Ancient building technique gaining popularity in Penticton

Al Nichols, a Penticton contractor, uses rammed earth to build everything from stoves to houses.

Al Nichols specializes in building with rammed earth

Steve Kidd

Western News Staff

Al Nichols just finished his latest construction project.

Thats not particularly unusual, though the Penticton contractor’s specialty is. The latest project in question is a wood stove, built on site using rammed earth techhniques for a Penticton customer.

Rammed earth is one of the most ancient construction techniques on earth. It’s still used in many areas of the developing world, but it’s currently enjoying a resurgence as people look for  building methods that are more ecologically friendly and cost-saving.

“Rammed earth has been used for I don’t know how many thousands of years to build houses. There are a few houses around town already made from rammed earth,” said Nichols. One of them, he said is in the Carmi area, and he estimates the owners spend about a dollar a day for heating in the winter, thanks to the insulating properties of rammed earth.

Nichols also teaches how to build with rammed earth, and said he has volunteered to build the rammed earth wall that is a component of the environmentally-friendly house Habitat for Humanity is constructing in Penticton.

“There is always something going on,” said Nichols, who teaches a one-day continuing studies course in the technique through Okanagan College’s Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation.

Nichols spent three years in the Australian outback, where he developed a machine to produce rammed earth blocks on the building site.

“Aboriginals would build their houses from that. That was quite popular,” said Nichols. “When I moved into Darwin, I took two pallets of those blocks with me and put it around the yard, just to see how long it would last. When I sold that house three years later, they were still as good as new.”

The oldest houses in the world are still around and they are made from earth, according to Nichols, who points to St. Thomas Anglican Church in Ontario,  built in 1852, three stories high and made from rammed earth.

Rammed earth has many benefits, including being able to build with materials found locally, even right on the building site.

“You can use the material from the foundations or you can go to any gravel pit and use what they use, basically it’s gravel road base with a little sand,” said Nichols. “If you have a little knowledge, you can build a house quite cheaply.”




Just Posted

Young PIB man skips jail time for grad party assault

Aaron Jack-Kroeger was sentenced to a 15-month conditional sentence in Penticton’s courthouse

Angels at The Mule

Penticton nightclub introduces angel shots for safety

Honesty turns to harsher jail sentence for Penticton man

Jakob Holmes kicked a cop in the face while she was on the ground after she attempted to arrest him

Update: Fire at Osoyoos business believed to have started on lower level

A fire started on Sunday night at the East Indian Meat Shop and fruit stand

Tagger causes $30,000 damage

Penticton looking for help finding person responsible for graffiti

Testing the Google Arts & Culture app

Going face to face with art

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Man lives despite malfunctioning defibrillator at B.C. arena

A middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest after at game at Pitt Meadows Arena last Wednesday.

Cause of Northern B.C. seaplane crash released

TSB releases report on seaplane crash during a water landing in 2016 near First Nations community

Vancouver police crack down on pop-up pot vendors

Officers raided merchants’ tables on Robson Square late Sunday

Dryer explosion at Teck Elkview Operations

Locals report hearing loud bang

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for B.C. woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

UPDATE: Brother of B.C. teen killed by stray bullet says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down in Vancouver while on his way home from dinner with his family

Most Read