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Archive for October, 2010

Reader’s have asked for our YouTube videos on DVD. Even though they’re free on my YouTube channel, some people have slow Internet access and can’t watch them. Some may prefer to watch them on TV. So we’re now offering a limited number of DVDs that include all 61 videos (as of October 30, 2010) and a text file (NotePad format) with all the text. The text is provided so you can easily print and read everything, and/or translate into other languages. Again, everything on the DVD is already available for free on my YouTube channel. This is a special offer for up to 20 readers who really want/need the information on DVD. Note: Sorry, but it’s impractical to sell more than 20 at this time. If there’s a big demand, I’ll look into selling a downloadable version.

Ordering instructions: Be patient. Your order may take three weeks or so. The nearest bank is about 60 miles away and we go only every two weeks. If you’re still interested, the cost is $15, limit one per customer. First come, first serve. Email me at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com. Please put Earthbag DVD in the subject line of your email. If you’re selected as one of the lucky ones, I’ll email you my mailing address in Colorado, where you can send a check for $15 made payable to Owen Geiger. The cost includes postage and handling.

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Earthbag Shed in Belize

Earthbag Shed in Belize

This fine project is by Jesse Loving in Bullet Tree Falls, Belize. The content below is from his Picasa photo album. He has lots of great photos. Take a look. Or see the project page we created about it.

 

In planning to build an earthbag house in Belize, Central America, I decided to first build a smaller structure so that I could teach myself the process, learn from my mistakes so as to avoid making such mistakes when applying the technique to a large living space and, finally, so that I would have a place to store all the tools and equipment I would need onsite to actually build a mud house.

By mass, this building is 99.9% biodegradable. With its principle components being clay, sand, water, wood, and leaves – I believe it is a good example of natural building. There are some nails, screws, joist hangers, window screen, and a synthetic wood stain . . . . but by and large this building is eco-sensitive, inexpensive, built by inexperienced hands, with local labor and local materials. It will stand for a long time, provides non-mechanical temperature cooling, and is aesthetically pleasing. No forest cover was cleared for construction and the building blends well into its natural environment. No concrete was used, there are few, if any, petroleum-based products used, a very small amount of fossil fuel was used to transport materials, and very little electricity was used to charge a wireless drill and make a few cuts with a circular saw. It was a great experience, and the blueprint for a larger home design.

Image credit: Jesse Loving

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600 year old Hohokum dwelling made of caliche. Tamped caliche in plastered earthbags would be even more durable.

600 year old Hohokum dwelling made of caliche. Tamped caliche in plastered earthbags would be even more durable.


Certain types of soil for earthbag fill material may be available for free or dirt cheap. Excavation companies typically want to empty their trucks as quickly as possible to reduce labor and trucking costs. Ask them for ‘clean fill dirt,’ which is low cost soil free of debris. It’s best to avoid problem soils such as expansive clays.

One example of low cost soil that’s sometimes available from excavation companies is caliche. Caliche is calcium carbonate or decomposed limestone soil. Its nickname is nature’s cement, and covers about 12% of the earth’s crust. I’m referring to soil with calcium carbonate, not the stone. It’s widely available in Texas. Sometimes caliche is used in adobe, compressed earth block, rammed earth construction, and earthen plaster and floors.

Quentin Wilson, a leading authority on adobe construction, mentions the use of caliche on his website. He recommends a mix of 70% limestone fines, 30% caliche and 3% asphalt emulsion. The asphalt emulsion isn’t needed if you put the mix in earthbags and plaster the walls.

Pliny Fisk of Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems says caliche performs very well when mixed with sand and about one percent Portland cement. They have a demonstration building with walls made of caliche mixed with fly ash and Portland cement to form calcrete. Caliche can reduce the use of Portland cement by two thirds.

The Caliche Report – The Distribution and Use of Caliche as a Building Material: This is the best source I have found on building with caliche. The composition of caliche varies widely and so you’ll want to apply the findings in this report to ensure good results.

Photo credit: http://woodsworth.ca/IMG_1436_edited.JPG

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I’m obviously a huge fan of blogs as you can tell. Today I’d like to encourage you to take a look at what others in the earthbag community are up to. Please let us know if we’ve missed any blogs. (Note: Haiti earthbag blogs are listed under Earthbag Projects in Haiti.)

Image credit: Canadian Dirtbag Blog. A couple is building their off-grid earthbag home in Alberta, Canada.

Image credit: Canadian Dirtbag Blog. A couple is building their off-grid earthbag home in Alberta, Canada.


Canadian Dirtbags
All you need is mud
Building an Earthbag Home in Northern New Mexico
Home Sweet Hive
Montello Alpaca Company
MayaCreek.org
Dr. Dirtbag’s Blog
Paul Coleman’s Blog
Ghost32 HubPages
Marcia Gibbons
Konbit Shelter Blog
Earth Dome
Squidoo Earthbag Homes
Building the Hogan
MidPines
Building my Cabin!
One Little Farm

Earthbag Blogs in Spanish:
Superadobe Serrano
Superadobe Construccion Blog
OTC Superadobe
Superadobe Cordoba Argentina
La Casa Abya Yala

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This is the finished roundhouse that we built in 2010. The walls were built during our April workshop, and plaster and finish work continued through May and June at a slower pace. To say the least, we’ve very happy with the results. If you want to learn more, you can search this blog for the keyword “roundhouse.”

For pictures, go to the Picasa earthbag roundhouse photo gallery.
(Note: Most of the best photos are being held back for a potential magazine article. Please contact me if you’re a publisher who’s interested in this article.)

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Roof maintenance: Merle Alix mows the roof of his family's undergound house.

Roof maintenance: Merle Alix mows the roof of his family's undergound house.


I came across this great article at Mother Earth News magazine and just had to share it. Merle Alix describes his family’s experiences of living in an underground house for the last decade. They love the energy savings, low maintenance, quietness and privacy.

The biggest downside is the difficulty of obtaining financing for underground houses. According to Alix, “It’s unfortunate. We live in what could be one of the best housing options for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing our carbon footprint at the same time, but banking policies and politics have made it difficult — if not almost impossible — to buy and finance this kind of house. That said, aside from a few stumbling blocks in the beginning, the benefits of living underground far outweigh the few difficulties.”

Their house is made of concrete, but I’m posting about it because you could enjoy the same benefits of underground living by building with earthbags. And since earthbag building is obviously less expensive than concrete, you could build your home without bank financing.

You can read the article for free at Mother Earth News.
Original article by Merle J. Alix, October/November 2010, Mother Earth News
Image credit: Gil Grinsteiner

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What does it take to build truly sustainable houses – the kind people really want and can afford – and not some greenwashing hype? Most contractor-built houses are not affordable to the masses, so obviously something is amiss. And because buildings account for the largest share of energy use and cause devastating effects to our world, most are not sustainable.

If you build small and use natural building materials, then most likely you’ll be able to build your own home in a reasonable amount of time for cash. That’s right, you can eliminate the most expensive part of the home when you build your own small, sustainable home – the mortgage. Natural building materials are ideally suited for DIYers on a tight budget. Most are dirt cheap or even free.

You can read the entire article for free at Mother Earth News Blog.

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