Strawbale houses were first built shortly after the invention of the baling machine.  Settlers in western Nebraska who had access to this machine were quick to realize the potential of large, insulated building blocks.  And the rest of the story, as they say, is history.  This same potential now exists for earthbag building.

Ensor Equipment automated bag filling machine.

Ensor Equipment automated bag filling machine.

The benefits of building with bags are described in detail throughout this website.  But earthbag building does have a downside – filling, moving and tamping the bags is labor intensive.  The labor can be reduced somewhat by using lightweight volcanic gravel, but it’s still a lot of work.

This could change with the invention of the automated bag filling machine.  Originally designed for flood control projects, the Ensor Equipment bag filling machine has enormous potential for changing the future of earthbag building, especially large scale projects such as housing developments, warehouses, factories, shops, schools and other civic structures.

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Comments

Automated Bag Filling Machine — 4 Comments

  1. Glad to see these machines are available in the US! I have two questions:
    They prefer 12″ wide sandbags. Since these make narrower walls that have less innate lateral stability, how does this influence building design? Are these only practical with stabilized soil and cement mixes? Would they need buttressing (or intersecting walls, etc.) placed closer together than with wider bags?
    They can fill with a clay mix as long as it is dry. I think it was Kaki Hunter’s book Earthbag Building that mentions how much stronger the wetter clay mix bags became. Vibration of wet earth material (tamping) creates a stronger bag. My question is whether pre-filled dry bags can be easily wetted enough to create this stronger earthbag construction. I hope you wouldn’t have to soak them to get enough moisture into the center.
    Personally, I’d rather see more unstabilized earth walls being put up, but any step towards reducing cement use will be a plus, and even stabilized earthbags use a lot less cement than cmus or poured concrete.

    • You can use other sizes of bags as mentioned in the article. Or you can stack bags 90 degrees to each other like adobes. Alternate each course. I wouldn’t stabilize the fill material unless you’re building a dome in a rainy climate, earthquake zone, flood zone, etc. or vertical walls in an earthquake zone or flood zone. Use standard buttressing. The fill material should be moist (not dry, not wet). This will take some experimenting. Tamp the bags as usual. No need to wet them down once stacked. It would be great if Ensor Equipment did some experiments and posted their results.

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