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Archive for February, 2011

DT1 Force Protection System

DT1 Force Protection System


I found this system on the Internet yesterday. It doesn’t apply to most earthbag builders, but I’m including it here since we try to cover everything related to building with bags. It is a little interesting and could be a springboard to making something similar. The following text is from the DT1 website.

“Weighing only 9.5 lbs, the DT1 Force Protection System is ideal for man portable protection in remote locations. A packaged DT1 takes up roughly the same amount of space as a full sandbag, and is capable of producing a 24 inch deep, 16 foot long wall that protects against small arms fire up to 14.5mm or .50 caliber and near-miss artillery. The DT1 stands 20 inches tall and is stackable up to three units high for even greater levels of protection.

When filled with granular fill (earth, sand or rocks), the DT1 produces expedient defensive fighting positions, small bunkers, tent compartmentalization and other field fortifications. The 100% textile construction mitigates the risk of secondary fragmentation and radio frequency interference. The DT1 requires minimal preparation to deploy, and is designed to conform to sloped or uneven surfaces. Units can be quickly filled by hand and compacted by foot.”

DT1 Force Protection System

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One of the most progressive high school vocational programs that I’ve heard of is on the campus of Taos High School in Taos, New Mexico. Students get a solid background in general building skills (general carpentry, blueprint reading, AutoCAD, green business), but they also get more advanced and more specialized training in green building, solar, building science and other courses. We need a whole lot more programs like this.

Green Technology Education Center

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Green Desert Eco-farm Llama Barn

Green Desert Eco-farm Llama Barn


A group near Canon City, Colorado is building an earthbag llama barn. Here’s the comment that they posted the other day.

“Thanks Owen for posting the article. Our build went really well, just as easy as you make it seem with all the blogs and websites and instructables.

The one thing that consistently amazed me was the ability to teach someone the basics, and have them be part of a “three-person team” within just a few minutes. And considering that many folks who came to help had zero prior building experience or exposure to earthbags, this was astonishing. This is definitely one of the simplest and most direct building methods to teach a “laborer”.

We had loads of fun and the barn is coming along nicely. Working about 7 hours per day, rotating new people in each of the three days of the workshop, and running out of delivered dirt and digging more of our own, we still managed to get about 8 courses or 70% of the structure up.

Now we just have to start work on the stucco to protect the bags, and figure out a roof. Thanks again for all the help and info in advance. Now I want to build more of these!”
Richard

Earthbag Building Extravaganza!
Building Community from Earth
Photos of the project

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Roundhouse with Yurt (click to enlarge)

Roundhouse with Yurt (click to enlarge)


My goal last year was to upgrade 40 of my most popular plans. This has now been completed, along with 20 additional designs. So there are now 60 finished plans available, including this new Roundhouse with Yurt.

In this design, the roundhouse provides low cost space and a stable base for the yurt. The elevated yurt captures the views and breezes, and eliminates the need for building a roof (which is often an issue for those lacking carpentry experience). The deck adds extended living space and protects lower walls.

My goal this year is to add 25 new house plans as time permits. This will likely occur at a slower pace so I have time to continue writing. Two more earthbag books are already in the works.

In addition, Dream Green Homes, where plans can be ordered, has been newly updated with the most popular plans. Just ask if there’s something you can’t find.

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Patti Stouter has been running a series of very interesting, even surprising, experiments with various materials that might be used to insulate earthbag walls. She has focused her attention on light-weight natural or recycled materials that can be bound together with a clay slip.

She devised a test apparatus to measure how well the materials impede the flow of heat, using a 4″ thick sealed beadboard box (15″ cube on outside) with a 6″ diameter opening on the top, where she packs her various materials to be sampled.  A precision resistor attached to a regulated power supply heats the inside and there is a digital thermometer that reads in 1/10 of a degree F. When the inside of the box  reaches a steady state she measures the difference between the temperature inside the box and the room temperature. She calibrated the device with some standard insulating materials with known R-values.


The above graphs illustrates the results of her experiments. Because both EPS packing peanuts and strips of grocery bags would emit toxic fumes if they burned, she has designated these for exterior use only. In actuality it is generally better to place any insulation materials on the exterior in order to isolate the thermal mass of packed soil on the inside. What is surprising is how extremely well some of these materials performed. Both Spanish moss and grocery bag strips measure at over R-3 per inch!


These test samples were made with a moderate strength silty clay, and materials might be stronger and lighter if made with a more plastic clay. The sample at right is made with the packing peanuts and the sample on the left are the grocery bag strips. Other possible light clay components are sea grass or eelgrass, coconut fibres, reeds, or mica.

If you are interested in the density or weight of the various materials she used, the above graph shows this.

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What’s the best use for the world’s remaining forests? Healthy forests or wasteful building practices?

What’s the best use for the world’s remaining forests? Healthy forests or wasteful building practices?


What’s the best use for the world’s remaining forests? Healthy forests or wasteful building practices?

What’s the best use for the world’s remaining forests? Healthy forests or wasteful building practices?


Our forests are under increasing pressure to supply materials for a growing population. What would you rather have – healthy forests or poorly built, oversized, inefficient, wasteful housing?

Time is running out for our remaining forests and so we need to look more closely at options that use less wood, and then, as a society move toward best practices.

Options:
– Building systems that use less wood: earthbag, strawbale, adobe, etc.
– Recycled wood, including pallets (example: pallet trusses)
– Small diameter wood thinned from overcrowded forests, which can be used for a wide range of uses such as roundwood trusses
– Woodless construction methods: earthbag domes, adobe domes and vaults, low-fired clay brick, ferrocement, recycled plastic trash houses, nylon cement (recycled fishing net and cement), shipping containers, bamboo, rubble houses, load-bearing strawbale, stone

Photo credits: Tongass National Forest, Tract housing in Las Vegas

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The following information has been provided by Pacific Packaging in Tangent, Oregon. They are the first bag supplier to actively promote earthbag building on their website. We have no financial interest in their company and do not accept advertising since this is a non-commercial site. The information is being provided here to show what to look for when buying poly bags.

Pacific Packaging Earthbag Specifications

Pacific Packaging Earthbag Specifications


Items of interest in the above tables (click to enlarge image): misprinted bags are available at lower cost (of the sizes available, 21″x36″ is best); standard 18″x30″ bags (the most practical size for most jobs) are only available as new bags; specifications for weave, denier and UV rating are provided, as well as the shipping weight, size and cost.

For a limited time, they also have gusseted bags (not shown).

For more information, contact Pacific Packaging.

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Phangan Earthworks Workshops

Phangan Earthworks Workshops


We had a great workshop last weekend with 20 people here at Phangan Earthworks. Our website is already updated and you can see some images if you like, on the workshops page at the bottom.

We will teach one more weekend workshop this year, on 18/19 June 2011.

Participants will learn the basics of EB, and by the end of the weekend feel ready to begin a small structure by themselves. We will inspect existing buildings, do hands-on demonstrations on how to fill bags, how to lay them, and how to tamp them, and engage in Q & A sessions. Supplemental slide shows and film screenings will complete this full-immersion experience. Freshmen welcome, earthbag experience not required.

Where: On our jungle hillside property in the hills above Sri Thanu village, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280, THAILAND. Email us at phanganearthworks@gmail.com for a map and directions, or call Julien +66 (0)83 393 90 21, or Hubert +66 (0)86 281 63 08.

Price: THB 2’500 (EUR 60) with an early-bird discount of 20% for registrations and payments prior to 20 May 2011. The number of participants is limited to 30 people, first come first served.

Earthbag Dome Building Workshop
Phangan Earthworks is stoked to announce a 3-week earthbag dome building workshop, to take place 10-31 August 2011 on our property on Phangan island, Southern Thailand.

Phanghan Earthworks Workshops

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Insulated Earthbag Foundations for Yurts

Insulated Earthbag Foundations for Yurts


This Instructable includes complete step-by-step instructions on how to make an insulated earthbag foundation. You can use the same process to make insulated foundations for any type of structure – straw bale, earthbag, cordwood, etc.

Yurts or gers are very efficient and practical in harsh, cold climates, as evidenced by centuries of use in Mongolia. Benefits of yurts include affordability, rapid construction, ease of construction, wind resistance, great looks and portability (ability to take your home with you if you ever move). You may even save on taxes since some jurisdictions do not consider yurts permanent homes.

Many people build their yurts on a raised wooden platform to reduce moisture problems. But wood is expensive and building a platform/deck requires a fair amount of tools and carpentry know-how. Wood is vulnerable to fires and prone to rot and insect damage. It also requires regular painting or sealing.

In addition to the many other uses for earthbags, you can build insulated foundations by filling the bags with insulation such as scoria. The benefits of the insulated earthbag foundation system described here include:
– Very low cost, especially if you can locate recycled grain bags from farmers
– Very simple construction using just a few tools most people already have
– Save energy and enjoy a more comfortable home because the floor and foundation are superinsulated (plus, there’s no wind blowing under the floor to suck heat away)
– No deep footings/excavation required (research Frost-protected Foundations for technical details if you’re interested)
– The finished floor can be raised above grade as high as necessary (Deep snow? Flooding? No problem.)

3D AutoCAD drawings show each step of construction.

You might want to follow the Earth-Sheltered Solar Canadian blog, who’s planning to build an insulated earthbag foundation that’s suitable for extremely cold climates. It’s the same process as outlined in this Instructable, but they will use a deeper trench with insulated earthbags below grade to create a Frost-protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF). Combine these two ideas – FPSF and insulated earthbag foundations as shown in this Instructable – and you’ll have everything you need to know for free.

You can read the complete Insulated Earthbag Foundations for Yurts article by Owen Geiger at Instructables.com.

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Garden House in Tanzania

Garden House in Tanzania


Garden House in Tanzania

Garden House in Tanzania


Here’s a nice project one of our readers sent in. Text below is from Birgit.

“I just remembered I said I would send you a few pictures of my first experiment with lime mix earthbags here in Tanzania. So far they are “behaving” extremely well, and I am planning to do a “real” house in the near future (I just need to get more confident when it comes to a foundation…). I am hoping to raise awareness and “ring the bell” for earthbag building here in Africa as it would be a great way to do low cost housing for the local people and for people to start small building businesses.

Please find attached some pictures of a lime-earthbag wall and garden house (half done with bricks and half with bags as I wanted to see how the connection of the two works out) – the bags are discarded cement bags. The floor is unburnt clay bricks.

Usually you don’t buy ready made windows here but get them made, so I had small windows made which had a metal sheet all around to carry the bags. This way I could put the windows into the wall straight as we built and just build around them, so no need of wooden window forms.

By the way – one more small idea: To make a model of the house I am planning I use Lego blocks. This way I can play with my kids while doing “work” and the legos work well as they are quite wide, similar to the bags. The narrower legos I use for the internal walls, which are made from clay bricks. Doesn’t work so well for round structures, but is great for anything linear.”

All the best from Tanzania, Birgit

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