“Earthbag construction technology is old wine in a new bottle as rammed earth method of construction is an ancient method, according to the experts in the method, Owen Geiger and Kateryna Zemskova of Good Earth Nepal. They feel that the cost-effective method will be ideal for constructing toilets under the Central government’s Swachh Bharat scheme.
How is earthbag construction cost-effective?
Earthbag construction method uses inorganic materials, mostly soil. Ideally, soil with a slight clay property is packed in polypropylene sacks. Using these bags, the structure is constructed and reinforced with barbed wire or twains. Once plastered, the structure can stay for more than 100 years as the sacks can withstand UV radiation from the sun. (Cover with plaster to protect from sunlight.)
How safe are earthbag constructed structures in case of earthquakes?
Among the few structures that withstood last year’s earthquake in Nepal, 55 buildings were constructed using earthbag construction method. They don’t crumble like concrete structures during earthquakes. Even during a strong earthquake, they collapse sliding with minimal damage.
What is the role of Good Earth Nepal?
Good Earth Nepal is an organisation working to construct environmental-friendly structures in Nepal post-earthquake. Local people are trained to construct earthbag structures since it requires minimal masonry skills. One trained supervisor could guide the workers to raise a structure. Around 11 earthbag structures have been constructed in Nepal by the organisation so far while more than 100 such structures have been constructed by various NGOs.
Is it possible to construct multi-storeyed buildings using earthbags?
A: At least two storey buildings could be constructed. Worldwide, many schools and halls have been constructed using earthbags. They are best suited at regions where rainfall is less. At seismic regions, it is advisable to construct earthbag structures without [upper] floors.
How is earthbag structures suitable for Swachh Bharat?
Earthbag construction is a low-cost method of constructing structures without spending much on construction materials like cement and mortar. This would enable even poor people to construct toilets under the Swachh Bharat scheme. We have a model earthbag structure at Anna University of Technology campus in Madurai and are currently training students in the construction method.
Have you approached government agencies with a proposal to construct Swachh Bharat toilets using earthbags?
We are yet to conduct detailed talks with government agencies. We will be contacting them soon. Once approved, we are ready to work across the country for the scheme.”
Times of India
The Times of India is the #1 newspaper in India so this is a big story. Since the publication of this story we have gained gov approval for earthbag building and have had meetings about building Swachh Bharat toilets. Kateryna and I also made presentations at Anna University at the recent international conference on innovative construction techniques. We’ve been in the paper or on TV almost every day for a week. A big half hour news story is due out from Channel 7 Tamil today. So over all the response here has been incredibly favorable.