Passive solar earthbag house design in Washington state

Passive solar earthbag house design in Washington state

I really like to see blogs that document owner-builder home building projects. People often come up with new and interesting ideas. This particular project is a merger of earthship and earthbag concepts.

“The House
to my knowledge this house will be the first legally permitted earthbag house in washington state.

wait, why do i want to build a wierd dirt house?

two main reasons: earthbag buildings are 1. incredibly strong and 2. incredibly affordable to build.

earthbag construction is similar to that of the adobe buildings you see in the southwest desert, originally pioneered by the native americans who occupied that region. just as in the adobe method earthbag uses a clay rich mixture of dirt and water to fill woven sand bags. the full bags are laid like bricks to build the wall with layers of barbwire placed between the layers to bind one section to the other. when the dirt mixture in the bags have dried and cured the whole structure is insulated if needed then covered in a stucco or lime plaster.

the final product is an incredibly strong structure able to withstand high degrees of stress under compression and sheering torque. in other words its bomb proof. the internet is rich with anecdotes of firing high powered weapons into earthbag walls and driving cars into them but what i was most impressed with was their performance in earthquake testing. with the exception of some types of masonry construction, nothing else comes close.

materials necessary to build the shell of the house (walls and the roof) will come out to be a few grand at most. in relative terms that is ridiculously cheap and a good portion of that is to cover extra materials prescribed by the universal building code. added materials such as lengths of re-bar placed vertically through the bags are redundancies, not integral to the strength or performance of the structure but needed so the permit office can see familiar design features which conform to the building code. im tempted here to rant about how the building code is written by the major development firms and material suppliers to keep their exclusive contracts safe from the threat of superior building methods but that is also for another time.”

Read more at the source: Modern Natural Blog


Modern Natural Blog — 13 Comments

  1. Seriously considering building an earth bag home in the San Joaquin Valley area. Plan to make a sample by beginning with a wall up north here at our main residence. My husband tells me, “we were talking about alternative housing for years, but where are all the houses? There is one earth-berm and one straw bale home here in Modoc County that we know about.” So, how do I find some samples of these houses on the west coast to look at or point to in order to satisfy his legitimate question? And YES, I know that about 90 miles away in Klamath Falls is an engineering company that I would use for the “engineered plans” that Merced County said it would need for a house build. How can I find samples?

    • Most people want to remain anonymous so hordes of people don’t show up at their doorstep. Maybe Structure1 can give you some names and addresses. Also, you can search our site and find some public projects such as Joshua Tree and United Earth Builders.

  2. I live currently in a cement brick house; and it is painted in bone color that is a light color and still in the evening it gets hot from the thermal heat.. It feel like a oven at night and a cooler in the morning. But the earthbag witg no insulation and not painted is probably double the thermal mass. I even filled some sacks with a cement and sand mixture and plastered it with cement. I will try to grow bushes around the wall to create shade and paint it. But the other part of the house i want it to be very cool . I have it northfacing with the southside like 4-5 feet underground from a cut into a hill. Can breaking up styrofoam board in scratch plaster and into the mix or use rice hulls in the earthbag filling and styrofoam in the plaster. Im going to use the same design above and make a overhang to the front and make a long balcony.

    Thanks for your help !

    • Yes, you can mix recycled styrofoam (ex: ground foam packaging ‘peanuts’) or perlite in the plaster. Our blog discusses dozens of options. You have to adjust/modify the design to your climate. You can even use thick earth walls to create a cool pantry (search that phrase).

  3. Okay i builded a room and half started a small house out of earthbags but the room gets very hot because of no insulation .. How can i insulate the house from very hot weather in the dominican republic ? I know using rice hulls in the mix but i need it to be very insulated

    • The overheating is due to a number of design problems: lack of cross ventilation (large windows, preferably casement windows that catch the breezes), insufficient roof overhang so sun hits the walls, insufficient roof ventilation (sloped ceilings with roof vents is best), dark colored roof (white is best), insufficient roof insulation, no plantings, etc.

      I have two lengthy blog posts that explain low cost, low tech options that will help you. Search Passive Cooling Strategies for dozens of techniques you can use. Use a major search engine if the site search engine is too slow for you.

  4. Speaking of Scott Howard of Earthen Hand.

    (Read the Modern Natural blog site, and you’ll discover that we have been at least partially discussing him indirectly. Sort of. In a way. Kinda. Well… almost.)

  5. thanks so much for the support owen!
    i will keep you updated on the progress, look for more plugs in future blogs ;) even though we didnt get to work together this time around the project still wouldnt have gotten this far without the work you have done to elevate awarness for earthbag methods.

    be well.

  6. “im tempted here to rant about how the building code is written by the major development firms and material suppliers to keep their exclusive contracts safe from the threat of superior building methods but that is also for another time.”

    When I read that last sentence I wanted to jump out of my chair and give a standing ovation!!





    Looks like a great blog site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.