Welcome!

This blog, created by Dr. Owen Geiger and Kelly Hart, is an adjunct to our websites www.earthbagbuilding.com and www.earthbagstructures.com. We are very pleased to bring this blog to the public and hope that over time it will provide a service in both revealing new information about earthbag building and also providing a way for people to interact with us and others who place comments here.

This is our way of creating a community of folks from around the world who want to find out more about earthbag building and share their ideas with all of us.

Why We Created EarthbagBuilding.com

There is an astounding amount of information on the Internet, including information on earthbag building, but it is very time consuming to find just what you need. Projects, articles, pictures, blogs, forum postings, etc. are scattered everywhere, much of it repetitive or not useful.

It takes a human editor/researcher to filter out the best content. The search process for this website has taken around 80 -100 hours so far, mostly a little here and there in our spare time. Most people won’t spend that much time searching for a new topic they’re just learning about, and so the information remains essentially ‘buried.’

We used different search engines and different search features to uncover the information. Google Images search feature was particularly helpful. (Click on Images from the Google home page.) Search phrases included ‘earthbag’, ‘sandbag’, ‘earthbag building’, ‘sandbag building’, ‘earthbag construction’, ‘sandbag construction’, ‘earthbag shelter’… You get the idea. Each search phrase turned up new information!

This process has uncovered over 100 interesting earthbag projects so far, and more are discovered each week. So there’s a lot of great information out there, but most people aren’t aware of it … yet.

Like our mission statement says, “Sharing information and promoting earthbag building,” now we’re compiling all the best articles, projects, photos, websites and other resources for your convenience and to help mainstream building with earthbags. In addition, all of the content is searchable from one search page: www.earthbagbuilding.com/search.htm
We hope you enjoy our site!

Disclaimer of Liability and Warranty
We specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. No one associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this or any other page at this site.



Comments

Introduction — 67 Comments

  1. Hi, I love this blog and am really looking forward to trying this medium for construction. I notice that when you have 2 domes connected you use a separate structure to connect them. Has anyone managed to figure out a way of interconnecting the domes using common walls. I have a design that i would love to send you for your comments.
    Rob

    • I recommend using a vault to connect domes. This is shown in my new house plan ebook.

      Feel free to email me your idea. My address is at the top of the page.

  2. Dear Mr Owen,

    I am from Nepal and currently living in Kathmandu. My village name is Lihi, Nubri valley which is in Northern part of Nepal. I and my friend would like to attend your free training that is going to happen in week time. The reason I am to receive this training is that my only house in my village is collapsed and as of my friend. Therefore, I want to rebuilt my village to maintain sustainable living. So, would like to know the location where its going to be held. Do I need VISA to attend this training? And could you send us a letter of offer?

    Would love to hear from you as soon as possible.

    With much respect,
    Tseirng Thinley Lama

  3. Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly loved browsing your weblog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write once more soon!

  4. Hi Owen,

    I have been devouring your sites and any other revelant site for information for the better part of two years. We just closed on our property of two acres in the Sonoran Desert between Tucson and the Tohoo O’Odam Nation in a sheet flood plane with a riparian zone and own wash that will provide us with plenty of sand. I understand that the sand should be mixed with some form of stablizing agent and proper tamping to keep the sand from shifting for the house. Because this is in a sheet flood zone & a riparian zone we would like to reduce the amount of erosion by using sand burms and sand bag retaining walls. Would you reccoment that those bags also be mixed with a stablizing agent?

    • Sand bags used for flood control are not stabilized. They’re just filled with sand. So you could: 1. raise your building site and slope the ground so water flows away from the house, 2. build a sand bag retaining wall around the building site, 3. build your house, 4. add berming between your house and the retaining wall.

      Do you ever get heavy rainstorms? if so, then you want to add drains under the retaining wall so water won’t build up behind the retaining wall and then get into your house. Add 1-2 layers of 6 mil plastic sheeting between the house and the berm for extra assurance. It’s a lot of extra work, but water is the #1 enemy of houses and so it’s prudent to take precautions.

  5. Dear Owen

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I live in the Western Cape, South Africa. I would like to build a home for my children and I here. Can you recommend any workshops I can go to to learn more, especially ones suited for building in the environment I live in.

    Thank you

    Gil

    • Check with Eternally Solar in South Africa. (Use the built-in search engine above.) There are lots of blog posts about them. They have an excellent building system that uses mostly sand. There’s also the Eco beam method that we’ve published about.

  6. Hi, I have 40 acers in Mo. Ar. ozarks Band was and backhoe will start my project in about a week. Earth berm with earthbag footing, timberframe of red oak (from the 40) waterproof ins. umbrella, earth tubes for fresh air and heat. Has anyone used earth bag and timberfame together? Earth bag is only for the footing.

    • No problems with earthbag and timberframe. That’s a great combination. Earth tubes in humid climates can develop mold problems. It’s better to design in lots of ventilation and sunshine.

  7. We are looking to build a house in Arkansas which is very hot and humid in the summer and only moderately cold in the winter. Its very rainy and wet in between. I’m researching earthbag houses mostly because I think we can afford to build it quicker and without a lot of outside help. We are wondering if there is anything we need to know about building in this type of climate that would either make this a bad idea or add any major difficulties? My husband is not sold on the idea because of the humidity and I just want to make sure I’m trying sell him on an idea that is sound.

  8. I am very new to this concept of living but i’m very interested in building a home like this for my son and I to live in. I would like more information about how to build and where to build. I live in Canada and don’t really know anything about building homes or buying land or even how to construct one of these homes. If anyone could provide me with more information it would greatly be appreciated. Thank you

    • Almost everything you need to know is on this site and our EarthbagBuilding.com site. Use the built-in search engines to locate specific topics. My new book should be available in a few days.

  9. Hey Owen
    Would it be possible for you to add a feature to the blog so that readers could search for their own comments or the comments of others? The current search doesn’t work for comments.

    Thanks Milton

  10. Thanks for the blog site. We are busy with our own sandbag project at the moment and all info is always welcome from experienced folk like yourselve’s!

    Regards – Andrew

  11. Owen~ Will your new book have fence ideas? I’m planning a fench of earthbag pillars with sections of corrugated sheet metal and other sections of conduit placed horizontally between the pillars. I’ve seen this done with wood pillars/posts, but do you think it’s possible to build something that will stand the desert wind out of earthbags? Mesh bags, maybe? I don’t want to use wood. Thanks!

    • Yes, there’s a small section about privacy walls in the book. There’s not much due to space restrictions.

      I assume you’ve searched our site for previously published information on this topic. There are lots of techniques, including those you’ve described. So yes, you can build earthbag privacy walls that resist high winds.

  12. Hola
    This is Cato from Chiapas, Mexico. Thank you for your affort.
    You guys are right. For a few months, I did a lot of internet research, and decided that all that was really needed was an opportunity to get dirty.
    Since a couple of months, I am leading a crew of four peasants in a give and take learning experience. We are building a health clinic in a poor peasant rural community in Chiapas.
    I do not get paid, but the people at the López-Hernández community provide me with food and a place to sleep.
    I must give credit to the project called “the rocket and the rabbit hole”. I borrowed the basic layout, and did major changes on the design.
    Progress is slow but the quality is good. (people do not show up for work, since they have many other issues to attend to.) We are about 85 % done. It is looking good.
    We have spent about $ 27,000.00 pesos (about $ 2300.00 Usd) for a three room, 50 square meter useful area of construction. This does not include labor.
    Now, my computer skills are very limited. I am looking for help to create a blog, or web page or something to share the photos and some “useful tips” we have come up with, which i have not seen on the internet.
    I have the goal to create an initiative to address the need for affordable housing in Chiapas. I have seen other people with similar ideas, but I am alone and I have no idea about how to get started. Any help or comments would be appreciated.
    I can be contacted directly at dementecato@yahoo.com
    Gracias
    Cato

    I would love to find the right people, so that, through creative partnerships make this a long term building initiative. My hope is also, to build relationships with local people in rural Chiapas in the need of housing, who want to help themselves by learning this technique.

  13. Okay, I’m a total newbie (but also a quick study), so please forgive me if I ask some stupid questions, but here goes:

    If I make the dome steeper will it take away from the square footage in the loft areas? And does making the dome steeper mean I would be buying a “custom” plan?

    The place I’ll be building is highly windy – will using scoria be a problem in this regard?

    And how do you tie the courses together with twine? I’m having a hard time picturing how this would work.

  14. Hi guys. I wanted to let you know that after researching various methods of alternative building I’ve decided on earthbags and have started a blog about it: taoshivehome.blogspot.com.

    From looking at the various plans you have available, I’ve decided on the envirodome. I’m at the very beginning of the process, looking at land to buy. I’ll be in touch by email when I’m ready to buy the plans. I have a few questions already and I’m sure I’ll gather more as the journey continue.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the information you’ve made available.

    • This is great news and should provide interesting reading as we follow your journey.

      I highly recommend building with bags of scoria. And in your location, it’s a no brainer. Work will progress about 10 times faster, you won’t have to stabilize the soil and it’s more insulating. All you have to do is make a few small adjustments: tie courses together with twine for added stability; make the dome steeper (less round).

  15. We want to built a small earth bag home in Missouri….do you know of any federal grants for this……we are a single income family……we make about 50K a year….so ????

    God bless…you

  16. aiy yu qwee,

    we are a small non-profit looking for someone to conduct earthbag workshops on the yurok reservation in northern california. hoping to apply for grants to build several single family earthbag homes for homeless tribal members (we do not have a casino and are very rural).

    we have done micro hydro workshops and work alot with the culture. have small amount of savings, but lots of smoked salmon to trade :} yum!

    thanks
    mo

    • Sounds like a great project. Please send the workshop announcement to Kelly Hart (click on the About Us to get his email address). He will put it on our Workshop page at EarthbagBuilding.com.

  17. Hi Dr.Owen

    I and a few Friends are planning to start small-scale project in Africa.
    We need your help getting of design soil cement interlocking Bricks Manual and roofing’s
    To create job for youth and homeless know how System in rural areas, village; small city
    reduce the migration to big city help them and can change the life of them.
    This technology has been used in Europe especially here in German in the early fifties,
    I could not find the design.

    Thank you in advance!
    Belay

  18. Help! I would like to build a dome Office in our woods for the future home of my Indigenous Mag. We live pretty much to old way. Do have some solar Do you have, or have you written a Book? If not can you reccomend one that explains, especially in the homes you have designed, how to get electrical wiring, plumbing layouts?? I will purchase these plans if you tell me where to go? Toksa Nape’

  19. Hi

    I am triying to get the schedule or when the workshops are available in Thailand.At this moment i am living in Damnoen Saduk, Rajburi, Thailand volunteering at a Buddhist Temple. I am very interested in your jobs and i am travelling to get knowledge about eco and sustainable buildings and living, which have a very important link with social development.
    Can you help me?Where or when can i get a workshop?
    i can work for short and long term,What i have now is time and a huge desire to learn

    Thanks for your time

    Jessica

    P.S. I am very familiar with Koh Phanghan Island and that is where I saw your advertisement. Will there be any workshops in the near future. Tes from ‘jThe Yoga Retreat’ highly recommended your course.

  20. I am in the process of building a replacement fence around my yard with sandbags and was wondering how high i could build a wall/fence without the need of rebar reinforcement?

    • It all depends on how it’s designed. For example, curves, jogs, buttresses and built-in benches will make it stronger. Wider bags will be more stable than narrower bags. Avoid long straight sections. Tamp each course level and make sure walls are plumb as you’re building. You’ll easily be able to tell when the walls start to feel unsteady. But just for starters, I’d guess around 4′ high for 18″ wide bags (measured when empty) for a typical wall. You can go higher as you add curves, buttresses, etc.

  21. Hi
    We are a Thai foundation committed to helping women and children out of the sex industry. We are currently looking at some land to build our new training centre and housing for the women and was very interested in earth bag building as we are a next to nothing budget.
    Would anyone be interested in volunteering to help us build our centre here in Phuket.
    For more information about us take a look at our web sites wwwshethailand.org & http://www.shetrainingcentre.com

    We look forward to hearing from you
    Sharon

    • Hi Sharon. I could probably help to a certain degree, especially with the design. I live in Sakon Nakhon and could probably take a few days off to get you started. Email me for more details: strawhouses [at] yahoo.com

  22. Hello,
    Thank you for the wealth of information available on your website, it’s fabulous. I have a question that I’m hoping you may be able to help me with. Can earthbags be used to build an underground septic tank? If so, what time of water-proofing would be most effective? Would we need to line the hole with plastic sheeting first? We are definitely going to use earthbags to build our mountain-side house, just wondering about using the same application for the septic tank. I was thinking if it could work for a cistern, why not? We live on the small caribbean island of Grenada where volcanic gravel and a variety of soils, including clay are available. Thanks for your assistance.
    Keep up the great work!

    Laura

    • Yeah, I see no reason you couldn’t build a septic system with earthbags. But you’d want to weigh the cost and time required against just burying a tank. I’d be inclined to put my time and effort into building the house, where the extra effort on a high value structure is more justified.

  23. Hi

    I am triying to get the schedule or when the workshops are available.At this moment i am in Vietnam and i am looking for workshops in Asia or Australia. I am very interested in your jobs and i am travelling to get knowledge about eco and sustainable buildings, which have a very important link with social development.
    Can you help me?Where or when can i get a workshop?
    i can work for short and long term,What i have now is time and a huge desire to learn

    Thanks for your time

    Jota

  24. I am looking into building semi-subterranean sandbag spaces in a dry desert environment in Africa. The rainfall is less than 3 mm per year, but the area receives daily moisture through fog.

    The available soil is fairly granular river sand (from dry riverbeds), and we are thinking of either importing lime or cement as stabiliser, as clay is virtually non-existent within reasonable distances.

    We want to sink the units at least 1.5m deep, and cover the domes with at least 600 mm sand, to provide a thermally buffered interior space.

    Any suggestions or examples of previous experience will be extremely helpful.

    • Stabilizing your sand with cement or lime will likely be essential to build domes; otherwise it might collapse because of the sand shifting inside the bags, especially with pressure from any berming. I am not aware of any earthbag domes having been completely buried like you propose, so this would clearly be experimental. If you want to proceed with this, I suggest that you stabilize your sand with quite a bit of cement (at least 10%) and start with a small test dome to become confident that it will work. Please let us know how this works out.

    • We bermed a large quantity of soil against our dome with good success. See http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/low-cost-multipurpose-minibuilding-made-with-earthbags/

      There’s about 20 small truck loads of soil bermed against the sides with no visible change in the dome. I’m confident another 20, 40, 100 truck loads of soil could be added with no effect. However, this is a small 8′ interior diameter dome. Larger domes would need to be built very carefully. Catenary dome shape is strongest. Our dome isn’t stabilized, only covered in layers of 6 mil poly. You would want to stabilize it with 10 percent or so of cement or lime.

  25. Hey Bill Taylor, I also live in Mendocino and am interested in your building project and your progress getting it up to code. Maybe open to lending a hand in construction. This seems like a move in the right direction.

  26. The best example of code approval in seismic areas of California is the work done at CalEarth, near Hesperia. They have actually designed and helped construct an earthbag public building for the city, and the system was required to undergo extensive testing to be sanctioned by the authorities. Since then they have sold similar designs for complex dome structures that have been code approved in various other states.

    Every project is different, and every jurisdiction is different, and earthbag building is very new, so there are no guaranteed ways assure success for getting building permits…but at least there are some precedents. Probably the best advise is to have a discussion with your building authorities and find out what they require in order to approve your project, then go about assembling what you can. There are some resources provided at http://www.earthbagbuilding.com of former testing that has been done as well as profiles of various successful code-approved projects.

    Good luck…

  27. I am building a 40′ diameter half-circle house into the earth, about 7-8′ high at the highest. I would like to use earth bags or some alternative to concrete. aside from barbed wire on each course, what would I need to do to get this approved. I live in Northern CA (Mendocino County) and the house will be UBC (code). Is there anyone with experience building such a structure in earthquake country?

  28. Earth Sheltered subgrade buildings have a number of challenges that have been overcome, geology, soils, drainage, seepage, ventilation, lighting and radon. Peter Vetch has mastered this and biomorphic constructions. I still love Hobbits, although just movie sets, real earth homes can be built that way with sandbags arched along a road cut.

    Subgrade constructions always have potential for seepage and flooding problems, but above grade earthen structures have advatages of earth but few drainage, cut/fill and geology problems. Try diggin and building one above first to get feel for challenges of subgrade. Backhoes make such basements possible with less danger of caveins. Never enter earth holes above your waist that are unsupported.

    Good Old Fresno Forestiere dug like a madman for years, awesome subterranean orchards and arched passages.
    http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/forest.htm

    Sandbags into big rocks scapes are another wonderful way to build. We have yet to see sandbags integrated into real mining into either gravels or hardrock, but it is being studied, currently rock bolted chainlink gunnite is preferred. Hard Hats & MSHA Cards Required ! ;-)
    Best Wishes
    Steve

  29. There’s a picture of the rootcellar mentioned above at Kelly’s website: http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/articles/nbc03.htm

    It was never finished. Kind of a waste.

    I just finished an article on how to build an earthbag rootcellar. It’s due out this winter, but because of contractual obligations I am not at liberty to discuss the details. I’ll make a post on the project as soon as it’s published. It should meet your needs nicely, so please check back later.

    Thanks,
    Owen

  30. I once saw a very small (about ten foot diameter) earthbag dome being built below ground as a pantry/root cellar. This was mostly being done by volunteer participants at one of the Natural Building Colloquiums in New Mexico. I don’t know if it every got completed.

    I made a partially bermed pantry with earthbags that was adjacent to the house I built in Colorado, and this worked out fine. There are some pictures of this at http://greenhomebuilding.com/storeyourfood.htm . This room was partly supported by wooden poles to help hold the upper portion in place.

    When building, especially below ground, it is extremely important to take precautions about the stability of the structure. Earth is very heavy, so the stresses on such a building are enormous. More work needs to be done to assess just what can be safely done with this.

  31. I am looking for comments on domes built below grade then covered over with soil to leave only a very small tip to the sky. I have not found anyone who has done this, any leads out there? Thanks, Brian

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