What Does Rammed Earth Cost Anyway (Is It Expensive)?

A rammed earth wall with a window set into it that has ornate wrought iron bars across it. Across the top are the words, "What Does Rammed Earth Cost Anyway (Is It Expensive)?" In the bottom left is a cartoon image of a stack of coins with a question mark next to it.

Rammed earth construction is a centuries-old building technique that has recently become more popular.

It is an eco-friendly and sustainable option with many benefits, but one question that many people have is: how much does rammed earth cost?

In this post, we will take a closer look at the cost of rammed earth construction, including the various factors that can affect the price, and compare it to other building materials.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about the cost of rammed earth construction.

If you’re not sure what rammed earth construction is, please read our previous article, “What Is Rammed Earth Architecture? (Plus 6 Examples), ” which will give you a good introduction to the subject.

How Much Does Rammed Earth Cost?

For building walls, rammed earth cost per square meter can vary between $450 and $750 depending on wall thickness, height, and the overall design. The number of window and door openings and location can also significantly impact the cost of building with rammed earth.

What Factors Contribute to the Cost of Rammed Earth Construction?

A rammed earth house under construction. The house is three stories high and has red woodwork on the outside. There are two workers outside at ground level cutting and sorting timbers.
Rammed earth houses can be quite large, but bear in mind the larger the building, the higher the cost. Image courtesy of schreiber clips.

In addition to the materials required, several other factors contribute to the cost of rammed earth construction.

Slope and Accessibility

The slope and accessibility of the building site can impact the cost of rammed earth construction.

Steep or difficult-to-access sites may require additional earth-moving equipment or labor, which can increase the project cost.

Additionally, excavation may be necessary to level the building site if the site is located on a hill or at the bottom of a slope. This can have an even greater impact on the project’s total cost.

Soil Type and Quality

The soil type and quality available on the building site can also affect the cost of rammed earth construction.

Certain types of soil, such as clay, may need to be imported or treated for rammed earth construction, which can incur additional costs.

If the soil on the building site is of poor quality, it may need to be substituted with better soil. Therefore, assessing soil quality and type is crucial before starting construction.

Hiring a professional to perform this inspection is another cost factor to consider.

Design and Architectural Considerations

A modern, stylish, light brown rammed earth home with small windows and a metal roof. There are two dogs running across the lawn in front of the building.
A beatiful, stylish rammed earth house suitable for modern living. Image courtesy of Fine Homebuilding, The Taunton Press.

The size and complexity of the building can have a significant impact on the cost of rammed earth construction.

A larger, more complex project will require more labor and materials, which can add to the final cost.

Another point for consideration is if the building has unique design features or architectural details, it may require additional expertise and specialized labor, which can add to the cost.

Don’t try to save money by cutting corners with your build. Ensure that best practices are followed. Some jurisdictions provide building code requirements for rammed earth, which must be followed to the letter to avoid problems down the line.

The City of Portland, Oregon, publishes guidance on its government website on how to build rammed earth buildings correctly.

Use of Natural Materials

The use of certain natural materials like limestone or clay can add additional cost to the project. While these materials are eco-friendly and sustainable, they may be more expensive than standard building materials.

If these natural materials need to be imported, this can increase the cost even further.

Labor and Materials

The cost of materials for rammed earth construction can vary depending on the location, availability, and quality of resources. The labor cost can also vary depending on the skill and experience level of the construction team, as well as the size and complexity of the project.

Availability and Cost of Labor

Skilled labor is necessary for rammed earth construction, so the cost can vary depending on the site’s location.

If skilled labor is scarce or expensive in a particular area, it may add to the project’s cost. Additionally, if the project is in a remote area, bringing labor to the site may be more expensive, adding to the overall cost.

Cost of Materials

Piles of soil ready for use in a rammed earth building project.
If materials can be sourced locally, or even better on-site, you can keep this element of cost under control.

The cost of materials, such as earth and reinforcement, can also affect the overall cost of a rammed earth construction project. Depending on the project’s location, importing materials may be more expensive.

Reinforcement materials such as steel bars and mesh are also necessary for rammed earth construction and can add to the cost.

Especially where steel is concerned, the quality and grade of the materials can impact the bottom line.

Higher quality materials will have a higher upfront cost, but as a result, the expected lifespan of the building will be increased. On the plus side, future maintenance and repair costs will likely decrease.

It is vital to factor in the cost of materials when planning for a rammed earth construction project and to consider using high-quality, locally sourced materials to minimize costs.

Permits and Inspections

As with any building, materials and labor are only part of the equation. Rammed earth construction projects also require permits and inspections from various authorities; this is another cost factor to be considered.

Local Building Codes and Regulations

Two men in hardhats on a building site examining plans with scaffolding behind them.
Local building codes and regulations can also influence the cost of building with rammed earth. Ensure you know what the requirements are before you start your project. This will avoid any nasty surprises further down the road.

Local building codes and regulations can affect the cost of rammed earth construction, particularly if local codes are very stringent in their requirements.

These codes and regulations can vary from location to location. Failure to comply with them can lead to additional costs, such as fines for nonconformity, the need to make changes to the building design, or even the need to tear down a completed structure.

Cost of Obtaining Permits and Passing Inspections

Obtaining permits and passing inspections can add additional cost to a rammed earth construction project. The cost of obtaining permits varies depending on the location and project scope.

Additionally, if the project doesn’t pass inspections, it may need to be modified or re-inspected, which will inevitably increase the project cost. Therefore, researching and budgeting for these costs ahead of time is vital to avoid any surprises during the construction process.

Strategies for Managing Cost in Rammed Earth Construction

Use of Local Materials

Using locally sourced materials can be an effective strategy for managing costs. This reduces materials transportation costs and supports the local economy.

Contributing to the local economy may also earn you reduced fees and even tax breaks depending on the area in which you’re building. Reach out to the local authorities to find out if there are any incentives for using locally sourced materials and labor.

Not only can this help to keep costs down, but using local materials can help to ensure that the materials are well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions.

Self-Building or DIY Approach

A self-building or DIY approach can also be an effective strategy for managing the overall cost. By taking on some or all of the construction work yourself, you can save on labor.

However, it is essential to note that this approach requires significant knowledge and a broad skill set.

Incorporating Cost-Saving Technologies, Such as Earth-Moving Equipment

A small earth-moving machine on a building site. The front bucket is full of sand and gravel.
Using earth-moving equipment might seem expensive, but you’ll actually save money on labor costs and speed up your build.

Incorporating cost-saving technologies, such as earth-moving equipment, can also effectively manage rammed earth construction costs.

This can help to minimize the need for manual labor and can also help to speed up the construction process.

Using heavy machinery and equipment isn’t free, of course, so the potential savings of a faster build process vs. the price of heavy equipment rental need to be weighed against each other.

Final Thoughts

Rammed earth construction may not be the cheapest method of building in terms of upfront cost, but the environmental impact is far less than many of the more common types of construction like brick or concrete.

Although rammed earth wall construction can cost up to $750 per square meter, costs can be kept under control by using local materials and labor, as well as by keeping your design relatively simple and modest in size.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article entitled, “How Long Does Rammed Earth Last (Is It Durable)?” You might be surprised at the answer.

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