Rammed Earth Standard

rammed earth now has a national standard in 55 countries


What started as a project to codify rammed earth for builders and other users became first a national standard, then a regional standard and is now a continental standard.

In 2016 the African Regional Standards Organisation by unanimous vote of the construction industry technical committee approved the creation of an African Regional Standard for Rammed Earth Structures. That means every country in Africa can draw down the standard and use it, an area covering 1.2bn people.

Without standards to make earth building acceptable it is out of bounds for use in urban areas, including for much needed schools. With a standard comes lower cost schools, with schools come education and opportunity for children.

The colonial control of Africa ended between the 1950's and the 1990's. In each country this led to elections and much constitutional change. But a lot of technical rules and standards were not changed at that time, among them building standards. So in most African countries building with earth, especially in urban areas was forbidden, until now. Urban areas in this case also means schools and clinics, government buildings wherever they may be built.

The change began with the publication of "Rammed Earth Structures: A Code Of Practice", published in 1996. At that time


  With a little help this community in Zambia were able to build their own school with the materials on site  

we were working in Zimbabwe, a country with a very interesting standards organisation which is both non government and not for profit. At our suggestion and with the backing of SIRDC the rammed earth standard was taken up with enthusiasm in 1997. In 2001 the Zimbabwean National Standard Code of Practice for Rammed Earth Structures was published.

For a few years this was a Zimbabwe only project, with projects built in Zimbabwe using the code including a school at Mtoko by the Minister of Education. But in 2007 we were invited to address SADCSTAN, the standards arm of the Southern African Development Community, and propose the harmonisation of the standard across the 15 country bloc. And this work item was accepted.

The process of gaining agreement to harmonise a standard across borders is technocratic and arduous. Stakeholders in each country have to by mobilised to support the process in their own home country, and this supports the process happening at international level.

After working through this program for 5 years the standard was finally voted into being in 2012 by an easy majority of countries. So whether your project is in Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe you are supported by a national standard.

In Zambia this has enabled the building of a school by a community which can pass inspection by the Ministry of Education. This means the Ministry is able to send government teachers to the school and so the children can sit national exams. That means they can move on to secondary education. No standard, no school, no teachers, no exams, no education. So standards are more than dry documents, they allow things to happen, people to achieve...

Following the harmonisation of the standard across the SADC region we pursued a similar process in EAC under the Tri Partite Agreement where one regional economic community (REC) can harmonise a standards on a fast track basis following a successful process in another REC.

However this process was overtaken when it became apparent that




    Swaziland, the first of 15 countries in SADC to harmonise the code  


the African Regional Standards Organisation, ARSO, had taken up the harmonisation of the standard. This led to the standard becoming an African Regional Standard, ARS, and so  open to adoption by any African country. There are already earth building ARS written largely by CRAterre in the 1990's covering mainly CEBs, MEBs and mortars. These have also been reviewed by the ARSO construction committee

Rammed Earth Consulting continue to engage with the ARSO process with the invaluable aid of The Tudor Trust.




    Standards work needs long waits between long meetings