Last weekend we were blessed with some rains, and during the week some more. The high temperatures matched with humidity culminated in a spectacular thunderstorm on Tuesday night. Besides the relief that comes with the earth cooling down after a hot day, the first drops that fell caused quite the stir. At Sun Valley Mall one could hear shouts of joy and the sound of grateful prayers quickly rose up in the air. In another part of Cape Town it brought traffic to a standstill, but instead of it being an inconvenience, one motorist took the time to get out of his car to say a ‘thank you’ prayer, and this story is travelling across South Africa and beyond.
Photo Credit: Fanie Kloppers, Our Fish Hoek on Facebook
The fact that this is the new ‘normal’ for Cape Town is cause for hope. An understanding of how intricately we are linked to the earth in contrast to our dependency on modern technology. And it is within this context that our School’s relevance becomes more prominent.
As previously explained, the construction of our new school buildings will naturally follow the shape of the land and respectfully tread as little as possible on the natural surrounds. Of course no construction can be completely without impact, but through using natural building techniques we can not only minimise impact, but also use what we take away from the earth and repurpose materials in the buildings. This way we waste as little as possible, and the buildings are at ‘home’ in more than just appearance.
One method our Dragon Tree Project will be using is Rammed Earth. This is by no means a new technique, but rather an ancient construction technique that utilises the earth to create thick and durable walls. These walls are able to bear heavy loads, can store heat and are recyclable. Used all over the world, it is also known by its French name, “Pise.” Dating as far back as 7th Century B.C. this technique was even found in some parts of The Great Wall of China. Other areas where it is often used include the arid regions of North Africa, and he Middle East, where rammed earth is the only logical solution.
So how do you make walls out of the earth?
Simply put, it is a process of compacting soil (damp, crumbly earth) between vertical formwork boards. The soil is left to dry, after which the formwork boards are removed. The result is a mass soil wall. Compression is usually done in layers. This ancient technique has slowly regained popularity from the 1970s, mainly as a sustainable material solution to construction. It is the heaviest form of earthen building.
- The process of ramming requires little water, which in the context of our drought is of utmost relevance and importance.
- It is not resource intensive in other words very little aggregates or additives are needed.
- The material is of course 100% recyclable and easy to work with.
- Rammed earth walls have great insulating properties if built with high thermal mass especially. Which is great for staying cool in summer and also for containing sound.
- Of course earth gives off no harmful emissions.
- Very low fire hazard as the earth is fire proof.
- The use of local soil meaning the buildings are created from the environment, for the environment.
Rammed earth is just one of the three main techniques our new school will use to be a sustainable solution and an example in eco-building to secure our children’s future. The Dragon Tree Project really does offer one exciting story to tell!
We would love to hear your thoughts on our unique project. Please feel free to send us questions or inputs you may have. Contact the DTP team on firstname.lastname@example.org.