rammed earth building is
unusual for a
developer of this type,
they buy land, develop it using their own workforce, no
subcontractors, and then lease rather than sell. For us this was an
exciting challenge, the first UK rammed earth building by
non-specialist architects, engineers, surveyors and contractors.
The project began with
soil selection, the site itself yielded 100% sand, this needed the
addition of clay and gravel. Testing was handled through academic
specialists at Bath University, lead by Professor Peter Walker. More
images of the
rammed earth component of the build.
Once the mix was tested
and agreed we provided off site training to the Rivergreen in house
team. Because they all worked together and knew each others skills the
transfer of information on soil mixing, handling, placing and ramming,
as well as the assembly and stripping of the formwork was highly
effective. Often contractors subcontract different parts of the same
job to different companies or individuals which leads to information
delivered in training getting lost, misunderstood or ignored. In this
case the team was well motivated and secure in their positions.
The material mixing was
done separately from the building of the wall. This allowed them to
choose a time to mix outside in fine weather, place the mix in bulk
bags and store them on site. Bulk
bags allow storage in a
smaller area than in a heap, and is easier to cover and protect from
rain. This means the initial dig for foundations does not get in the
way of the job but secures the materials for when they are needed.
In this case the shell of
main building is timber and the frame and cladding were largely in
place when the rammed earth atrium wall was finally begun. Whatever
the weather outside the material was ready to use and unaffected by
We were building a large
job at the other end of the country when Aykley Heads started ramming.
With some telephone consultancy a few minor issues were quickly dealt
with and the contract was completed very successfully 'in house'
Speaking to Peter Candler the client recently he
made a couple of very interesting points about the building. Initially
it was 80% leased to a large public
sector organisation but at the end of the 7 year
lease with the economic situation being bad they gave up the lease.
Faced with an almost empty building in difficult times didn't look
good. But in fact the building was fully leased within six months. His
point was that building high spec and with materials like timber and
earth is a positive benefit when times are hard. Of all the empty
office space in the north east England it is the special buildings
which can sell themselves. So building with earth becomes an economic
virtue and necessity rather than a risk...