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Archive for December, 2010

Earthco Building Systems, Inc. performed some interesting bullet resistance tests on their compressed earth Megablocks. Their website says they used 50 caliber BMG armor piercing military ammunition. Densely compacted earthbag walls made with subsoil would likely have comparable results. Maybe someone with a rifle and spare time could conduct a similar test on earthbags. Please email me and I will provide a few suggestions.

Test results using 50 caliber bullets on an unprotected 8 month old wall that received 10” of rain:
– 5-1/2” – 7” penetration
– 10” penetration with two 50 caliber rounds fired into the same hole
– 5 shots in 6” circle without full penetration on 18” thick walls
– little to no cracking

More videos and information at Earthco Building Systems, Inc. website.

Bullet Resistance of Sandbags

Update and clarification from Larry Williamson of Earthco Megablock:

Gentlemen please let me clarify — Owen you made a slight miss- association error — On our website we state we have tested our Megablocks against armor piercing rounds but in this video we are not using “US military issue armor piercing ammo”. An easy assumption to make.

In this particular video we used 50 cal “BMG” 661 grain Full Metal Jacket over a stainless steel core — muzzle velocity of 3100 fps and delivering 12,400 foot pounds of energy. Let’s not get off track here. The important thing is that an 18″ thick natural earth wall (just soil and water — no cement or lime stabilizer) absorbed over 86,000 foot pounds of energy and remained structurally intact.

I would expect earthbag walls to perform with similar results — perhaps a little more penetration due to less density— but vastly superior to timber frame, CMU or ICF construction and the same ammo.

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Today’s post features a video from Guiding Star Creations who attended an earthen floor training put on by Sukita with Claylin Floors. The ease and beauty of working with non-toxic materials created many smiles during the workshop. Earthen floors are such a flexible material that can be applied on grade for new buildings, on a cement slab, or on a sub-floor. Being able to install radiant heating coils and utilize passive solar heating make earthen floors an great choice for non-toxic and energy efficient living. Earthen floors are up to 90% less energy intensive than standard concrete floors. There are also many health benefits of having an earthen floor and being in direct contact with the earth through your feet. Many thanks to Sukita, the other workshop participants, and the workshop hosts. For more information on Claylin, earthen floor training, visit the Sukita website.

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It’s always great to hear good things from readers. In addition to all the compliments left on our blog, I’ve found a number of positive comments about our work on other websites and would like to share a few snippets.

“Here is one of the main resources that we use for our research, EarthbagBuilding.wordpress.com. These guys have been an indispensable resource, and are probably one of the only places a lay person can get information on this type of building. We are confident that when we get our plans, we will be able to tackle the job.” Evie

“This is a blog promoting earthbag building. Some of the posts are various links to other blogs where people built their own homes, without doing it the usual way. Some of the links are Tiny Green House Design, More Earthbag Projects Planned for Patagonia, etc., Imitation Stone Walls and Fake Rocks, and Earth Dome II.” Snowcat

“I don’t know Owen personally, but we’ve exchanged emails several times. He’s a smart guy and it’s clear that he CARES about his people. I’ve mentioned him several times here on RR. For those of you who read the blog, Owen is an “Earthbag guy” and he’s a sharp pencil in a box full of broken crayons, to be sure.” Alex Klein, a.k.a. Renaissance Ronin

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Rasin Foundation Earthbag Clinic in Leogane, Haiti

Rasin Foundation Earthbag Clinic in Leogane, Haiti


Here’s a posting from HaitiVolunteer.org asking for volunteer construction workers in Haiti.

Rasin Foundation is looking for volunteer carpenters, masons etc. to help us finish building our environmentally friendly and low cost earthbag medical clinic which has 5 exam rooms, 1 waiting room, 1 procedure room and bathroom. Located in rural Petite-Riviere, Leogane, our current makeshift clinic dispenses medical care, treatments and medications free of charge to 600 patients monthly. We are looking to finish construction of our permanent building in time to commemorate the earthquake anniversary on January 12, 2011.

Email: To volunteer, please contact rasinfoundation@yahoo.com.
Donate: To make a tax deductible financial contribution through secure paypal to help us finish construction, please go to: RasinFoundation.org
Location: Leogane, Haiti
Area of Expertise: Building/Construction
Skills Needed: carpenters, masons, construction workers
Goods: Financial contribution to purchase local material such as wood, roofing, cement to finish construction

Drawing by Patti Stouter

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We have a new complete project page up at http://www.earthbagbuilding.com: the Amirta – Divine Nectar Retreat Cabin in the high desert of southeastern Arizona. To do this retreat Venerable Lobsang Gyelse had to build a space to do it in, which is a small circular meditation space with an offset sleeping nook. In addition there is a covered porch area. Kitchen and bath are in a nearby building.

Divine Nectar Retreat Cabin

This project is well worth studying because not only was it well conceived and executed, but it was very well documented. Furthermore this project was fully permitted and inspected by the building authorities in Arizona.

It has a rubble trench foundation with a reinforced concrete grade beam above. It also has a reinforced concrete bond beam at the top, to which a conventionally framed roof is attached. The project was kept as natural as possible, with earthen plasters inside and out, an adobe floor, and cotton batt insulation.

This retreat cabin is a perfect example of what can be accomplished in a short time with the efforts of a community of people. I’m sure that Venerable Lobsang Gyelse will have a wonderful three year silent retreat in this space.

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Comments closed: Everyone voted unanimously for the longer book, so that’s what I’ll do. Thanks for the input.

My upcoming book on earthbag building – How to Build Vertical Earthbag Walls – is taking shape and hopefully will be ready in a few weeks. It’s turning out longer than expected. I was hoping for 50 pages of basic how-to building information, but to really cover everything it’s going to take about 85 pages, which will take more time and work, and increase the book cost. So, I want to ask readers what they prefer. My preference is for the longer version, in order to cover all important related topics so no other books are required. And, cutting out 35 pages would change the whole character of the book. (Note: for those on a really tight budget, you can learn the basics for free from our websites.)

Please vote for one of the following:
A 50 pages @ $15 – just the basics
B 85 pages @ $20 – covers all important topics

(The Poll feature is not working. Please leave a comment.)

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Nylon Cement Roofs

Nylon Cement Roofs


Roofs tend to be one of the most expensive, most difficult parts of building a home. Most conventional roof systems are very expensive and utilize energy intensive materials. One low-tech alternative is nylon cement roofs, which have been pioneered for over 30 years by Bill Birdsall.

Bill’s website shows how he built his house and other structures in Puerto Rico. These buildings have stood the test of time in a rainy climate. The building process involves gradually adding thin layers of cement to recycled fine mesh fishnet. Think of it as ferrocement without the ferro (steel).

In comparison, expanded metal lath that’s typically used in ferrocement is almost as sharp as razor blades. Not fun to work with at all. But fishnet is light, soft, comes in big pieces and won’t rust. Recycled fishnet should last for many years embedded in cement (it has for Bill), and can be obtained for free. Fishing companies replace their nets before they’re completely worn out. For safety’s sake always use nets that are still strong.

Nylon cement tech article
Nylon cement pics
Bill Birdsall Home page
Hog tie tool speed ups fastening fishing net to rebar
Tirolessa mortar sprayer

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