To Educate

Why we teach how to build using SIREWALL 

After 25 years of rammed earth building, we now see that we can leverage our knowledge and experience by teaching and supporting others, and making available our specialized tools and materials.

We teach builders, engineers, architects, handymen, building inspectors, potential homeowners, and those with a general interest in green building.

Our courses are overwhelmingly well received, and everyone comes away from our course with an enhanced idea of what SIREWALL is, and whether or not it makes sense in their work/life situation.

We are here to support those who are bold and willing to take action.

So, why isn’t SIREWALL sweeping the building world?

Few people know about it yet; we teach courses to get the word out.

Also our core culture values are at odds with the ones driving the building world today: maximizing square footage over health, durability, environment, energy efficiency, and natural beauty.

Only the bold first adopters are willing to act in the face of widely accepted “white bread building” practices.

To Challenge

How we view conventional building practices

If we wanted to invent the worst imaginable building technology, it would look like today’s conventional building practices.

We would:

  • make sure that every product had at least one carcinogen.
  • make sure that these buildings lasted no longer than the mortgage before major repairs or demolition were necessary.
  • create the need to remain up to date, which would maximize landfilling.
  • use raw materials that came from far away, maximizing the distance they travelled.
  • minimize on-site labour, and make sure that no thought were given to the reuse of materials.
  • make sure that the money flowed to the 1%.

Builders would get officials and politicians on board by saying that this is all people can afford, and that it was essential for people’s homes to have more square feet per person than at any time in history.

To appease people who dare to think differently, manufacturers would greenwash their products, groups would endorse those baby steps, and we would have so-called “green building” as the solution.

Conventional building practices have convinced people that this way of building is an acceptable and normal way to treat the environment and each other. We call this ‘white bread building.’

SIREWALL supports the antithesis of conventional building. At Terra Firma, we think it is essential to seize the moment and implement change by making bold moves rather than taking baby steps.
The scale and pace of the problem (climate change) must be matched by a solution of the same scale and pace.

What we think about “Green” building

Terra Firma Builders strives to achieve green building in the truest sense of the term. We believe that currently, most green building is just not that. In the current dominant building model, one or two environmental benefits are typically advertised, such as recycling and high Rvalue (a material’s resistance to heat transfer), while taking attention away from the product or system’s shortcomings.

Until there is a wide-ranging and mature conversation about all the vital factors, greenwashers will continue to dominate the building industry.

Here are some examples of when green doesn’t mean green:

Fibreglass insulation batts are the most common type of insulation in North America. Some manufacturers claim that their batts are green due to the use of recycled glass and the high Rvalues. What they don’t mention is that the glass particle size has been proven to be carcinogenic, as is the urea formaldehyde binder that glues those fibres together.

Paints are claimed to be green because they have low or zero volatile organic compound (VOC) content. While it is true that VOCs are carcinogenic, the thinner used in their place is often worse. For example, ammonia could be used as a thinner, and its scent would be obscured using unhealthy odour inhibitors.

Drywall companies boast that they use recycled fly ash in with their gypsum. They omit the fact that fly ash is likely to contain mercury and arsenic.

Wood for building comes primarily from clear cut monoculture tree farms that are sprayed with atrazine, 2,4-D, and other toxic chemicals that leach into the soil and waters. These are the active ingredients of Agent Orange, used to defoliate the broad leaf plants in the Vietnam war. In addition, there is a new movement in so-called green building that encourages the use of wood because it is “renewable,” completely ignoring toxic wood farm practices.

To Offer Solutions

SIREWALL and the long term

Besides how incredibly gorgeous it is, SIREWALL’s main benefits are:

  • health
  • durability
  • sustainability
  • high Rvalue
  • excellent life-cycle embodied energy
  • use of local materials and labour
  • longevity
A key point to consider when thinking about SIREWALL is that it was conceived with the long-term in mind.

When viewed from a first-cost perspective, SIREWALL certainly demands a significant investment; it’s not cheap. From a life-cycle perspective, however, it is incredibly economical.

Likewise, SIREWALL has high initial embodied energy, but has incredibly low life cycle embodied energy. For those who think only in the short-term, SIREWALL may not seem like the best deal going, but for those who can think long-term, it is remarkably good value.

Our vision for the future of building

In the face of the unthinkable impacts of climate change, the building industry, which has the largest impact, is only taking baby steps.

We believe the scale of the solution should match the scale of the problem, and this is no time for dawdling. Despite the fact that we have the technology, governments lack the courage to make dramatic changes. Such changes would hurt the 1%, whose businesses dominate the construction industry at the expense of building occupants and workers, and the health of the environment.

It is up to the individual to make decisions based on values ahead of maximizing square footage.

Health, environment, future, durability, and beauty are the values we at Terra Firma hold dear, and we express them in walls that:

  • use only healthy materials
  • use the most humble and abundant material on the planet (earth)
  • use local materials and local labour
  • last for hundreds of years with no maintenance
  • are net zero for energy
  • create interior comfort through temperature and humidity flywheel effects
  • create acoustical sanctuary
  • nourish the spirit through biomimicry
  • will stand for our descendents
It is obvious that this is where the building industry needs to go eventually; why not build this way now?


Everything you need to know about the most technically advanced rammed earth wall system on the planet.



Getting intimate with dirt to make something beautiful is when SIREWALL really starts to make sense.