Look to our past for an understanding of solutions for our future.
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
The most abundant material on earth.... literally the earth itself, can be a lasting solution to climate change.
Pictured is raw earth being formed into a wall utilizing an ancient methodology still in use today. Traditional Rammed Earth utilizes naturally occurring soils in many places of the developing world where it is tamped and compressed into a simple wooden form to shape and construct walls.
For millennia humans have been utilizing the earth to create shelter from the elements.
30% of the worlds population lives within an Earth Borne structure.
In many areas of the world, utilizing the earth as a building material is common place. In fact it is necessary due to limited resources of wood or other more advanced construction materials. Other factors driving the predominant usage of earth as a building material are economic and longevity. It is literally as cheap as dirt and buildings that are made from earth can last much longer than those built with organic materials such as wood.
Rammed Earth is basically the same geological process that nature uses to create sedimentary stone.
Archeology, historic architecture and a basic understanding of geology show us the way to build better wall systems.
For years I searched for the ultimate building material. Something that would allow a building to have an extraordinarily efficient building envelope and that would also stand the test of time. The principles to build an efficient home are clearly laid out in the Passive House Institute's efficiency standards, but the challenge is and has always been; finding a way to do this in a cost effective and affordable manner. Beyond that, I want it to last for centuries, not decades.
One thing has been clear to me based on my decades of experience in the restoration industry, it is that modern buildings are often not efficient and are not built to stand the test of time. Most buildings in North America are disposable when compared to other areas of the world where generations of families dwell in structures that are centuries old. The average lifespan of a building in North America is only 80 years and most require significant retrofit after only 40 years. This to me, is a very inefficient and costly use of materials. Coupled with the nonstop energy usage required to create comfort that is inherent in this type of construction, something needs to change.
Home comfort and sustainability need to be in harmony and require innovative solutions.
To make a serious impact on climate change, we need solutions to lower our carbon footprint. I interpret this to mean buildings that don't need to consume tremendous amounts of energy to remain conformable in a variety of climactic conditions.
In Canada we see temperature swings from minus 40 to plus 35 degrees Celsius in Southern Ontario and even more extreme in other areas. Most buildings are designed to have a very large furnace and a very large air conditioning system to balance out these temperature swings as our seasons change. I believe that we need to stop taking the easy way out with large HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) systems and a continuous supply of what used to be "cheap" energy in the way of natural gas, electricity, oil or other carbon emitting energy sources. We need to break our addiction to "cheap" energy in lieu of building efficiency. We need to create an extraordinarily efficient building envelope that also has thermal mass within it to act as a battery to store heat energy and release it when needed.
A dynamic shift in how we build is required to effect meaningful change.
One of the major impediments to creating lasting efficiency within a building is the methodology used to construct most of our homes in North America. Most builders utilize a predominantly wood framed structure that has insulation stuffed into areas that have air gaps within the building envelope. This type of construction is not air tight so it gets wrapped in a plastic bag (vapour barrier) and everyone hopes that it doesn't rot out before the warranty expires. These buildings are so inefficient that they must also pump it full of heat in the winter and try to cool it in the summer with the AC. If the power goes out, most buildings have about a 4 hour window in the winter before things start to freeze and cause real damage such as pipes bursting and an untenable indoor living environment until the heat is turned on and pumped back in. This is not exactly sustainable by any standard. To me a sustainable building should be able to create enduring comfort utilizing that thermal nuclear furnace in the sky; the sun can provide more than enough heat to keep a home comfortable in the winter. In the summer, if we block it from getting inside, the living space will be cooler. But to make this work, we need thermal mass inside of the building envelope, lots of it!
The purpose of this article is to provide you an understanding of why I have decided to go after the perfect building envelope and where I found the solution. I had to look back, way back in fact to the earliest of mans architectural accomplishments. Those structures that have stood the test of time. Those structures who most seemingly have no idea of "how they did it"
What I found was that the oldest structures all have something in common, they are built with what most believe is natural stone. They are not built with just any stone, they are megalithic, massive stones that few archeologists seem to understand how they carved or shaped them, never mind moved them into position.
Stone lasts longer than just about any other material, it is naturally occurring, but can be challenging and expensive to work with if shaped or carved in its naturally occurring state.
Baalbec Lebanon, massive "stones" utilized to create the Temple of Jupiter.
It is well known that similar architectural elements exist around the world from the same era of megalithic stone construction. Not only did ancient civilizations know how to build massive structures out of stone, all around the world, they also utilized similar manners of construction, similar material choices, similar shapes and styles in how they did it. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
Mainstream archeology attempts to explain this but it doesn't add up. What are the chances that independent civilizations all figured out how to build with megalithic stone in the same era, with the same architectural stylings all over the world on different continents as independent nations, cultures, levels of education and organization of societies? I am talking about the Mayan, Asian, African, Middle East, Europeans, those on Easter Island, Mediterranean and most importantly Egypt. Similar ancient megalithic structures are found all over our planet. Another commonality is the pyramid culture and the massive polygonal stone walls found around the world.
Speaking of pyramids, one stands above them all in its complexity and size. The Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza Egypt. Now there are literally hundreds of explanations of how this massive structure was built and it can be overwhelming to delve into these theories. Most of these explanations are ludicrous and highly improbable... all but one.
Man made ancient geopolymer concrete pyramid stones.
Dr. Davidovits from the Geopolymer Institute developed a solution that I am convinced beyond any doubt as to how they did it. It not only explains how they did it in Egypt, it provides a clear and concise understanding of the construction methodology for all of the megalithic structures from the ancient world. They didn't carve those stones... they made them. An ancient form of concrete that has escaped understanding for centuries.
Sedimentary stone is formed through compaction and cementation.
The Rock Cycle: Compaction and Cementation is what creates Sedimentary Rock such as Limestone.
Utilizing modern scientific study, Dr. Davidovits proved the presence of a geopolymer binder within the chemical composition of the pyramid stones. He recreated the formula and has re-agglomerated limestone with the same material composition, proving his theory and explaining in simple terms how they could build such massive structures. They didn't have to move any of these massive stones, in fact each one was cast in place to create a perfect fit.
This simple explanation can be extrapolated to all of the megalithic structures found throughout the ancient world. In fact the Geopolymer Institute has an entire archeology department that researches and completes testing on similar ancient structures. Most recently they confirmed the same stone forming techniques used in the pre-Inca structures in Peru. This has opened up a new understanding of our ancient world as we are faced with definitive proof of how these megalithic structures were built and the transfer of technology that remains visible today that requires us to rethink the known history of the ancient world.
These ancient architects and craftsman weren't master masons creating ancient structures, they were master mold makers and they did this all over the world, which implies that the oceans were not barriers to travel, they were highways to our ancient ancestors.
A recent movie by French Director Fehmi Krasniqi entitled The Movie Great Pyramid K 2019 was recently translated into English. It provides a very clear and concise explanation utilizing Dr. Davidovits scientifically proven methodology for the construction of these most important ancient monolithic structures. Pay close attention to how he demonstrates the building of the Great Pyramid and how this explanation makes such logical sense. The end of the movie provides a clear depiction of how the African culture of ancient Egypt transferred this technology all over the world. It also explains how they built those amazing cathedrals in Europe utilizing the same technology.
Note: I do not fully concur with the proposed theory of granite re-composition presented within the movie, as I believe it requires further refinement, but the remainder is very accurate. They do an excellent job of explaining the re-composition of the limestone used in the majority of they great pyramids construction.
Disclaimer: I do believe that Fehmi Krasniqi provides a very clear and concise explanation of megalithic stone construction, but his attempts at explaining the re-agglomeration of the granite stone material is still not 100% complete. It isn't that simple to recreate granite once it is liquified, it requires extreme pressure to reform. However I do believe that granite sediments make an excellent aggregate for re-agglomeration of stone using the rammed earth technique. Further, the movie does not depict the material consolidation that Dr. Davidovits recognized in his video above, the part where material is "rammed" into the molds. This material consolidation is a an ancient process known as Rammed Earth or pisé where the ancient concrete mix was compacted into the forms to ensure a close and consolidated matrix of materials that can cure to an increased level of strength. That said, it is well worth the 3.5 hrs of time it takes to explain this proven and obvious theory of construction. The implications for the African culture are significant. Additional research into genetic similarities of Central and South American Indigenous tribes is further proof of the theories that Fehmi Krasniqi presents in this movie.
Historical Innovations builds extraordinarily efficient sustainable buildings utilizing similar techniques explained by Dr. Davidovits at the Geopolymer Institute and film maker Fehmi Krasniqi's movie. Leveraging automated technology, and establishing economies of scale will allow us to construct the entire extraordinarily efficient building envelope within 2 weeks once the site is prepped and the footings are set. Monolithic insulated stone walls make up our building envelope. We hope that some day an archeologist many centuries from now asks that same question about our homes; "How did they do it?"
Monolithic stone walls inside and outside of the structure will be fully insulated to a level dependent on each individual design and geographic consideration. Using a similar methodology as the ancient Egyptians did for the pyramids and other megalithic structures. What is old is new again and offers a practical and affordable solution to climate change. These walls are super insulated at over R90 in thermal value. Coupled with the decremental delay of such a dense material, our homes embody energy within the structure itself.