Sunday 4 January 2015

Earth Building Association Conference 2014

While not technically related to hemp building I am reporting on my attendance at the 2014 Earth Building Association Conference at Bamarang Bush Retreat, just outside Nowra on the NSW South Coast. I have a strong interest in natural building and this includes building with earth - mudbrick, light earth, straw/clay, cob and rammed earth.

I was particularly interested in Martin Freeny's talk on Earthships and listening to the amazing research he had done. As well as Peter Hickson on the various Building Energy rating schemes and how earth buildings perform under these. This fitted in well with Fei Ngeow's discussion of how earth buildings measured up under a life cycle analysis and the use of e-tool. Steve Dobson also gave a very informative talk with lots of great pictures on rammed earth.

But more fun was to be had getting your hands dirty with the construction of a small outdoor shelter, using mud brick and a clay straw mix, supported like wattle and daub on a bamboo structure. As well as a demonstration rammed earth wall and earth filled pounded tyre wall. A protruding mud brick and a suggestion to do something "creative" led to a flight of fancy and the construction of a "Where the Wild Things Are" style monster, at least it was hidden on the back of the structure, ready to surprise and unsuspecting explorers.

Monster in the wall
Mudbrick and clay/straw walls
More sculptural elements
Rammed earth in formwork
Completed rammed earth wall
Pounded tyre wall
A few attendees also took an impromptu tour to the nearby "Make It Mudbricks" site to pick up a few extra bricks and to see how mud bricks were made on a commercial scale.

The mudbrick making machine attached to the back of a tractor

Corner mudbricks in their molds

Half and full sized mudbricks drying out
For anyone interested in earth building I would strongly recommend attending one of the EBAA Conferences. The Conference had a good mix between presentations, hands on building and house visits and the people in attendance were very friendly and knowledgeable and happy to share their experience.

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