Design work begins. The challenge was to develop a construction approach that could result in an affordable house with a strong architectural aesthetic
After years of watching architect-designed rammed earth houses become more complicated and the wall systems more expensive to construct, I was determined to prove rammed earth was still within reach of the average homeowner.
The previous year we built a project in Hana, Maui where we used two shipping containers
to create the primary rooms for a small cottage. Porches front and back plus a breezeway were the "free" spaces that evolved from the placement of the containers.
I thought a similar concept of built space and free space could work with rammed earth
modules. The design of Terra's House groups three 24' x 20' rectangles under two offset horizontal SIP roof planes. Clerestories along two
walls of each module let in light and serve as ventilators while helping the thick profile roof “float” over the massive walls.
The second cost saving design innovation was the use of re-useable volume displacement
boxes in the formwork to "carve" closets, bookcases, appliance niches, and other storage areas out of the wall
volume. This would be a major time saver when it came to finish work. It would celebrate the mass and the beauty of the rammed earth plus it would eliminate framing, paneling, painting, and trim. You can see the three rammed ea
rth rooms and all of the spaces in the walls in the sketch.
We finished a "builder's set" of plans in June and submitted for permits. Since Calaveras County was the home of the rebirth of Rammed Earth, the approval process went smoothly.