A little background first, if you're impatient, skip to the second paragraph. I'm currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in an elementary school in the Republic of Armenia. The staff at the school have asked me to help them renovate their gym. It's badly needed, the floor is currently uneven concrete (photo attached). They envision a varnished hardwood floor, similar to the one you'd find in many gymnasiums in the US. The problem with this is that my school has almost no money for this project and because there are few trees growing in our mountainous region, wood is a very, very expensive building material here. Additionally, there are no local firms who will be able to take on this type of construction project- we would have to contract with a firm based out of the capital (additional cost, and it doesn't build the capacity of local individuals, which is the Peace Corps mission here). This problem is compounded when you consider that when the floor requires maintenance (and it will require maintenance eventually- probably much sooner than a similar floor in the US because most manufacturing standards are less durable here than in the States) there will be no one locally available who can make the repairs, and without money to hire someone from the capital, the school's gymnasium will again fall into disrepair and disuse. Obviously, this is not a desirable outcome.
I have been trying to brainstorm alternatives that the local school board may not consider on their own, and I thought of rammed earth floors (although I know almost nothing about them...). We have an abundance of heavy clay-type soil here and many hands to do the work. Building with this material/technique would use primarily local materials, local labor, and would be able to be repaired by individuals within the community when the time comes. The weather here is very dry (we get about 175 mm or 7 inches of rain annually) and although the temperatures do get below freezing, we don't have wild temperature swings: we average a high of 65F in the summer, and a low of 20F in the winter.
I haven't found any projects for similar uses online, so I thought I'd float the idea on this forum and see what the good folks here had to say about it. If I'm totally crazy, please let me know so I don't waste any more of my time (which as a Peace Corps Volunteer translates into tax-payer dollars) on this one and I'll move onto other things. But, if there's some merit to this appropriate building technology for my application, I'd love if if you could point me to any resources you found helpful in the beginning of your rammed earth learning curve. Thanks so much!
** edited to try and get the attachment to display properly...**
Congratulations on your Peace Corp's gig, I bet this is rewarding stuff.
I am a big fan of YouTube "How to's". There are many videos on earthen floor creation, rammed earth floors, cob floors. One video mentioned using bags of concrete into the mixure, I liked this video on mylittlehomestead.com's YouTube channel. They showed using heated linseed oil as a top coat, to make it stronger. I remember reading about heated linseed oil here in a permies discussion, a search would probably bring up the context of the discussion. Here is the video I liked:
They show mixing the mixture by hand, I like the concrete tub, but they should have made use of a hoe to save on wear and tear on their hands.