I am always interested in learning about sustainable living ideas and found this story in The Wall Street Journal with the dirt in the topic. The story features the work of Martin Rauch, a ceramic artist and builder in Schlins, Austria, who uses regular soil to construct and decorate homes in that part of the world. Builders in Santa Barbara could really learn something from Rauch!
Using an ancient technique of compressing loam (a mixture of silt, sand, small stones and clay found beneath topsoil) into a building material, Rauch uses a technique called “rammed earth” to create everything from wood-burning stoves and flooring to walls and more. He insists that “rammed-earth structures” are more than just environmentally friendly, they are also beautiful.
After seeing the photos in the story I agree. One of his creations shared in the article is his family’s three-bedroom, 2½-bathroom geometric villa. Wedged into a lovely hillside, the three-level, 2,150-square-foot home is a flat-roof building with a chic Modernist look. The rammed-earth walls and fireplace are accented by the magnificent mountain views.
Although the process is time-tested (including being used to construct parts of the Great Wall of China and a wide range of residential structures around the world), only recently have proponents of sustainable architecture embraced it. To date, Rauch has worked on about 150 homes in his native land. Even so, the biggest challenge is soothing his client’s nerves, saying “people worry if it will hold, or how it will work—everyone is a bit afraid,”
According to Rauch, American practitioners often add a dose of cement to their earth mixes. He says that hinders the recycling effect and keeps the material from breathing. He points out that in its pure form, rammed-earth structures are fully recyclable, often using ground dug up during a building’s own construction phase.
If you are in the market for a place to practice sustainable living here in Santa Barbara, please give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at Cristal@montecito-estate.com. You don’t have to go as extreme as this Austrian builder to make a difference in the world. Check out my former blog, “Green Homes: Their Importance is Growing,” with information on the importance of going green. For exceptional real estate listings in the upscale communities of Santa Barbara, sure to check out my website and please LIKE me on Facebook.