Rammed-earth homes looking better all the time

The walls of this room are rammed earth and the floors are bamboo.
Because I grew up around the tract-home building industry, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around anything other than 2-by-4s, sheer panels and drywall.

But now that sustainability is becoming a life-and-death issue for our species, I find my mind opening.

And this rammed-earth home in Napa, built for the owner of a restaurant, is very compelling. What could be more “green” that a home made from the soil upon which it sits?

This house was made through a process called pisé (for pneumatically impacted stabilized earth), which involves spraying a mix of soil, cement and water into temporary forms. When the forms are removed, what’s left are 18-inch-thick walls that need no painting, finishing or drywall.

Does it make you wonder why more houses aren’t built like this? The builder, David Easton of Rammed Earth Works, says the cost is about the same as for a stick-frame house.

A house made of soil brings to mind the “Little House on the Prairie” books I read as a child. I remember wanting to live in a sod house with Laura and her family. This would be kind of like that, except it would be healthy, comfortable and durable.

Read the whole story in the San Francisco Chronicle and see the photo gallery.