A Comeback for Eco-friendly Construction

Rammed earth is finding a new footing in Nepal

 

If you were to rewind and remember the architectural aesthetics of a typical Nepali house 100 years ago, concrete and steel would be absent. On our way to modernization, we have lost building techniques that not only suited Nepal’s climate best but was also was strong and environmentally sustainable. As the number of cement and brick homes multiplied, the country’s economy took a beating as 70% of the materials used to build a ‘modern house’ were imported.

Fast forwarding to 2016 – Rammed Earth Solutions, is a team that has come together with interest and experience in the great potential offered by constructing buildings out of rammed earth and other techniques, to create sustainable and eco-friendly structures.

Rammed Earth Solutions is one of the 10 companies selected for the third edition of Rockstart Impact, a 100-day long business support program. I sat down with Narayan Acharya, one of the co-founders to know more about his venture.

Verbatim from Narayan Acharya

“I hail from a remote village in Jumla and have a background of Community Development. I moved to Kathmandu in early 2000s and looked out for options to build eco-friendly and sustainable houses. While researching, I came across rammed earth, and it matched my focus which was on providing a healthy future for my family, using local materials whilst being as sustainable as possible and respecting the environment. After the completion of my house (pictured) almost 800 people visited my house – as it was a sight to see in Kathmandu! The response that I received from people who came ignited the entrepreneur in me and thus Rammed Earth Solutions was born.

To give you a brief about the history of rammed earth in Nepal, beginnings can be traced back to upper Mustang, where small, plastered blocks of rammed earth were used to build homes. Contemporary rammed earth has changed drastically over time. Nowadays, big formworks are used instead of small blocks, and no plastering or painting is done at all. There are many advantages to rammed earth walls. When formed properly, the resulting walls resemble sedimentary rock, often at a thickness of 16 inches, which offers better thermal properties than brick or cement homes. Traditionally, the walls were 30 inches, but now they are as small as 14 inches, allowing constructors to build quickly. The thermal qualities reduce the need for air-conditioners, fans, or heaters, thanks to improved ‘lag time’ afforded by the thermal properties. My house can absorb, store, and release heat over a lag time of 10-14 hours.

People often ask me if I am a certified engineer, and the answer is, I am an environmentalist and a practical engineer. I learned all about rammed earth and building houses organically but have a team backed up by people who helped me build my house! We have worked with UNDP, The British School, a hospital in Achham, a school in Kavre and several other private projects in two years and have many more in the pipeline.

The reason that I joined Rockstart Impact is to be able to market my product well and be better at planning for the same. In Nepal, concrete is still considered modern, and earth materials continue facing a stigma that they are unsophisticated, outdated, and low in quality. While the major chunk of the Nepali society is still largely unaware of these forms of sustainable architecture I would like to make people aware about the beauty of living in a Rammed Earth house and if an investment is granted through our participation at Rockstart Impact, we would like to build a storage for the materials and in the long run, aim at building a community of rammed earth houses!”

You can find more information on their website.

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