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Concrete In Australia : December 2010
36 Concrete in Australia Vol 36 No 4 1.0 INTRODUCTION Known by indigenous Australian peoples as Ardi, meaning heading north, the Dampier Peninsula is made up of many small indigenous communities. e peninsula and the rest of the Kimberley territories are becoming increasingly popular as tourist destinations due to the untouched natural surroundings. However, even though from one side the remoteness of this area preserves the unspoiled natural heritage, on the other side it makes housing unaffordable. Few suppliers of construction materials are available in the Dampier Peninsula, and civil engineering products must be shipped from the closest industrial port, almost 2000 km away. Shortage of professional labour further increases construction cost, leading most Aboriginal families to be unable to afford their own home. e most recently built houses in the Kimberley have a concrete ground-slab, steel framed walls and a steel or timber truss roof. is is known locally as a Broome or Kimberley style house. One of the main disadvantages of this type of construction is its durability. Many communities on the peninsula are located on or near the coast. Salty air can accelerate corrosion of the steel components of the house leading to a need for large scale maintenance or complete demolition. Timber is generally not used in wall frames due to the prevalence of termites in the region. However it is often used in roof trusses. From a solar passive design perspective, steel frame houses are not ideal. ey provide little insulation or thermal mass. While not locally sourced, the materials are readily available from suppliers in the area, simply because of the prevalence of this construction type. e components are lightweight and relatively easily transported, which is one of the reasons why this method is cost effective compared to other techniques. All the materials used for this type of construction have high embodied energy and as such are not considered to be environmentally sustainable. Rammed earth: An environmentally friendly alternative material Daniela Ciancio Assistant Professor, School of Civil and Resource Engineering, the University of Western Australia Michael Boulter Engineer, Floodplain Management, Department of Water, Perth Abstract: With the aim of investigating procedures and materials to reduce the cost of housing construction for Aboriginal communities on the Dampier Peninsula (WA), cement-stabilised rammed earth was identified as a viable alternative to the standard typologies (mainly steel framed houses) in remote areas. e identification was based on economic (cheaper than steel or concrete), environmental (low embodied energy) and social (employment of local labour) benefits. Following that analysis, some mechanical properties of rammed earth made from insitu soils were investigated. e unconfined compressive strength (UCS) for different soil grading and different cement contents was studied as well as the erosion resistance. e soil collected insitu was shown to be suitable as construction material. However, the lack of a proper Australian code and a full understanding of rammed earth seem still to represent an obstacle for the acceptance and promotion of this alternative material. is paper aims to encourage the use of rammed earth as a sustainable material. Housing costs can be reduced through the use of appropriate design and construction methods and materials. Initially motivated by a collaboration between the University of Western Australia (UWA), Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and an Aboriginal elder from a community in the Dampier Peninsula, the study presented in this paper investigates the use of rammed earth as a viable alternative to the commonly used steel framed houses in that region. Rammed earth is a building technique where moist earth comprised of varying proportions of clay, sand and gravel is compacted into rigid formwork in successive layers until the desired height is reached. Modern stabilised rammed earth (SRE) is similar, in terms of components, to its traditional counterpart, but typically it uses cement as admixture and clay is avoided in the mix. SRE has been identified as a suitable alternative construction material in the Dampier Peninsula, on the basis of its constructability, durability, structural integrity, thermal efficiency, availability and environmental sustainability. To overcome the limits generated by the lack of proper Australian Standards recommendations in rammed earth construction, the suitability of the soil available insitu has been experimentally investigated in this paper. 2.0 RAMMED EARTH IN THE DAMPIER PENINSULA e bulk of the material used in modern rammed earth walls is sand and gravel, which is widely available on the peninsula. Unlike the requirements for concrete, the earth components of rammed earth do not require strict washing and screening. is enables most of the material to be obtained locally. e majority of the peninsula land is held under native title, so the bulk of material for rammed earth housing could be obtained at minimal cost. Cement and reinforcement must be sourced from Broome, although in far smaller quantities than for concrete construction.