned something new.
    Very interesting post!

  32. Hi Suzie
    Thanks for bringing up that point.
    The information on the construction of the Great Wall I found on the Internet.
    “The technique (rammed wall construction) was developed in ancient China around 4,000 years ago and then spread around the world.
    Parts of the Great Wall of China and the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, were built from rammed earth.”
    One of the Sources for this information is:
    However I cannot positively verify that the picture I have shown is in fact rammed earth.

  33. The rammed earth walls you've showcased are beautiful, Patricia. As I sit here in my too warm living room I can totally imagine placing my cheek against one of these (interior) walls and having it feel cool and refreshing... ahhh!

    Oh well... I'll happily settle for a lovely glass of Nk'Mip white wine... which I happen to have in my fridge right now!


  34. Suzie18/7/09

    Email reply from Suzie:

    Hi Patricia,

    thanks for your comprehensive answer and the link. I just read it, very interesting.
    Now I think, I understand. They built the inside body of the wall like this and then added bricks on the sides. Right? And the picture you can see on the link you gave me, is how I know the Great Wall of China.

    In my comment I just wanted to say, that I think, the picture you use in your blog is NOT the Great wall of China. It is probably another wall. A wall to protect a dwelling.
    However, after what I know, NOT the famous Great Wall of China.
    If you have doubts now, just change the picture to the one in the link.
    But it is not that important of course.

    Thanks for your reply.

  35. Thank you for educating me on rammed earth walls. They are stunning.


  36. Thank you for this wonderful introduction to Rammed Earth Walls. I've been to Mk'Mip as well but seeing it again through your vision was mind expanding for me. Very informative and I will check out the additional resources. Grazie!

  37. beautiful. Thank you for posting.

  38. Roderick31/7/09

    Thanks for the great blog! i loved your article on Rammed Earth. What a great building. You inspired me to start a blog for my group of GLASS SIGN ARTISTS. In addition to that I do really cool antique mirrors so please check it out when you get a chance.


    Thank's again

    Roderick Treece

  39. Very informative post. Thank you!

  40. You find these interesting places I and learned something new! So great these walls! I love how one can create something so stunning with such simple materials! This is beautiful! Especially the curved
    Thank you for introducing me to this way of building!

  41. Beautiful. Sustainable. Why don't we see this more?

  42. Hi Janet
    I can only think that we don’t see more of these beautiful Rammed Earth Walls because it is not mainstream yet.
    It also takes a lot more thinking and planning to use Rammed Earth walls over the more traditional methods building methods,and there are not too many Architects or Builders that are versed in this method.
    Thanks for your comment.

  43. Nice rustic and natural touch. Done with class, too!

  44. The tree base window is wonderful - such a lovely nod to the environment previous to the house.

  45. Davina Richards1/10/09

    This is such a beautiful property, and so innovatively constucted too!

    Great find. Thanks for the detailed post.

  46. Burns Blogger4/11/09

    The image of the stone and marble rammed earth wall is really nice, i would love to have that style in my home, great photo.

  47. wow that's so awesome

  48. Hello Patricia,

    We are the company doing SIREWALL in the Pacific Northwest U.S. The Nk'Mip wall is spectacular. We are looking forward to building with this technology in more accessible areas so more people have opportunities to see this directly. You do really have to experience it to believe it, and it offers compelling benefits for health, the environment, energy, beauty, and durability.


Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™

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