A Rammed-Earth Home in Napa Valley

One homeowner uses pisé de terre, a 2,000-year-old building method, to make his sustainable home.

| September/October 1999

For his stunning rammed-earth home in Napa Valley, David Easton uses ancient tools and cutting-edge technology to create a back-to-the-future eco-haven. "My life's work is helping to reintroduce earthen materials to world architecture."  

A lofty goal for an altruistic twenty-something lad with his head in the clouds but his feet firmly planted on the ground. The very ground that he has years since incorporated into his 2,800-square-foot home nestled against the majestic eastern hills of California’s Napa Valley. The very ground he has helped incorporate into over 150 rammed-earth homes around the globe.

Here amid the thriving vineyards that produce some of the world’s most exquisite wines, David Easton practices what he preaches: reintroducing ancient earthen building materials and techniques to his own backyard. Here, Easton—engineer, contractor, and author of The Rammed Earth House, the definitive blueprint on rammed-earth construction—has perfected the art of building with the soil that sustains us.

Pisé de Terre

Easton has refined the art of building with pisé de terre, a method of “stuffed earth” construction introduced to the Rhone River Valley 2,000 years ago by Phoenician traders in the Mediterranean, as Lugdunum—the capital of Roman Gaul—Lyons, France was, and is, the regional center. Pisé de terre is the process of ramming moist earth into moveable forms to create monolithic walls, and the construction method has dominated the region for centuries.

Easton has brought pisé de terre into the twenty-first century by creating his own earth-construction method called PISE, an acronym for Pneumatically Impacted Stablized Earth. This technique, which consists of using highly pressurized air to shoot a soil and cement mixture against a one-sided form, makes rammed earth construction less time consuming and more cost effective than conventional building methods.

Perfect Site

Conventional, Easton’s house is not. It echoes the Old World charm of a vintage vintner’s Provence estate, complete with magnificent landscaping.

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