Earthbag building: The greatest advantage is that it is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to construct a green home which with some hard work can be done by the homeowner.

Earthbag building: The greatest advantage is that it is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to construct a green home which with some hard work can be done by the homeowner.


“Earthbag construction is a type of rammed earth construction where durable bags, usually polypropylene or burlap, are filled with local earth or other materials, laid in courses and tamped down into place to form walls. The greatest advantage is that it is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to construct a green home which with some hard work can be done by the homeowner.

Other advantages of earthbag homes are that the walls are so substantial that they are severe weather and natural disaster resistant including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and even bullets. Architect Nader Khalili under supervision of the International Conference of Building Officials tested earthbag structures simulating seismic, wind and snow loads, and the tests surpassed the rigorous 1991 Uniform Building Code requirements by 200 percent. Earthbags use local natural materials so are non-toxic and do not offgas fumes or use tremendous amounts of energy transporting building materials. They do not burn or attract vermin. They provide great thermal mass for solar energy when filled with soil, or great insulation when filled with light weight materials like perlite, vermiculite, rice hulls, or crushed volcanic rock, or even gravel for non-wicking foundations. The bags can be stacked in unusual shapes and do not require cutting down forests or using steel for structure. The bags do need to be covered with some material, usually plaster, to protect them from ultraviolet rays and water breakdown.

Earthbag homes can be built easily in remote areas where skilled construction labor may not be available since almost anyone with some simple instruction can help. They last forever and are recyclable back to the earth when no longer wanted. Currently you will see them mostly in the west in states like Arizona or New Mexico, but they can be built anywhere. Because the dirt can be free, a small earthbag home can cost as little as $1,000.”

Read more at the source: Examiner.com


Comments

Earthbag homes–easiest and cheapest green build — 28 Comments

  1. Actually, Cyndi may want to contact Structure1.com or another engineering firm that has experience with the type of construction Cyndi has chosen.

    Unless I misunderstand, building in Las Vegas is going to require a bulding plan that has been stamped by an engineer before it will be approved by Vegas building inspectors.

    • Yes, but the first step is to contact her local building officials and get a feel for how open they are to alternative building methods.

  2. I live in Las Vegas and want to buy a small piece of property andbuild an earthbag house. I was wondering how to find out if I am allowed to do it here. Do you happen to know whom I should contact?
    Thanks bunches!

    • Look up Regional Building Authorities in the government section of your phone book or call information or the government services switchboard. Sometimes they go by different names.

  3. I live near CalEarth and had the chance to go there once. Where do the bags come from? Can anyone purchase them or do you have to have a business? I never thought to ask them about this but am curious.

    • Anyone can buy them. Shop online first because there are many suppliers. The main expense now is shipping, so search for suppliers near you.

  4. Welcome new readers. We had a big surge in traffic today. You can find almost everything you need to know about earthbag building for free here on this blog. Use the built-in search engine on the right or browse by topic. Feel free to ask questions.

  5. I think it should be mentioned, the earthbag structures that were tested at Cal Earth were stabilized with up to 10% cement. The cement content is high enough that the compressed earth doesn’t need the bag after it sets up. There were structures there when I visited, where the bags had completely weathered away, but the earth was still holding up.

  6. I really like that concept, but here in Spain is impossible to get that aprooved by the townhall, they dont issue a building permit for this kind of houses… :-(

  7. on my album in face book, building little domes, we are adding long mesh bags as you have suggested; most of this little dome, about 10ft, diameter, under permit here in INyo County, Ca. is made of single bags, found through Iliona OUtram, Nader’s wife, worked with him his last 10 years. we think of you often and thank you for the mesh bag idea; we also appreciate your dvd, we are in a small desert communty, 50 miles west of Las Vegas. a couple who live there, also builders; enthusiastic , we may pop up a lot of little bag buildings!
    jehane

    • Sounds good. Please keep us posted of new ideas and interesting stories.

      Search our blog for hyberadobe. This is a type of earthbag building that uses long mesh tubes made of raschel mesh.

  8. The title of this blog post claims that earthbags are easiest.

    The text of this blog post claims that it is “one of the easiest.”

    I agree with the latter.

    What is easiest for each individual builder can be different depending upon local resources, and the skills of the builder.

    Perhaps the builder is an experienced logger and has his own sawmill?
    Log cabin or timberframe may be easier for him/her than anything else.

    Perhaps the builder lives in the heart of grain growing country?
    Strawbale may be easier for them.

    Perhaps the builder has masonry experience and their own or access to a CEB press?
    CEBs might be easiest in that situation.

    Earthbag clearly is one of the options for people to choose from. Whether or not it is easiest depends on local conditions and the builder’s skills/experience. The easiest building technique is the one that takes maximum advantage of the materials, skills, and resources available at or closest to the building site in a responsible manner.

    • I agree. That’s the title of the newspaper article. I don’t like the word “easy” when it comes to building houses. Building something substantial takes a lot of time and work. Sometimes I use the words “easier than” to show how something compares to something else.

  9. I prefer to build angled window and door bucks. They let more light in, expand the views, provide more space in doorways and look more elegant and graceful than squared bucks.

  10. Owen,

    Did you ever get any follow information on the Eternally Solar building system? I am particularly thinking of filling the center compartment with rice hull for insulation from the heat and the two other with caliche for load bearing, here in the tropics. The last i followed was that further testing should be done when it came to insulating in this manner.

    • You missed a blog post or two. Search Eternally Solar on this blog and you can read exactly how they build their walls. In short, the center portion is filled with concrete. This creates a rib between courses that stiffens the walls. You can’t just fill the center area with loose insulation. But you could probably get by with foamed concrete, pumicecrete, etc. http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/foamed-lightweight-concrete/

      Amazing, they were kind enough to describe things in detail and allow anyone to build their own home this way. Professional builders: contact Eternally Solar for details about building commercially.

  11. Hey Owen! When are you going to do (or, have you done?) a plan of a 2 story corbel with an upstairs wrap around balcony, covered with a roof, for rainy climates? We’ve drawn up one, 20-24′ with apex’s, plus outdoor storage in between the apex’s for propane, solar batteries, etc. I’d love to see your plans though, with suggestions on how to go about building it. Rain & earthquake resistant both is my goal. I’m just not experienced enough to pull it together in a solid finish.

    • Are you talking about a corbelled dome or corbelled vault? Domes are way stronger than vaults in earthquake zones.

      • The Corbelled Dome. :) haha, I had no idea one could do a corbelled vault with a wraparound balcony… hmmmm, how about both! :)

        • Yes, a dome with a roof and wrap-around balcony would be a very interesting design. I’m too busy on other projects now to start more.

          • That’s understandable. We’ve attempted clay models, but it’s difficult to achieve exact scale. I’ll be here playing with my clay for a long time. No hurry. :)

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