From yesterday’s www.businessmirror.com written by Jonathan L. Mayuga:
CORON, Palawan—Eco-friendly earthbag homes for Supertyphoon Yolanda survivors will soon rise in Barangay Lajala, one of the coastal barangays devastated by the super typhoon in this island municipality last year.
Mayor Carla “Fems” Reyes said the island municipality is planning to construct 300 earthbag homes for those who remain homeless after Yolanda triggered a storm surge that swept away thousands of houses along coastal towns in Central Philippines.
The earthbag homes, with a floor area of 24 square meter, will have one bedroom, one comfort room and a concrete floor, according to a plan approved by the local government of Coron.
Instead of ordinary hollow blocks, a mixture of cement and soil—one part cement and seven parts soil—was used to make bricks that would be used for the walls of the house. For the roofs, doors and windows, bamboo poles or kawayan and nipa will be used.
One brick-like earthbag has a length of 600 mm, a height of 300 mm and thickness of 150 mm. Each earthbag weighs approximately 30 kilos. Durability tests conducted on the dry earthbags indicated it could withstand a pressure of 7,000 psi, almost two times durable than an ordinary hollow block made of sand and cement. The estimated construction cost of a unit is P150,000. The local government has partnered with the Tamayo Foundation for the project.
“We are proud of developing earthbag homes. The walls are durable, resistant to fire and could withstand strong typhoons and earthquakes. And they are affordable,” Reyes said.
About 90 percent of the houses in Barangay Lajala were completely destroyed while the other 10 percent were partly damaged. There are 1,300 families living in the barangay; almost all of them depend on fishing as source of income and livelihood. Because the fishing boats in the barangay were also destroyed, many of the residents are unable to fish and earn money to rebuild their homes.
Six months after Yolanda, only about 10 fishermen are able to fish again while the rest have to rely on income as operator of tourist boats or tour guides, said Barangay Lajala Chairman Allan Mundia. Andy Noda, 27, said his nipa hut was among the close to 1,000 houses destroyed by Yolanda. He said because he also lost his fishing boat, he is unable to earn for the construction of a new nipa hut that would normally cost around P40,000. “My family and I are living with my brother’s family now. If that earthbag house will be given to us, we will accept it, thankful that we will have a home of our own again. It looks strong and more durable than nipa hut. Hopefully, it will not collapse when another strong typhoon hits us,” he said.
Leonilo Serabia, a construction supervisor who worked on a model unit of the earthbag home, said each unit would require 700 earthbags. “The earthbags are tough. It’s cool inside and it is resistant to strong winds. It is easier and faster to build with earthbags,” he said.
Earthbag construction has been proven effective in some countries. It costs less because the materials used are readily available and free, except for cement. Earthbag construction is a natural-building technique that evolved from military-bunker construction techniques and temporary flood-control dike building methods.
Serabia said the earthbag model unit was constructed within a month. The walls are built gradually by placing the earthbags one on top of the other. A barbed wire is placed horizontally in every layer to stabilize the walls. It is then reinforced by placing corrugated steel vertically to keep the earthbags together and the walls intact. The first 24 units of the earthbag homes will be constructed within the next six months while the rest will be constructed as soon as materials for the construction becomes available.
Earthbag construction is labor intensive because it requires hauling of soil and mixing it with cement in preparation for molding. Molding the brick-like earthbags takes several days before they are ready for construction. Some of the residents who will receive earthbag homes have been tapped for work and receive P375 per day plus overtime pay. The soil being is ordinary soil found in the barangay while the bamboos and nipa are locally sourced. The mayor said the development of earthbag homes are ideal for technology-transfer purposes as alternative to the traditional nipa hut or bahay kubo homes in rural areas.