The University of Western Australia will next week host an international workshop and conference aimed at encouraging the use of rammed earth as a sustainable alternative building material in Australia.
The event will feature new research findings and endorse a new draft national standard for constructing rammed earth buildings in Australia.
The First International Conference on Rammed Earth Construction (ICREC 2015) will be held in Perth and Margaret River from February 10 to 13.
Associate Professor Daniela Ciancio, from UWA's School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, said Western Australia was regarded as the cradle of rammed earth buildings in Australia.
But building with rammed earth was still not understood even though many such structures had been built in WA during the past 30 years, Associate Professor Ciancio said.
"One of the aims of the workshop and conference is to promote this material to spread the news that it is an affordable, durable material that will not be washed away with the first rains," she said.
The workshop and conference will feature engineers, builders, academics and rammed earth experts from around the world and focus on thermal properties of rammed earth homes and lack of a national building code for engineers and builders.
"We will submit a draft in a couple of months and we will have the support of practitioners and academics to sign the draft and submit to Standards Australia," Associate Professor Ciancio said.
Also, despite owners and occupants generally reporting good thermal properties for rammed earth buildings, the structures are sometimes unable to meet certain energy star ratings because the software used to calculate such ratings does not take into account the material's unique properties.
Associate Professor Ciancio is leading a research program that is investigating the use of rammed earth structures as potential housing for indigenous communities in remote areas.
Two rammed earth houses have been built in Kalgoorlie as part of the project, with funding from the Australian Research Council and the WA Department of Housing, and their thermal properties are being monitored.
"We embedded sensors in those houses, and we are collecting information about the temperatures outside, through the walls and inside the houses," she says.
Associate Professor Ciancio said as well as being strong and durable, rammed earth homes were more affordable for remote communities because there were no expenses incurred in transporting materials and having to pay and accommodate skilled labourers.
"Rammed earth basically needs a bobcat, some formwork and a pneumatic hammer," she said.
"Once you transport this equipment on site, all you need is some soil you can use (most of the time available on the same construction site) and one person who knows what they are doing to supervise the work. Anybody else working on site doesn't need to be specifically trained or skilled."
The conference will open with a two-day workshop, to be held at Trinity College, Nedlands, on February 10 and 11.
The conference will move to Margaret River on February 12 and 13. For more information, visit the conference website.
Dr Daniela Ciancio (Faculty of Engineering) (+61 8) 6488 3892
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Affairs Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716