Date of Graduation
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Civil and Environmental Engineering
During the last several decades, rammed earth construction has received renewed attention due to its many desirable characteristics. For construction, use, and end of life treatment, rammed earth construction has shown in research to reduce the embodied energy of residential building construction by 66-85% compared to building methods that use fired brick and concrete members. Research thus far also indicates that rammed earth construction may indeed be more energy efficient since the building material has a very high thermal inertia, henceforth, the rammed earth walls absorb thermal energy from the sun and release it into the building to reduce the total volume of energy needed from external utilities. This paper reports the data and conclusions from an ongoing project being conducted by West Virginia University (WVU) in collaboration with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Aleutian Housing Authority (AHA) in Anchorage, Alaska, and The North American Rammed Earth Building Association (NAREBA). The project includes the construction and monitoring of a stabilized rammed earth (SRE) dwelling in Butte, Alaska that is compared in real-time to the performance of a traditional stick frame house located within a half-mile from the original SRE building. Live temperature, relative humidity (RH), and dew point (DP) data are used in conjunction with utility bills for both homes to determine the thermal performance of each home. When normalizing the energy being used to heat both homes to 71F, it was found that heating one square foot in the stud construction home (STUD) costs ~ 2.3 times as much compared to an SRE house. This represents a cost savings of 56% for the SRE home compared to the STUD home. By replacing one stick frame home with an SRE home with an approximate size of 1,788ft2, the released greenhouse gasses are reduced by 67 tons of CO2 per decade. Virtual models using eQUEST and Alaskan state thermal models (AK Warm) have also been compared to the field data to validate the accuracy of the models. The eQUEST model was then able to reveal that the rammed earth walls improved the energy efficiency by 42%, the high-performance windows by 22%, the absence of a crawlspace by 8%, and the lengthwise-southern orientation of the building by 7%.
Johnson, David C. III, "The Energy Efficiency and Living Comfort of a Stabilized Rammed Earth Dwelling in Comparison with a Traditional Stud Frame Building" (2020). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 7533.