Rivergreen Developments

the first commercial rammed earth project by non-specialists


Rivergreen Developments new rammed earth building is   unusual for a developer of this type, they buy land, develop it using their own workforce, no subcontractors, and then lease rather than sell. For us this was an exciting challenge, the first UK rammed earth building by non-specialist architects, engineers, surveyors and contractors.

The project began with soil selection, the site itself yielded 100% sand, this needed the addition of clay and gravel. Testing was handled through academic specialists at Bath University, lead by Professor Peter Walker. More images of the rammed earth component of the build.

Once the mix was tested and agreed we provided off site training to the Rivergreen in house team. Because they all worked together and knew each others skills the transfer of information on soil mixing, handling, placing and ramming, as well as the assembly and stripping of the formwork was highly effective. Often contractors subcontract different parts of the same job to different companies or individuals which leads to information delivered in training getting lost, misunderstood or ignored. In this case the team was well motivated and secure in their positions.

The material mixing was done separately from the building of the wall. This allowed them to choose a time to mix outside in fine weather, place the mix in bulk bags and store them on site. Bulk


  High mass atrium walls in a highly insulated timber building prevent the air temperature from rising during the day  

bags allow storage in a smaller area than in a heap, and is easier to cover and protect from rain. This means the initial dig for foundations does not get in the way of the job but secures the materials for when they are needed.

In this case the shell of main building is timber and the frame and cladding were largely in place when the rammed earth atrium wall was finally begun. Whatever the weather outside the material was ready to use and unaffected by climate.

We were building a large job at the other end of the country when Aykley Heads started ramming. With some telephone consultancy a few minor issues were quickly dealt with and the contract was completed very successfully 'in house'

Speaking to Peter Candler the client recently he made a couple of very interesting points about the building. Initially it was 80% leased to a large public sector organisation but at the end of the 7 year lease with the economic situation being bad they gave up the lease. Faced with an almost empty building in difficult times didn't look good. But in fact the building was fully leased within six months. His point was that building high spec and with materials like timber and earth is a positive benefit when times are hard. Of all the empty office space in the north east England it is the special buildings which can sell themselves. So building with earth becomes an economic virtue and necessity rather than a risk...




    Lower work was fed directly from a skid steer on the ground, higher work was from a modified scissor lift  




    Mixing all the material separately from building walls reduces stress on the job