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Archive for February, 2009

Perhaps you’re getting ready to build your earthbag house and would like an extra hand (or 5-6!).  At the same time, there are quite a few people looking for hands-on learning opportunities.  Communities have utilized barn raisings and similar events for many years.  Now it’s easy to promote your project and get the help you need using workshop calendars and bulletin boards on the Internet.  You simply post your announcement and people all over the world can learn about your project.

Here are the most popular sites for earthbag and natural building:
www.earthbagbuilding.com/bulletin.htm

www.naturalbuildingnetwork.org/calendar.htm

http://naturalhomes.org/learning-earthbag.htm

www.thelaststraw.org/calendar.html

www.greenhomebuilding.com/news_miscellany.htm

http://www.greenbuilder.com/calendar
(Note: This site is particularly useful, although there are occasional technical problems accessing the site.  Try entering the site from Google.  Do a search for sustainable building calendar.)

Also, do a Google search to locate regional groups such as Natural Builders Northeast: www.nbne.org/calendar.php.

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mongolia15There is a roving monk (with the unpronounceable name of Krpasundarananda) who travels the globe helping people build earthbag domes.  He is a Meditation teacher with Ananda Marga and has been a Monk since 1991.

Ananda Marga is a world-wide organization with spiritual and social activity centers on all continents. The mission runs schools, medical units, children’s homes, rural development projects and meditation and yoga centers, and is a leading global agency for social development and progress with a particular emphasis in the third world. They have over 1500 teachers worldwide.

Though his main job is to teach meditation and help people to realize their spiritual goals, in many cases people don’t have the minimum necessities of life, so social service has become part of his mission.  As his background is engineering and he always had an interest in construction and alternative energy, he got involved with alternative building through an article someone forwarded him about Nader Khalili, and he subsequently was trained at CalEarth in their methods of earthbag works.

ananda42

Our Monk has made some of his experiences, both in building and in living in all of these diverse cultures, available to the public through a series of personal “Newsletters” that he published online. I have gone through his Newsletters and assembled project pages that feature seven of his most significant earthbag works. You can follow these links to explore each project:

Ananda Nagar, India
Mongolia
Durban, South Africa
Thailand
New Zealand
Morelia, Mexico
Pakistan

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Are you new to earthbag building and wondering how to get started? Here’s a list of helpful features we’ve put together on our EarthbagBuilding.com website:

Slide Show: This is the largest collection of earthbag photos available on the Internet. Photo captions provide key facts for follow-up research.
Earthbag Videos: All the best videos are assembled on one convenient page.
Projects pages: Browse through dozens of the best earthbag projects to glean helpful ideas. There is nothing else like it on the Net. It really helps to see and read what others have done.
How to Build a Small Earthbag Dome: With clear photos and easy to understand text, Kelly Hart shows how he built his small dome.
Step-by-Step Earthbag Building: A brief, illustrated guide showing each step of construction.
Ask the Expert FAQs: Kelly Hart continues to maintain the largest and most comprehensive FAQ on earthbag building. It almost the size of a small book, and it’s free.
Articles pages: When you’re ready for serious research, this is the place to go.
Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques, by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer, 2004. This is still the best book on the subject and considered vital reading for earthbag builders.

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The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is documented as being the poorest place in this country. People freeze to death each year from hypothermia, starve to death and Pine Ridge is documented as having the shortest life expectancy rate for any community anywhere in the western hemisphere next to Haiti.

A group calling themselves Nature’s Compassion collaborated to organize a trip for seven Lakota people to drive across the country from South Dakota to Hesperia, California, where they all took a training course at Cal-Earth. They learned how to build eco-domes using earthbags, barbed wire, the earth under their feet, their hearts and of course their hands. Cal-Earth committed to come share their building expertise with them on the reservation this spring, when they will launch the first sustainable living project on the land of the American Horse Family.

Sixty percent of the homes on the reservation need to be destroyed because of being infested with black mold which is killing people. Learning how to build homes made of the earth is a way to not only combat this condition, but also to be in harmony with nature. It is also very practical and inexpensive and anyone can do it. When earth domes are made, it is a community effort which is totally in tune with the indigenous way.

They also want to buy solar panels and a wind turbine and plant fruit trees.  This hands on training and education will empower at least one family to live independently. Hopefully, this will in turn inspire others on the reservation.

They are seeking anyone who has a heart to contribute to this mission in any way, including:

  • People with expertise in fund raising.
  • One-time and on-going donors.
  • Volunteers

Their goal is to raise $25,000 to pay for the entire project, including an earth dome, solar panels, and a wind turbine. If you would like to make an on line donation, they would be very grateful. For more information contact them at 641-233-8255 or naturescompassionATgmail.com

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A gusseted bag has a seam that eliminates bulging, protruding corners. Gusseted bags create neat, squared bag ends. Although not required for earthbag building, they can reduce plastering work somewhat by creating flatter wall surfaces. Unfortunately, they’re not readily available in our area, so I just smack any protruding corners with a hammer or stitch them back out of the way with a 6d common nail.

Gusseted bag.

Gusseted bag.

If gusseted bags are available where you live, give them a try and let us know what you think.

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We have a new webpage on the Project in Belize.

belize44

It’s primarily a photo essay, but the photos are of such good quality that they pretty much explain the process. Thanks for the excellent photos Brendon!

Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer, the authors of Earthbag Building are present, and their trademark methods are employed. I like their idea of working under a tarp to beat the heat and protect the walls until they’re finished.

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One possible use of earthbags I haven’t seen so far is using bags of vermiculite, perlite, scoria or pumice for insulating yurts, tents and other dwellings.  Kelly Hart used scoria-filled bags on his domes, and we’ve discussed ceiling insulation previously, but I’m talking about stacking (free standing) bags inside of a structure for wall insulation.

Rice hulls could be used as fill material, but they’re not as ideal as the other options above.  For instance, rodents could chew through a bag searching for small pieces of rice.  Straw bales could be used, but they are somewhat vulnerable to fire and water damage when left exposed.  Plastering the walls would prevent these problems, but I’m exploring ways to stack bags of insulation without having to plaster.

Not having to plaster the walls would save lots of time and effort.  This would be ideal for a temporary structure – for example, living in a yurt through winter while the main house is being built, or living in a tent in a desert.  This system would make it easy to pack things up and move with a minimum of effort.  And, the insulation could be reused elsewhere – possibly in your permanent home.

Note: Bags of insulation do take up quite a bit of space, however, in a very cold or hot climate this plan may be beneficial.

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I think it’s time for a poll. Let us know your favorite building shape.

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sheets5

An Australian couple have been chronicling the development of their homestead, which includes building a strawbale house and an innovative approach to creating raised garden beds. They have resorted to sewing up strips of old sheets to make long bags, which they then fill with stabilized soil to create the beds. Once cured, the beds were coated with a pigmented cement “paint.” You can read all about it at earthbagbuilding.com.

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A growing number of people are disillusioned with conventional housing made of 2x4s and sheetrock (the way most homes in North America are built). These homes are filled with materials such as particleboard, plywood, plastic, linoleum, and synthetic carpet and paint that contain known carcinogens and allergens. These man-made materials offgas toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and often continue to do so for many years. Occupants of these homes frequently acquire ‘sick house syndrome’ from breathing these noxious fumes.

Photo courtesy of Ted Owens of BuildingWithAwareness.com

Photo courtesy of Ted Owens of BuildingWithAwareness.com

But many are beginning to see through the charade. Why work a lifetime for an impersonal, mass-produced commodity that endangers lives and the environment, and does not reflect their ethos?

The best way to learn about natural building may be to see finished homes and hear them described by their builders. Thanks to the power of the Internet, these homes are now just a click away.

Without further ado, let’s take the natural building tour: (8 featured homes)

Ted Owens’ strawbale solar home in Corrales, New Mexico: Author/publisher Building With Awareness – The Construction of a Hybrid Home, recipient of three Telly Awards for excellence, Ted Owens masterfully blends straw bales and adobes in this southwestern style home.

To read the entire article, go to GoArticles.com

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