Archive for the ‘Forms’ Category

A blog post entitled “Earthbag, Superadobe, Hiperdobe, Why Not Hiperpapercrete?” caught my eye. The author makes a very good case for filling mesh tubing with damp papercrete. Here is how he explains it:

“I have recently been reading up about earthbag/superadobe construction. One of the new techniques that some earthbaggers are very excited about utilizes a type open mesh bag material called “knit raschel.” It was started in Brazil by a guy named Fernando Pacheco. They have named their new system Hiperadobe.

The knit raschel is the same type of netting material that is often used to bag produce like onions or oranges in the supermarket. Here is a photo of what this type of knit raschel produce bag looks like. http://www.marketeo.com/photoArticle/big/1940_big.jpg

The bag material has many advantages for construction. Very low cost, fast drying for the contents, no need to run barbed wire between bag layers during construction like typical woven polypropylene earthbags bags require, and when compacted, the earth adobe mixture they use in the knit raschel bags seeps out of the netting openings slightly to mix with the adjacent bags and layers to become one big solid block very much like rammed earth, but without all the extensive formwork or the hassles of ramming tires.

All this is fascinating, but what does it have to do with papercrete you ask? Good question.

What about filling knit raschel bags or tubes with papercrete? (Manufacurers of the knit raschel material make big long tubes that are rolled up so that the company purchasing the tube can cut it to whatever length of bag they want and sew the ends shut.)

This concept has the potential to speed up papercrete construction rather dramatically while drastically reducing the man hours of labor required. No more need for fiddling around with papercrete blocks. No need to pour them into forms, individually turn and dry them. No need to then stack and store until ready to build walls. No need to mortar them into place. No need to build slipforms, wait for a layer to dry, tear off and reattach the forms, and then repour the next layer. One can simply keep working as fast as your mixer can make papercrete and you can dump it into the bag. With a small crew of unskilled people, and splitting up the various tasks assembly line style, work should proceed rapidly. You only handle the papercrete one time. You mix it, and if you fill the bag while the bag is sitting on the wall, you never have to move the papercrete again.

The netting bags would be the formwork. The netting would remain in place and become part of the structure permanently. Think of it as a very light weight reinforcing mesh, ready for interior and exterior plaster, stucco, shingles, clapboards, or whatever you choose.

The netting would allow the papercrete to drain out the excess water easily and quickly. The netting would allow the papercrete to dry in place in the wall after it has been built. The drained but damp papercrete could easily be tamped into place as the wall is built providing for some compression of the damp slurry. It would also help the layers of bags glue themselves together to become one big block of papercrete.

While earthbag is a great technology, one of the biggest drawbacks is that it can become difficult to insulate an earthbag structure if you do not have access to porous volcanic rock to fill the bags, like scoria or pumice. Where insulation is needed the most, like very cold northern regions, volcanic rock is often very expensive to have trucked in from long distances. Papercrete could be the perfect alternative that recycles material that is nearly universally available and being thrown away.

Interesting architectural shapes can be easily accomplished, like very graceful curving walls, the standard straight box type construction, or a blend of both working together.

I don’t know of anyone that has attempted Hiperpapercrete. Heck I think I may have just invented the term, but I am confident that it could work well. It would be great if someone adventurous and sharp is willing to figure out the tricks and kinks being the trailblazer. No doubt there are some details that I have not considered, but I am confident they could be addressed.

Clearly a small test structure should be the first place to start to figure out the details of how to handle the process.

The idea of building an entire highly insulated papercrete structure in a few weekends using the help of a few unskilled laborers like family or friends seems very possible. Even reasonably sized children could help.

Anyone intrigued by the idea and want to be the first to give it a shot?

Here is a video of a Hiperadobe structure getting started using the knit raschel tube material filled with adobe soil. Instead of adobe soil, imagine filling the netting tube with wet papercrete, allowing it to drain while on the wall, and tamping that into place.

Thoughts anyone?”

I think that this is a brilliant idea! I have a lot of experience with both earthbag building and papercrete (see the house I built using both at earthbagbuilding.com ). I can easily visualize making very substantial walls using the raschel mesh tubes (or even individual bags) filled with damp papercrete.

Everything about this idea fits well with the physical needs of curing papercrete: the damp papercrete is held in place while it cures; the excess water can easily drain away; the wall can breathe on both sides once it is cured; the finished wall ends up being substantially reinforced and monolithic; and all of that mesh reinforcement acts to stabilize the wall against potential seismic forces.

I’m sure that in reality it would be a messy proposition to be filling and placing that damp papercrete, but then working with papercrete tends to be a messy proposition period.

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Here is the latest installment of a series of videos that Doctor Dirtbag has uploaded to his YouTube Channel. You can find the other equally informative videos on his channel.

This is what he says about it: “West wall is done, but I’m waiting for the weather to warm up so I can plaster it. I was going to wait until the plaster was on to upload this vid, but too many requests for another video have forced my hand. Here it is in it’s unfinished glory… hope you enjoy. Music is Just For Now by Imogen Heap”

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This house in Patagonia was built by Paul Coleman and his wife, Konomi. It features a double wall system that includes pumice from a dormant volcano. Five hundred tons of earth have been moved by hand and everything else that has been used to build the house has come up a very steep 150 meter hill on the backs of the builders and friends. The house has a spectacular view, is very cozy and has a very simple exterior. The earth system keeps the surrounding earth warm and dry in what is an extremely wet and windy environment.

You can find out much more about this charming and environmentally sensitive project by either checking out our project page about it or going to their blog.

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For several years, Kelly and I have been filtering all the best earthbag content from the Web, writing extensively on all aspects of earthbag building and organizing the information for readers. There’s now an enormous amount of information available – so much that it’s difficult to keep up with everything. That’s one reason why our sites are helpful. We gather the best information so you don’t have to spend endless hours looking for it, wasting time clicking through low quality sites, blurry videos, etc. No one else has anything close to this amount of content. Below are just a few links from EarthbagBuilding.com (the mothership) and our Earthbag Building Blog. Also note how we strive to keep all these pages up to date so readers aren’t faced with a bunch of broken links. (And it’s free.)

Earthbag Projects and Pictures
Earthbag Videos
Earthbag Articles
Earthbag Testing
Earthbag Blogs (recently updated and expanded to include earthbag blogs in Spanish)

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Instructable: How to Build an Earthbag Dome by Owen Geiger

Instructable: How to Build an Earthbag Dome by Owen Geiger

Every year we publish the most popular blog posts for the last 12 months. We’ll do that again in November on our 4th anniversary. Our goal here is to look at the most popular blog posts since we’ve started – the Best of the Bestest. Think of them as hidden gems unless you’ve read all 756 blog posts. (And if you have read them all, then you can start reading the info on our mothership at EarthbagBuilding.com. It’s all free. Enjoy.)

1. Counties with Few or No Building Codes
2. Bullet Resistance of Compressed Earth
3. Low-cost Multipurpose Minibuilding Made With Earthbags (This is my earthbag dome that almost went viral last year and got republished on dozens of blogs… see photo above.) Click here to read the free Step-by-Step How to Build an Earthbag Dome Instructable at Instructables.com.
4. Creating Earthbag House Models
5. Earthquake-resistant Earthbag Houses
6. Earthbag Rootcellar
7. Cost of Earthbag Houses
8. $2,000 Earthbag House
9. Earthbag Survival Shelter
10. Using Earthbags as Ceiling Insulation

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Make sure you get the basics right so your earthbag home is safe, sound and durable. As obvious as this seems, the most fundamental earthbag building principles sometimes get lost in the forest of information. That was one reason for writing the Earthbag Building Guide – to focus on the most important steps and demonstrate the best techniques in the right order of construction to avoid mistakes. A $20 investment in this book can easily save hundreds of dollars or more in wasted time and effort. (Same is true with just about any subject – knowledge is power.)

Key earthbag principles:
– Earthbags are not just bags of dirt or sand. Proper earthbags have enough clay in the soil to bind the aggregates together into a solid block.
– Use moist soil, not loose, dry soil.
– Earthbags are tamped solid, much like rammed earth. Once dry, they are similar to giant bricks.
– Avoid slumping corners by pre-tamping the soil (this is explained in my book)
– Overlap bags in a running bond, including at corners or use tubes
– Use barbed wire between courses for tensile strength and to prevent slippage
– Build straight, plumb and level (for rectilinear structures)
– Build uniform, smooth curves if building in the round
– Protect walls with a good foundation and a good roof with adequate roof overhang
– Raise the building site so water flows away from the building.
– Add reinforcing where necessary, especially on long, straight walls and at door and window openings
– Protect the bags from ultraviolet (UV) damage if your project will take more than a few weeks

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This is a 15 minute film on earth-bag construction at ‘Green Resource Center’ in Karamoja, Northern Uganda, as a part of IOM’s Karamoja Food Security and Community Stabilization Programme.

As I watched this very informative and entertaining video, it actually brought tears to my eyes. I realized how wonderfully empowering earthbag construction can be, and how extensive it is being adopted around the world. Watching the women dancing and singing as they carried bags of soil to place on the wall or huge cans of water on their heads, this clearly was a moving community experience for them!

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I got the following email a few minutes ago. Luke just won himself a free copy of my upcoming Earthbag Building Video. Thanks, Luke!

“With great pleasure, I just wanted to let you know a Facebook page has been created for fans of your blog. The name of the page is, “Earthbag Building Blog Fan Page.” It took a few days, and 25 people to ‘like’ it before we could get an official link, but now we’ve got it, which is; facebook.com/earthbagbuilding. The Facebook page will follow your blog and other activity by your other websites, as well as questions and answers can be supported by the Facebook community. I hope that it will also serve another function, when it gains more attention, to make announcements about local or abroad earthbag building workshops.

It’s an honor to be able to do this.”

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Insulated Earthbag Vaults for Dry Climates

Insulated Earthbag Vaults for Dry Climates

We get quite a few enquires about vaults. So far we’ve always cautioned against building earthbag vaults except for small entranceways, corridors between domes and the like, because they are inherently unstable if you just stack earthbags into a vault shape. The proposed design shown here resolves the stability issues. This vault building method is very strong, simple, low cost, superinsulating and extremely fast and easy to build. The shell of a small, simple vault could be built in about one week, in part because the top two-thirds of the vault is built with tubes or bags filled with lightweight insulation such as scoria or pumice (preferably nonflammable materials). In summary, the weight is low in the walls for stability, and the upper part is made with bags or tubes of insulation tied to rebar or bamboo. Note: a catenary vault is shown, but you could also build a pointed vault to expand roofing options.

– thick cement or lime plaster: straight forward, but plaster will get ugly mold in rainy climates
– cover plastered vault with eucalyptus poles and thatch (use pointed vault)
– arched bamboo instead of rebar is possible if it’s soaked in borax solution and/or smoked
– add joists (which act as cross braces) and a loft, ex: bamboo poles and split bamboo
– join multiple vaults side by side
– extend the vault to create protective overhangs on the ends (good for Thailand)
– screen the top of arched ends for max ventilation (area above windows and doors)
– stone around the base for improved moisture resistance and reduce splashed mud
– earth berm at base
– pipe trusses joined with flat strips on the bottom to distribute the weight and then set on top of the vault and covered with ferrocement and a living roof (cover of Art of Natural Bldg. look!)
– corrugated metal roofing run horizontally (easy to bend over the top but creates harsh look that’s not beautiful)
– build a pointed vault with corrugated metal roofing run vertically
– horizontal slats tied to vault with corrugated metal roofing or recycled metal scraps

Tomorrow I’ll post my insulated vault design for rainy climates.

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Filling connected bags to make an earthbag vault.

Filling connected bags to make an earthbag vault.

Mandeep Singh, a graduate student from India, conducted research on lunar earthbag structures for his master’s thesis at Auburn University, Alabama. This is a very interesting and exciting find that has obvious applications here on earth, particularly for the construction of lightweight, insulated vaults. Custom shaped, top connected bags were filled with vermiculite with a screw auger. It may be possible to fill bags with sand or loose, dry soil and eliminate tamping with this method. Another big thanks to Patti Stouter for finding this paper.
Lightweight insulated earthbag vault

Lightweight insulated earthbag vault

Construction Technique and Strength of Connected Regolith Bag Structures

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