Kia Ora. I’m Paul Geraets. To the left is a picture of me and my mate Frank, on site in Thames. I’m on the left laughing; Franks’s holding the pneumatic rammer. They say a photo speaks a thousand words and that’s why I love this one.
I started building with rammed earth in Raglan in 1991 – my own property in Raglan’s Whale Bay was my first full design and build. Although Frank I don’t work together often these days, he was part of the team back then. I’d been building for some years and had recently made a long-awaited move to a building method I knew was going to be sustainable in the truest sense of the word.
I was using the term ‘sustainable’ in my mission statement before it’s meaning became somewhat dilute, but it is nevertheless an important word in the environmental world.
This image captures the building site camaraderie that defines a Terra Firma site; everyone does a good honest day’s graft together and not just to earn a living, but to somehow make a difference.
Looking at other old photos from our early days, I’m reminded of rammed earth’s incredibly rich history. This includes recent and inspiring history as well as the ancient history.
I suggest you check out Our History page. You’ll see what Terra Firma has been doing for 30 years in the context of what the world has been doing for thousands of years.
What you don’t see in this picture, but will see on our Portfolio page, are the owners of this home, Peter and Jo. Both in their 60s, this gutsy couple rolled their sleeves up and joined us on the job filling and fetching buckets and even ramming some walls.
As I write this in September 2021, our site team’s residency in the repurposed barn will be coming to an end and Peter and Jo will be moving out of their on-site caravan and into the warm, dry home, healthy home that rammed earth promises.
I can say that, without a doubt, building is my life. Coming from a long line of builders hailing from Europe, I have been exposed to construction for as long as I can remember. It was during my first 10 years in building I came to realise that there were long term problems with our current building practice. In my search for an answer, I found rammed earth and have been building exclusively like this for 30 years, with an emphasis on health and durability. One of my three sons, Finn, is a core member of our crew, which is incredibly rewarding.
I’m lucky to have had a varied and interesting life in New Zealand and overseas, working largely in administrative and retail positions, from law firms to the health and organic food industry. But my real love is focusing on all things natural. I’m passionate about plant-based nutrition, natural medicines, non-toxic lifestyles. and how subtle energies affect how we live. When I discovered Terra Firma I knew this was something I wanted be involved with. To understand rammed earth, is to want one of these homes.
Not only have I had the pleasure of growing up in a rammed earth home built by my father Paul Geraets, but I also have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time surrounded by the rammed earth culture. From a young age I was fascinated by the construction, history and ethics of earth homes. I couldn’t be more proud with the method of construction Dad has cultivated and I go to work every day with knowing that I’m making a difference. Every one of our team is passionate about and dedicated to our craft.
I graduated from University with a Bachelor of Architectural Studies several years ago. As this came to an end I picked up a carpentry apprenticeship to balance my theory with the practical. After three years working in conventional construction and realising where the industry fell short, I looked into rammed earth and came across Terra Firma. Two years in and it is clear, through the company’s attention to detail, efficiency and culture, that they have been refining their methodology for decades. It’s a pleasure to be a part of the team.
I’m pleased to be the newest addition to the Terra Firma family. I’m originally from Kaihere in the Hauraki Plains and have been raised on a lifestyle block. I have always loved hands-on work and had have always had an ambition to live sustainably. Working with Terra Firma on their earth rammed homes has encouraged me to feel passionate about building in an earth-friendly way. I’m excited for the future of Terra Firma as I believe it’s the future for homes in New Zealand.