The shift toward sustainability in general, and low cost, DIY housing specifically, is the way forward. The trend is unmistakable as I explained in a previous post The Shift Toward Organic Architecture. Plain and simple, people are fed up with the current way of doing things. Why would someone take out a 30-year mortgage (assuming you’re one of the few who qualify) when the job market is so uncertain? Why build new when home prices are falling year after year and the value of your home will likely depreciate? You’d be underwater in no time.

Strive for truly sustainable housing, not the greenwash you see on so many sites. As much as possible, buy local, minimally processed natural materials and recycled goods. Build small. Build to last. Do as much work yourself as possible. Pay as you go and try hard not to borrow from banks. Spend adequate time on planning and you can have the home of your dreams before too long.


Comments

A Better Way Forward — 7 Comments

  1. Where I am building is on a reservation, so I am under the impression we do not have to follow codes. However, I would not want to put my children in something that is not safe. At this time we are looking at a 29 x 43 (exterior dimentions, taking into account for the bag and plaster width) rectangular home with buttresses for stability. I have 3 on the 29 foot side and 5 on the 43 foot side. I would like to insulate the bags with lava rock. I am planning on tying in roof trusses with a concrete berm, but have also been considering a viga roof completely tied to the house with rebar and earthbags. We would like to do a tamped earth floor if possible.

    • You’ll definitely need buttresses or other type of reinforcing such as posts on long walls, especially with scoria. You may also need temporary braces to keep the walls aligned during construction. A concrete bond beam (not berm) is important for tying the top of walls together. 29′ is quite wide for vigas. Can you get straight trees that long?

      Start with a small tool shed so you can perfect your techniques and you’ll be fine. My new earthbag book shows every detail for every step: http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/articles/ebbuildingguide.htm

      Take photos and send us your results.

      • I was looking at a gable roof either way, so I would need 16 foot logs. I am lucky to have my dad on board with this “project”, who is a former logger and a darn good carpenter, so I should be able to find some locally! Thank you for your reply, and I will add your book to my earthbag building collection soon! Is it available in print as well?

        • Glad you’ve got some carpentry help. Roofs can be the most difficult step sometimes and this is something that’s not discussed often enough.

          A print version is not available for several reasons. There’s added cost to publish it (convert to PageMaker), all the great color photos would be lost or unaffordable, and all the hyperlinks removed. I think the current PDF version is the best. I’m also going to make it available through Amazon, Smashwords, etc. soon for those with iPads, Kindles, etc.

          I suggest printing from PDF. That’s why I did for my copy and it turned out pretty decent.

  2. I have been looking at building an earthbag home for about 6 months now, and I think it would be both financially and physically possible. Is there anyone out there you would recommend that would look at the plans I have drawn up to make sure that everything looks structurally correct? Local builders and designers would probably just laugh at me. :)

  3. Finally…

    Someone is listening to my sermons without falling asleep! :)

    Seriously though, this is almost the MANTRA for all those who look to the heavens seeking “alternative housing” and a better way of live for our families.

    It’s what binds ALL “Alties” together and makes them part of a much larger tribe. We’re all “brothers and sisters” fighting the same fight.

    As we look at the differences between the different alternative approaches (be they earthbags, straw bales, cob, or even… gasp!… ISBU), it’s remarkable to see that the same basic “fundamental principals” drive us toward our goals.

    Perhaps, as we take more and more responsibility and reliance into our own hands, the message will filter up, as we “lead by example”.

    We must (as families) learn to sustain ourselves, as those who “lead” seek to push sustainability and self-reliance beyond the reach of mortal men…

    Amen.

    Good Job, Owen!

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