Natural Building Blog

Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Free Plans

Several free plans by Owen Geiger are now available:


Preview the Economizer House Plan here.
Economizer House Plan PDF

 


Solar Pit House PDF
Preview the Solar Pit House plan here.

 

 


D
esert Shelters PDF
Preview Desert Shelters by searching this phrase in the built-in search in the right hand column.

 

 

Craftsman Bamboo/Plastic Bottle House PDF 
(Honorable Mention in Shelters for All housing competition)
Preview the Craftsman plan here.

 



Root Cellar Plan

 

 

Earthbag House for Haiti
View download complete complete plans at Teach Democracy.org.

Want to see more plans? My Earthbag House Plans site has about 130 plans. Most costly only $200-$300 and can be ordered from Dream Green Homes.

47 Responses to “Free Plans”

  1. Mordechai says:

    Owen:

    I just wanted to write to you to thank you for all your efforts.

    You are a doer and a giver and you are changing the world for the better.

    God bless you.

  2. duxte.net says:

    Everyone loves it when individuals come together and share ideas.
    Great blog, stick with it!

  3. Jacob Noah-Gomez says:

    I watched one of your YouTube videos “$300 Earthbag House” and I was inspired by the beautiful style of the second home. I own ten acres in northern Arizona. I have dabbled with a rain capture and reclamation system and have been interested in a project like this for a couple of years. Where can i get instructions or more information on the second home from that video? The “Option B starter home, with additions”. I would love to tie two of them together with the verandas meeting in the middle to create a central courtyard space to create an indoor/outdoor living environment, while maintaining what appears to me to be a distinctly spanish building style. What type of flooring system is used?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Email me for details. My email address is at the top of the page under About Us.

      You can use any floor you want. Earthen floors are the lowest cost. The earthen floors in Taos Pueblo have lasted over 600 years, and have started gaining popularity among the rich in Santa Fe, etc. due to their unique look and slightly springy feel. They look almost like leather. For your climate, add a moisture barrier and 12″ of scoria underneath for insulation.

  4. Hugo Cosyns says:

    Dear Owen,
    soon i start to build a house whit long earth bags in Thailand,
    we not have any clay here only sandy earth , is it a good idea to mix the sand whit cement only and how much%
    Greets
    hugo

    • Owen Geiger says:

      You’ll want to make some test earthbags to see what works best. You could start with around 5% and gradually add more to each test bag. 10% cement would make very strong earthbags. Allow to dry, cut the bags open and do some simple strength tests.

  5. LandTrees says:

    Thank you for sharing Owen! Great designs and well documented. I think in your selection documented here there is something for everyone interested in sustainable buildings.
    Thank you again!
    Walter
    LandTrees

  6. Julia says:

    I have been reading up on earthbag buildings and find it very fascinating. I live in Nigeria and with the increased incidence of flood and extreme heat, I would love to build my home with earth bags. Where can I find an expert in Nigeria/west Africa? Owen, can you travel?

  7. susan says:

    Hi. I took a team in 2009 to Kenya. We built phase 1 of a multipurpose building. I’m leading another team in June 2013 and am seeking volunteers who have a passion for sustainable building. The multipurpose building is for a Maasai tribe for a church/school/clinic. We had planned to use compressed earth blocks and in 2009 I took two presses there for this purpose. If anyone is interested in volunteering please contact us. I just found your site, and while I tried to read everything, just did not have the time to read all comments. I hope that this comment is keeping with the spirit of your website. Departure from Charlotte NC June 4. 2 weeks–$2,500.00 per person. Includes room, meals, airfare, ground transportation while in Kenya.$3500.00 for 4 weeks, $4500.00 for six weeks. We do not “profit” off of these trips. This is the actual cost of the airfare, meals, transportation, and room. Again, we are seeking volunteers who will help to build a multipurpose building using sustainable materials and methods in the Serengeti for a Maasai tribe.

  8. thomas holmes says:

    Presently my wife and I are living , by choice, in a tent in national forest and state park camp grounds while we hunt for property. We will remain in a tent until properly is bought and during the time it takes to build. When ever I can get online I am researching off grid living and natural living. I am so excited to have found this site. Our goal is to purchase a small piece of land where we can build a modest earth home and have a farm to provide organic foods for ourselves and to donate to families in need. Presently my wife and I use recyclable items to turn into jewelry and wine bottle incense holders to raise the funds needed to buy property. To be hands on with building our home from the earth is worth every struggle.

  9. alberto says:

    Great to learn that one can use earth filled bags, I have a country plot near the Victoria falls, Zambia. I hope the council can authorise a small lodge for back packers.
    I will sure be buying the books from you
    Al.

    • Neville says:

      Hi Alberto, take a look at http://www.house-of-sand.com – Sandbag building with frames etc….very cost effective and you can be trained to complete the whole process with a small community based team. Some some exciting things are happening in Botswana using this system – a lodge has just been completed in Kasane (northern Botswana) the owners are thrilled and are doing a second using this system. I am happy to provide you with more information.
      Neville

  10. Lillian Hoffman says:

    Hello.

    I am just hearing about the earthbag homes and would like to know if the English Cottage would be approriate for the Sapulpa, Oklahoma area? Also,is there a very inexpensive roofing I could use? That seems to be the most costly material that will be used and the cost needs to be as low as possible.

    Thank you,
    Lillian Hoffman

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Yes, that design would be great. The standard roof in the US uses manufactured wood trusses. Look these companies up in the yellow pages. They’ll give you a free quote and design everything in a few minutes with their software. This method will meet code. Trusses are fast and easy to set. Maybe hire one carpenter to help make sure you do it right.

  11. Fatima says:

    Hi Owen, I’m really glad to see your blog. I’m interested to know more about Bottle houses, I’ve downloaded and read the Free Plan you’ve on the site. Actually, since 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan (I hope you must have an idea), we’ve been proposed many structures and using many as well. I’ve seen bottle houses built in Latin America and Africa over th internet but I need to know if the same is possible in mixed climate of Pakistan? Here in hilly areas, its cold, in plains its modest and we’ve desert too. I wanted to start up a project in an informal settlement in city, but need to know more about it. As i discussed wtih many civil engineers here in Pakistan, they either fail to understand my point of view or just give up saying its not sustainable. can you please give me answers that can satisfy those engineers secondly, how to satisfy the building control authority on the same things.

    Waiting for reply,

    best regards,
    Fatima

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Bottle houses would tend to break apart in earthquakes. Far better to build with earthbags and/or straw bales. There are strawbale and earthbag projects in Pakistan that you can learn from (free info online).

      • Fatima says:

        Dear Owen, thanks for the reply. Well, earthbags houses are built in areas affected by earthquake. I’ve seen the reports and read the articles about it. I’m interested in bottles house sustainability in climate of Islamabad in an informal settlement of IDPs / Afghan Refugees. Please note that this is informal and temporary settlement. We are a Voluntary organization, run by students. we have been working there for Education. Now if we need to build a small school there, we can’t afford any formal, traditional building because its too expensive. However, availability of Bottles and Mud is very easy. I’m still willing to see that happening in Pakistan. It will help us providing educational and health facilities in such areas….

        • Owen Geiger says:

          Bottle walls could work. But make sure you create an accurate budget for the entire structure. The roof is often the most expensive, difficult part. And the walls will likely need posts. You’ll want some professional help since it’s a public building.

          • Fatima says:

            Thank you very much for such a prompt response Owen. Yes, I totally agree for a professional help required. But, as a matter of fact, the builders/contractors here don’t know about Bottle House/Walls. we need to discuss it professionally with them. Its like, we have to bring something new and need to show them. so far, only one civil engineer liked to work on the idea…so, we would be highly grateful if you can help us in this regard. plz.

          • Owen Geiger says:

            Can you get used sand bags or rice bags? It will be way easier to build something stronger with earthbags.

            If you definitely want to use bottles, do you have money and material for post and beam and the roof?

          • Fatima says:

            Yes, actually the roofs are “Ready made roofs” and the booth can be built with bricks. But, it would be even more feasible if we can use used plastic tires with Mud to build the booth. the Ready made roofs are widely used in Pakistan.

          • Owen Geiger says:

            It sounds like you’re describing pre-cast concrete flat roofs. That will work.

            What are booths? And when you say plastic tires, do you mean rubber car tires? How do plan to use tires?

    • Neville says:

      Hi Fatima
      Take a look at http://www.house-of-sand.com – A very sustainable and easy to build system that is good for earthquake prone areas. (Tests were done in California) Great for a community based project as the system can easily be taught and is very cost effective. Engineering, Structural, Water penetration and fire tests have been done and the system performs extremely well. Engineering reports are also available. Let me know if you need more info – it will be a pleasure to assist you.
      Neville

  12. Beth says:

    I love the hobbit houses, they always seem to call out “welcome! Come on in!” Although all of the various shelters/homes built are so wonderful! (Especially the recycled product ones! Thank you so much for all you do. I hope someday I can learn how to build with the materials that are available in MN, and have a year-around tiny home. One is never to old to learn if they believe strong enough, right? That is what I am counting on!

    • Owen Geiger says:

      The easiest, fastest way to build in cold climates is strawbale construction. See the book Serious Straw Bale that focuses on building in cold climates: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/serious_straw_bale/ Anybody can do this! We stacked the bales for a Habitat for Humanity house in less than one day. Post and beam is good if you have codes. Wrap the bales around the outside of the posts. Use gravel bags for the foundation with insulation if you don’t have codes (see “frost protected foundation guide on the Internet”). Pay a carpenter to set the trusses and sheath the roof in one day. Pay a carpenter if need be to add the metal roofing on day two. And then you can finish everything at your leisure.

  13. Meghsha says:

    Dear sir/mam
    i’m inspired from your site and its content..and thinking to start out a small farm house for a holiday. could you please let me know:
    1. how do you deal with roofing?
    2. how many year dose sand bag or earth bag house last for?
    thank you very much for the great valuable idea.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      You can use most any roof you want.

      Earthbag construction is similar to rammed earth, which can last thousands of years if properly built. Search our blog for the keywords: ancient rammed earth or something similar.

  14. Chi says:

    Is there hope for folks wanting to build earth-bag house in the Pacific NorthWest?
    I know about filling bags with pumice instead of dirt, but, what about making a plaster stucco that survives freeze/thaw cycles without spalling?

  15. Andy says:

    Hi,

    We are building a sand bag home (solar pit style) – but the only land we can use is very sandy with a water table that reaches the surface in very wet years.

    There is only so much sand about to raise berms around the house if we build in the surface without creating ponds in the wet season because of lowering the ground level where we colect our building sand.

    We have thought about digging out an area bigger than the house and lining it with heavy duty plastic, filling in about 3 feet of sand one the floor and sides and putting in a second plastic lining to give a 3 foot dry insulation to stop any cold being passed through into the house when the water table rises.

    The idea is we still can then have a partially submerged dwelling to keep the temperature even throughout the year – do you have any ideas if this will work (assuming the insulation layer remains dry?

    Also we thought about a sealed ‘holding’ tank for the black water that gets pumped up to ground level for the french drain system so as to avoid back-filling in those rare high water years.

    Again, we’d welcome any suggestions – even if only to say “don’t go down, stay on the surface and build berms”.

    Many thanks

    Andy

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Definitely stay on the surface and raise the building site with something like road base if possible. Water is the #1 enemy of buildings. Berms can be 30″ high. You don’t need to berm the entire structure. Do something similar with the blackwater tank except put it about 2/3 of the way in the ground and berm around it.

      Earthbag fill: Mix some clay to stabilize the sand and make hard earthbags.

    • Chi says:

      Definitely build ABOVE GRADE!
      Otherwise, you risk building a swimming pool, no matter how much plastic and layers of same are used!
      [It would go thru lots of sump-pumps.]
      Build above ground, and perhaps bring in pumice or dirt to berm that building.
      You might ALSO want to RAISE FLOOR LEVEL above grade, to avoid wet feet in wet years.
      Cold, wet feet are unpleasant and destructive of personal belongings!
      IF one has a site that might flood, it is prudent to go above grade as many feet as generously needed to endure a 500-year flood cycle.

  16. Jim Heifner says:

    Owen,

    I have purchased my bags and want to build an underground or partially underground shelter in Missouri, however I am at a loss as how I should seal the structure; any ideas?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Use 2-3 layers of 6 mil plastic sheeting (“black poly”). Build on high ground and add a French drain if possible.

  17. Yogi Amitram says:

    Dear friend another part pf the world,
    You seems doing a great job
    I am a Yogi From India, Himalaya
    I am planning to build a eco friendly ashram in the Himalaya, we have lots of stone there but not enough sand so what you would like to suggest us.This is some information about our place. Thank you so much….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHHj74WQdT8
    Yogi Amitram

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Do you have clayey soil or at least soil with a little clay? That’s the best type of soil for earthbag building. Start with a rubble trench foundation. Add barbed wire between courses of bags, plaster mesh tied together on both sides of the wall, and a reinforced concrete bond beam and lightweight roof and you’ll have a very earthquake resistant structure. Round structures are very strong. Rebar pins down through the bags on each side of windows and doors adds additional strength. Our websites have lots more info on earthquake resistant structures. Use the built-in search engines.

  18. J. Hofhuis says:

    Hi Owen,

    We want to help our Philippine in-laws by building a house for them. They own a small very uncomfortable house in Las Pinas. But they at least own the lot it is built on. We want to build a 2 stored house with working space downstairs and living space upstairs. The reason we want to have 2 floors is a space matter. Is it possible to obtain information on what the best technique is to built something there (it’s in between existing houses) and maybe know an engineer or craftsman from the Philippines who could assist us in getting the right picture for our project?

    thanks in advance,
    Jos

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Two-story structures are more difficult than one-story. Even more so with earthbag because lots of heavy soil would have to be moved high on the way. So one-story structures are more efficient. Also, one-story buildings are more earthquake resistant. If you need to build higher, I suggest lightweight materials on the 2nd story such as wood or bamboo framing and metal roof.

  19. Dapang says:

    Great ideas for inexpensive living spaces. Never knew you could build a comfortable home for little. This site goes right with my survival site, can show people how to erect a home in the middle of nowhere. Thank you

  20. Gail -- Infinite Possibilities says:

    Hi Owen, THANK You for these designs which can help so many souls build homes and communities with imagination, ingenuity and heart.

    Just a small, yet important detail. In the pit house design pdf, additional notes section, your email is the old address which was hacked. Could you please post for us the new address?

    Many blessings,
    Gail

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Thanks, Gail. I’m still using the same email: strawhouses [at] yahoo.com Yahoo makes it harder all the time to access it, but it’s still working and so I’ll keep using it as long as possible.

  21. narf7 says:

    Awesome resource and one that I will be passing on to my house hunting son. Cheers!

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