This retired physics teacher wanted the most sustainable house possible — and it looks great too

"Imagine a world where we don't have to clear-cut forests just to create our housing." Rammed earth shows that sustainability can be beautiful.

Rammed earth shows that sustainability can be beautiful

Sylvia Cook thinks it's time for us to embrace building homes with rammed earth. (CBC)

"Imagine a world where we don't have to clear-cut forests just to create our housing." When Sylvia Cook was a high school physics teacher, she dreamed of building the most sustainable house she possibly could when she retired. It was a "fantasy project" — until she came across the idea of building with rammed earth. Now she's the owner of Aerecura Rammed Earth Builders and is building more than just her own sustainable home.

What is rammed earth? It's a way to build walls: build a frame, pour some earth in it, put it under pressure, and that's basically it — now you have a stone wall.

Mother nature does this over millennia — takes that subsoil and, under pressure, squishes it back into rock. Well, we do it in a matter of days.- Sylvia Cook, owner of Aerecura Rammed Earth Builders
Rammed earth's textured walls can have shells and other objects embedded in them. (CBC)

Rammed earth's textured walls hold heat from the day's sunlight and insulate the house from the outside temperature, allowing it to have no furnace, even in a Canadian winter.

Rammed earth walls don't need any finishing to look great. (CBC)

People have been using rammed earth for thousands of years — including to build the Great Wall of China — and Cook thinks it's time for us to embrace this natural material. "What more natural thing to do than to take the earth around you and make your own cave?"

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