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Archive for May, 2009

lasalle

Illac Diaz of the Philippines has helped mount an exhibit of earthbag building at the La Salle Museum in Costa Rica. He posted lots of photos of the construction at http://illacdiaz.multiply.com/photos.

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Owen Geiger has a new earthbag video showing how to build earthbag domes. It’s short, fun and lively, yet shows all the important steps.

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earthbags-Buffalo
Here is an interesting use of earthbags to create a self-supporting  arched entrance to a park. This was reported in  Buffalo Rising of Buffalo, NY. It is part of the Street Synergy Community Garden (which was once a dumping ground), and was created by volunteers. They say that “It’s a solid, inexpensive, creative and earth-friendly way to add a signature gateway to an already impressive park.” I hope they intend to plaster the entire thing before the bags disintegrate.

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Embedding bottles in a wall creates a really stunning effect, especially when sunlight shines through bottles of different colors.

Bottle Wall (click to enlarge)

Bottle Wall (click to enlarge)


However, many bottle walls are thin walls. Here are some suggestions for using bottles in wide earthbag walls:

– Buy a bottle cutter or rent a wet tile cutter to remove the ends. Join bottles of the same color end-to-end, tape together with duct tape and embed between courses of earthbags. The bottles need to protrude so they align with the finished plaster.
– Create a thin section of wall within the earthbag wall. This will require building an earthbag arch to transfer the loads around this section of wall. Example: create an arched opening of the desired size and shape, and infill it with bottles set in cob. This eliminates cutting of bottles… just let them protrude on the inside. (You don’t want water getting inside.)
– Machine shops have cutting machines that use hacksaw blades to slowly cut steel. But they would (should) also cut glass. Not sure of the cost, but this is an option. Look for a small shop that’s not too busy.

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottle_wall
http://maven.gtri.gatech.edu/sfi/gradcourses/goathouse/MBWall.html

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In May of 2009, Kelly Hart was interviewed for nearly an hour by Veronica Entwistle for her “Paradigm Shifters” Radio Program, at www.bbsradio.com. Veronica and the station have been kind enough to allow you the opportunity of listening to some or all of this interview directly. Either the entire program, or specific aspects of sustainable architecture and natural building can be heard as individual segments. There is an 8 minute segmant that is just about earthbag building, where Kelly describes some of the attributes of earthbag building and suggests how it relates to sustainable architecture. You can listen to all of this from this page.

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My favorite low cost, sustainable foundation method is earthbags filled with gravel on a rubble trench (double-bagged for strength). But it’s always good to have options because each project is a little different.

‘Urbancrete’ is slang for old concrete that has been torn out. Flatwork slabs such as sidewalks and driveways work best. It can be recycled and stacked like stone. Talk to some demolition companies and concrete contractors and soon you’ll have access to truckloads of urbancrete, most likely for free.

Recycled Concrete Wall Project from Mother Earth News (click to enlarge)

Recycled Concrete Wall Project from Mother Earth News (click to enlarge)

Here’s another project from Mother Earth News that provides some tips on working with urbancrete for foundations, patios and garden paths: www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/2006-12-01/Concrete-Brick-Paths-Patios.aspx?page=6

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Steve over at Utopia Springs sent me a link about a fascinating housing idea for desert areas.

Desert Submarine Interior (click to enlarge)

Desert Submarine Interior (click to enlarge)

These structures stay cool in the desert (in the 60’s) using just evaporative cooling. The galvanized metal roof is covered with burlap, and water flows down over the top. A small RV pump is adequate to keep the system going. They were popular with railroad workers and farmers starting in the 1920s, and were also used to keep milk and produce cool. The same principle was used on a four-bed ward at a local hospital.

Steve found one remaining structure at the Coachella Valley Museum, in Indio, California. He estimates a 12V-4W RV pump would cool a small room like this at a cost of about $1/sq. foot. Add a small photovoltaic panel or windmill water pump and it would be even more sustainable. Imagine combining this concept with earthbag end walls to capture and retain coolness, low cost earth floors, vines to shade end walls, etc. The possibilities are endless. Thanks for sharing, Steve!

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Earthbags have proven to be incredibly versatile. They can be used throughout your home for foundations, walls, benches, privacy walls and other uses. And let’s not forget about stairs. Think how much money you can save by using earthbags to build your stairs. And they’re sturdy, too. Here’s a picture of curved stairs.

stairs

In the house I built in Colorado I made a similar earthbag staircase to access the loft in the bedroom. It not only served this function, but also provided a giant thermal mass in the room to help maintain a comfortable temperature there. I had plastered the bags with papercrete, which turned out to be too soft to wear well with the treads, so I would recommend a more durable cement-based plaster for this. Here is a picture of that staircase.

staircase

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There is a fellow in India named Sourabh Phadke who has been uploading many videos to YouTube lately that relate to earthbag building. His general collection of videos is grouped at www.youtube.com/antiismistix.

I especially recommend viewing “How to Build an Earthbag Dome” and “Earthbagging at Aman Setu,” about building a school.

He has a number of videos showing the result of various experiments with natural plasters on the the earthbag walls that are also instructive: www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com

All of these videos, along with many others, can be viewed on our website  at www.earthbagbuilding.com/videos.htm

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We routinely ask readers to document their projects and allow us to publish them on our Projects page at EarthbagBuilding.com. This enables other readers to learn much more rapidly. It’s the old “two heads are better than one” except here we’re dealing with thousands who are working together and sharing ideas. Very powerful.

Eyebrows protect window and door openings on domes

Eyebrows protect window and door openings on domes

A perfect example is a project called Angel’s Dome in Mexico that shows a very practical and simple way of building ‘eyebrows’ – arched protective overhangs – over doors and windows on domes. Even though many domes are built in deserts, many are built in areas of higher rainfall and eyebrows offer a good, low-cost solution for protecting doors and windows from the elements. Angel’s detailed photos enable others to utilize this technique. It’s so effective that we’re planning on using the same method on an upcoming project. Thanks for sharing.

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