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Recently we moved this site from earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com to naturalbuildingblog.com, and one thing that seems to have been lost in the shuffle was how to bring along the people who were getting email reports of new posts. The other day, one of these people asked us why there had been no updates and that’s when we realized the problem! Haven’t found a way to migrate the user list from here to there, so if you would like to continue getting our emails about the frequent posts we do, just go to naturalbuildingblog.com and put in your email address near the top of the side menu!

Best,

Kelly and Zana Hart and Owen Geiger

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The driving factor behind this project is the belief that simple design is high design, particularly when working in the developing world.

For the Love of Earthbags (F.L.O.E.) is an interactive design project that aims to prove that it’s possible to approach high-design in a manner that is tasteful, modern, and groundbreaking by using only the most basic materials, such as the dirt beneath our feet.

This project is an initiative led by architect Travis Hughbanks and supported by Edge of Seven (www.edgeofseven.org) in partnership with the local community of Basa, Nepal.

Edge of Seven is a nonprofit organization that generates awareness and volunteer support for projects that invest in education, health and economic opportunity for girls in developing countries. According to the World Bank, 30 percent of Nepalis live in poverty and this population is most concentrated in rural areas where people survive off of agriculture and subsistence farming. For Edge of Seven, earthbags offered an opportunity to improve rural educational infrastructure and combat poverty in the most low-cost, efficient and sustainable way possible.

How will the funding be spent? The money raised through this campaign will be used for supplies to create the earthbag school, educational tools, and the production of the graphic materials.

F.L.O.E.’s end goal is to elevate the practice of earthbag construction by producing several engaging and creative educational materials that will be used both to promote earthbag construction and teach local residents how to build with this method. The materials to be produced are an animated video and a graphic print manual.

To read more about this innovative project and see more of their interesting graphics check out this website: www.indiegogo.com

We have profiled the Nepali school project on several other posts:
finished-earthbag-school-in-nepal
earthbag-building-spreads-in-nepal
earthbag-school-in-nepal

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Great Determination earthbag hermitage

Great Determination earthbag hermitage


Lotus design in earthen floor

Lotus design in earthen floor


“The small city of Athens, Ohio is a hotbed of sustainable building practices. There are nearly two dozen strawbale houses, an earthship and many off the grid dwellings in the vicinity. We did not realize this until after we had moved here. When we decided to stay we spent a year intensively researching alternatives to mainstream building techniques and settled on a plan that fit our very small budget, was simple and low tech, that two reasonably fit persons could build alone. We chose to build an earthbag house.”

Read the rest at the source: Great Determination Buddhist Hermitage

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The first of three earthbag schools in Nepal, built by Edge of Seven and The Small World.

The first of three earthbag schools in Nepal, built by Edge of Seven and The Small World.

 

This earthbag school is in a remote village in the Solkhumbu District of Nepal.

This earthbag school is in a remote village in the Solkhumbu District of Nepal.

 

Bond beam on earthbag school in Nepal.

Bond beam on earthbag school in Nepal.

“On October 31, 2011, Edge of Seven and The Small World Nepal broke ground on a two-room secondary school in the village of Phuleli, located in the Solukhumbu District of Nepal. Five months later (following a two-month winter break), we put the finishing touches on the interior of the very first earthbag structure to be built in the Solkhumbu District of Nepal. The school in Phuleli is the first of three earthbag buildings Edge of Seven and The Small World will construct in the district.

Phuleli is a village found deep in the Himalayas, with no roads or airports within an eight-hour hike. Any material that is not available on site must be portered in by humans or carried in by mules on a narrow mountain trail that leads over a pass of 10,000 + feet.

The directive for the small school was simple: to provide two classrooms, each 15’ x 25’ with an exterior space that would give students refuge from the summer monsoon rains. The building itself is 48′ x 18′, with an additional 9’ porch on each end. The height of the earthbag walls is 6’6,” with a 6″ rebar-reinforced concrete ringbeam above. The first two courses of earthbags were filled with small gravel broken by hammer from larger stones excavated on site. The remaining bags were filled with sifted, excavated dirt, which was tested and found to be of an ideal clay-to-sand ratio of roughly 25:75.

Specific Details:
Bags: 18” x 30”. Corners were diddled and bags were sewn shut with a light-gauge tie wire.

Barbed Wire: 4 point, 10 gauge. (Barbed wire used is not the ideal gauge, but it was the only size of barbed wire available in Nepal.)

Doors and Windows: Oak. The wood used for the doors and window frames was of shockingly high quality and harvested locally. The frames were constructed in the typical Nepali manner and weigh about 300 pounds each. While they look beautiful, we will be working on reducing the amount of wood for the next project’s frames.

Plaster: Cement plaster was used with chicken wire mesh lathe. Since Nepal is in a very active seismic zone, chicken wire is required for plastering. We used a 1:4 ratio for the plaster, but for future projects will be using at least a 1:3 ratio due to the low quality of the sand and cement available. Cement had to be trekked in by mules from the larger villages of Phaplu and Salleri, and the sand was harvested at the nearest river (located about 1.5 hours walk from the site) and sifted and cleaned on site.

Foundation: Stone and cement. A stone foundation was laid with a cement plaster exterior. The floor is stone and cement. We had initially planned on a dirt floor, for sustainability and cost reasons, but it was later determined that a dirt floor would not be durable in a school environment.

Tie Beam: #4 Rebar reinforced concrete beam. Horizontal rebar for tie beam is connected into earthbag walls by 3’6″ L shaped rebar anchors at roughly 24″ o.c.

Roof: Corrugated metal with wood structure. The exterior of the soffit was enclosed with plywood due to the high winds in the region.

Built in Porch Seating: Built out of earthbags.

Paint: Whitewash. Liquid paint is very expensive to hike into the villages, so we opted for powder whitewash, which is the traditional form of painting in the region.

Labor: 33% local volunteer, 33% western volunteer, and 33% local paid labor.

The actual construction time was roughly 3 months with a project cost of $22,000. The cost of building was slightly higher in the villages than other earthbag projects have reported due to site conditions and material transportation costs. A substantial chunk of our budget was eaten up by the clearing and leveling of the site, the construction of retaining walls, and transportation of cement, sand, barbed wire. etc. to the site. Looking at building costs alone we came in at $16-$17 per sq. ft., which we are confident can be brought down closer to $13-$14 per sq. ft. with more experience.”

For anyone interested in building with earthbag construction in Nepal contact:
Travis Hughbanks, Edge of Seven, Edge of Seven Blog, U.S.A.
hugh2834 [at] gmail.com

Karma Sherpa, The Small World, Nepal

Project page with more photos and description: earthbagbuilding.com

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The Island Earthbag Project

The Island Earthbag Project


Oooh, this sounds so good. Here’s an opportunity to build your own earthbag home without having to buy land.

“My wife and I (vegan and otherwise ordinary middle aged Americans with 3 children) recently purchased 31 acres, which includes a small semi-attached island just off the northern coast of Maine (USA). We are planning to film and document the entire design and development of a small Earthbag community.

The initial project starts with a collaborative group-effort development of a small cottage on the attached 2 acre private Island. We are interested in building a community of 6-8 families and individuals, which will be allowed to use 2-3 acres of our land ABSOLUTELY FREE to build their own Earthbag home.

Earthbag homes are a way for people looking for a home that is earth friendly and is built from natural materials that are readily available. Because of the design, giving thick walls and the insulating qualities of earth, these homes are designed to make good use of passive solar heat, facing south or east, depending on location. They homes are also designed so that sunlight during the day is absorbed by the interior walls, keeping the room warm after the sun goes down. Often, the only source of energy used is either fireplaces or small propane or electric heaters in individual bedrooms. An important step here is to insure that exterior walls are properly finished so that the daily heat from the sun does not leak back out in the evening.”

Source: The Island Earthbag Project

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Mr. Banker Mahn

Mr. Banker Mahn


Dear Mr. Geiger,
My wealthy and powerful associates are not happy with your message of low cost owner-built houses paid with cash, and building small and simple with local materials. To us, this is sacrilege. You see, we are the powers that be that control most everything in the world and who have created the present system to enrich ourselves. You Mr. Geiger and others out there like you are upsetting the apple cart. Nothing is worse than someone like you who causes us to lose money. How dare you. We have a sweet deal going and don’t want things to change. While you call the current system a scam, we call it getting filthy rich. [snort!] We love it when people enslave themselves to us for 30 year mortgages when all we have to do is make a bookkeeping entry to create the money out of thin air. [ha!] We love printing money with nothing backing it up. We love exploiting people, countries and the environment. And the thing is, it’s so freaking easy. Congress critters will sell out for a paltry sum. (It’s paltry to us because it’s just funny fiat money.) They are all too happy to create laws that make what we’re doing ‘legal’. [delirious laughter] We take that same fiat money (something from nothing) to buy up everything of real value and leave the rest of the world in rags and ruin. [choking with laughter] It’s business Mr. Geiger, just business, and we are the best. We are the winners. We are the elite. We run the world. Do you believe for one second the nonsense you are spreading? All this happy talk about working together to create a better world is ridiculous and you know it. Won’t you reconsider what you’re doing and perhaps come work for the other side?
– The Borg Collective

Dear New World Order scum,
Take a hike! You have nothing, nothing that I want. You can go where the sun doesn’t shine. I work for the greater good. Goodness and humanity will prevail over evil.
Owen Geiger

Image source: Democratic Underground.com

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Sustainable building project spearheaded by Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, Mexico (click to enlarge)

Sustainable building project spearheaded by Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, Mexico (click to enlarge)


Lightweight vaulted roof system on houses in Mexicali

Lightweight vaulted roof system on houses in Mexicali


Christopher Alexander is the author who’s famous for such books as The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language. The project in Mexicali, Mexico is a fascinating insight into his work and into the potential of community building using sustainable building materials.

“Project history
Under the sponsorship of the Governor of Baja California, we built a small community of houses and community buildings. The families built their own houses, assisted by students. The construction system and method were new — designed and invented by us. We ran a small block-making factory on site, using soil-cement instead of raw concrete for the blocks. The vaults were woven baskets of thin lattice strips, with burlap and chicken wire stapled to them, and the shell of the vault then plastered over the top. Each house was different. It was inherent in the construction process that a family could lay out their own house, as they wished. We then placed stakes at the corners of all rooms, and the construction system, which included special corner blocks, allowed us to build the columns in the positions marked by stakes, then to build the walls between the columns, then stretch the beams and pour them, and then to weave the vault for each room as it fell out naturally.”

Source: Building Living Neighborhoods – Mexicali
Building Living Neighborhoods home page
The Mexicali Construction Process
Mexicali Revisited
Christopher Alexander – Wiki

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