Thompson Rivers University

ARET Research — Q & A with Brandon Samoyloff

February 26, 2014

ARET student Brandon Samoyloff is researching the viability of rammed earth as a construction material in the Cariboo region.

Meet Brandon Samoyloff, a third year student in the Architectural and Engineering Technology (ARET) program. The Newsroom asked Brandon about the ins and outs of conducting his own research project through TRU’s Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP).

TRU: Your project is titled, “Feasibility of Rammed Earth Construction in the Cariboo Region: Research and Application”. Boil it down for us.

BS: A rammed earth structure is typically constructed by compacting material, gathered and tested on site, into strip away form work. The material is mixed into a 70% sand and granular mixture and 30% clay mixture, being careful to not mix any type of organic matter into the material as it causes compaction issues. The material is then placed into the form work and compacted into layers until the desired height is reached.

My research looks at whether rammed earth is an option for a building material in the Cariboo region. My ARET instructor and mentor, Dale Parkes, contacted an associate of his that was interested in building a rammed earth home in the 100 Mile House area and wanted to know more about the construction process and how difficult it would be to build the home himself. This led to the construction of a mock-up wall on the associate’s property, which I am in the process of monitoring to determine the effects of seasonal changes on the rammed earth.

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TRU: What attracted you to doing this research?

BS: As an ARET student I’m interested in all types of building methods, styles, new products, and interesting design features. Rammed earth really appealed to me because it is one of the oldest building practices that is still being used and that has been adapted for current building applications. The esthetics of rammed earth is as much a form of art as it is a building material and the colors that can be used are very appealing from a designer’s point of view.

Sustainable building practices are pushing for environmentally friendly materials, and rammed earth is a recyclable product that has a proven life expectancy of well over a century. I find it very interesting to incorporate an ancient building practice that meets today’s requirements of sustainability into a modern building.

“Opportunity is everywhere if you are willing to apply yourself, and people are willing to contribute to what you’re doing if you take initiative.” —Brandon Samoyloff

TRU: How has your UREAP grant helped you get into doing research?

BS: The award has allowed me to focus my energy into the research and the building of the rammed earth wall. With out the funding I wouldn’t be able to take the time out of my school year and summer to afford doing the research. UREAP also gave me confidence in the research and has really pushed me to excel in my academic and professional career.

TRU: Will your project lead to a presentation or publishing opportunity?

BS: I have plans to present at the TRU Undergraduate Student Research and Innovation Conference this spring, and I am definitely interested in the opportunity to have my research report published once completed.

TRU: What have you learned from this experience?

BS: Opportunity is everywhere if you are willing to apply yourself, and people are willing to contribute to what you’re doing if you take initiative. This research wouldn’t have been done to the extent that it is without the contribution of UREAP, Dale Parkes and his associate. I really enjoyed the field testing and wall building. Walking around the site digging test holes and analyzing the soil was interesting, and then to apply my findings to a project was really a satisfying experience.

TRU: Who in your field do you admire and why?

BS: In the field of rammed earth I admire David Easton. His projects are unique and incorporate much more than just the material properties of rammed earth. On a local basis I admire the Sire Wall Company out of Salt Spring Island who have taken rammed earth and made it into a modern building material. Their projects are not only esthetically appealing but have defined a standard for rammed earth construction.

TRU: What impact do you hope your research will have?

BS: I hope that my research will encourage people to consider rammed earth in their projects and that it will promote the use of this ancient practice in modern-day buildings.

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