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Series 5 · Episode 4
After 30 years as a civil engineer, Joe Cato has built more roads than the Romans. But a few years ago he and wife Maura made the active decision to slow everything down - to sell their successful construction business, and spend more time with their three children.
It was a decision partly driven by chance find of a house and land at Foxground, near Kiama on the NSW South Coast…. 80 acres that included their very own rainforest.
The only problem was, Joe discovered that slowing down wasn’t really for him, and it didn’t take long for them to hatch a plan to turn Foxground into their permanent home.
So with a strong agenda to tread as lightly on the planet as possible, they choose to live completely off grid and to build out of a material known for its low embodied energy and natural ability to preserve heat – Rammed Earth.
Joes 30 years of experience can only prepare him for so much. With only a 2 day course in rammed earth construction under his belt, he’s setting out to teach wife Maura how to help him build their new home from the ground up, by hand. But it’s only as they embark on the process they realise the complexities of the challenge ahead.
Refining the mix right for the rammed earth so that it doesn’t collapse is only the beginning.
As their journey progresses it dawns on them that there may be one fundamental problem with their entire design. That one of this rammed earths greatest merits, its ability to store heat, might now turn into their biggest issue. It might end up sucking heat OUT of the house making it completely inefficient.
And with 80 rammed earth panels in a solar powered, south facing house – that’s a very real concern.
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