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Posts Tagged ‘Domes’

Adobe Domes in Eco Truly Park, Peru

Adobe Domes in Eco Truly Park, Peru


How do you like this ecovillage? Eco Truly Park, Peru says, “We are a group of people that have a shared ideal to preserve nature and live harmoniously alongside all living things and our fellow man.”

Even though these are adobe domes, I’m including them because domes are very popular with our readers. Enjoy. [Note: If you’re pressed for time, just watch the first one. They’re all similar.]

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Video 5

Image credit: Mochileros en Lima Blog

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Earthen Hand Dome in Mali

Earthen Hand Dome in Mali


Scott Howard organized a workshop in Dogon Country, Mali, last winter. He built this unique dome with the help of workshop participants and some of the villagers there. The majority of the structure was completed during the two week-long workshop. It is a catenary arc about 16.5 feet tall with a loft. Serving as a library for many villages in the area, it is the first earthbag dome in Mali. Earthen Hand natural building offers a variety of international workshops these days.

I found the above photo in Scott Howard’s article A Wholly Different Way of Building at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia website. Scott raises a lot of questions in this fascinating article on the best ways to waterproof earthen domes.

Photo credit: Earthen Hand

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From time to time we answer reader’s questions.

Q: Why aren’t people making roofs from earth using domes or Nubian vaults? In impoverished areas the cost of a tin roof is sometimes a year’s salary.

A: Domes and vaults evolved in extremely dry areas of the Middle East, where wood was scarce and lack of rainfall wouldn’t destroy the earthen roofs. People are often captivated by the unique look of domes and vaults and want to build them in other climates. Earthbag building extends the possibilities beyond desert regions, yet still domes and vaults are somewhat vulnerable to moisture problems, and so if this is your plan then you’ll want to design and build them very carefully. Options include using cement stabilized soil or waterproof materials such as lava rock as fill material, cement plaster and elastomeric roof coating. Also, eyebrows over doors and windows are recommended to provide extra protection for these areas. Building a roofed dome is probably the best option in rainy climates.

So yes, wood roofs/metal roofing are costly, but you can see that domes and vaults also have costs: cement for stabilized soil, cement plaster, roof coating, eyebrows. There’s no free lunch unless you want to live in a grass hut or something. Plus, earthbag vaults are tricky to build and therefore limited to small spans.

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Take a fly-through tour of the Enviro Dome, one of my most popular earthbag plans. Please note, not every detail is shown. The loft vegas (wood poles) and wood stove, for instance, have been omitted for simplicity. But you still good a good sense of what the home looks like. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and leave some comments.

Enviro Dome plans
New house plan renderings

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I am pleased to report that after a little more than a year of periodic work on the Ninos y Jovenes Earthbag Project in Mexico we have finally come to a successful point of completion!  We put a final coat of white roof paint on the outside, making the dome gleam like a jewel.

Here you can see our smiling faces with the finished dome in the background.

This project was only possible with the dedicated cooperation of the Lake Chapala Green Group,  the students and staff at the Ninos y Jovenes boarding school in San Juan Cosala, the many adults who came from both the Mexican and the foreign community to join our Saturday morning work force, and the generous donation of funds from many people to help with the cost of materials.

The project has satisfied every aspect of our intention to create a physical demonstration of an ecological way of building a small house for very little money. Many of the students who worked with us are native Huicoles who can now take what they have learned back to their communities to duplicate if  they want. We will be giving them printed instructions in Spanish with photos of the various phases of the project to help them remember the important steps in the process.

In addition to the students, we have worked along with at least five different Mexican adults, and as many people from the foreign community, who are planning to take what they have learned to other localities to build with earthbags. Some of these other projects are already well along, and they include both homes and a school in an alternative community near Guadalajara.

We have succeeded in having the dome project publicized in the media, with at least four articles having been published in local newspapers and magazines, both in English and Spanish. So is has been a huge educational success, and of course the dome itself will stand on the grounds of the school for a very long time I expect. It will be a beacon and a demonstration for all to touch and experience who stop by to see it. We intentionally left some of the interior of the dome free of plaster so that people can immediately see how it was actually built with the bags of soil.

We initially estimated that we would need to spend a little over $1,000 US to build the dome, and this would include the purchase of new bags, barbed wire, a custom steel door fabricated, windows and vents, wood to build a loft inside, soil delivered to the site, plastering materials, and some basic tools and tarps. In actuality, we spent closer to $1,500 US, mainly because we spent more for tools (and other reusable supplies) and plastering supplies than anticipated. If someone used soil dug on the site, found used bags and/or barbed wire, and found other used components, this cost could easily be halved.

The potential living space that this small dome provides is about 200 sq. ft., so that would be between about $4 and $8 per sq. ft…..not too bad in this day and age! And not only is the building quite ecological, with mostly soil as the building material, but it will be much better at conserving energy because the walls are so thick, so it would be more comfortable than conventional buildings to live in.

I want to thank everybody who has helped out with this project; it has been immensely worthwhile. You can see a complete set of photos and description of the process of building this dome at www.flickr.com and a slide show of the same pictures at www.flickr.com

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Earthbag workshop in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Earthbag workshop in Koh Phangan, Thailand

This is just a short summary of my experience teaching an earthbag workshop in Koh Phangan this weekend. We’ll be posting more later because Julien and Hubert, the hosts of the workshop and the driving force behind the project, are doing such outstanding work. They have a number of interesting, photogenic structures on their yoga retreat site where the workshop was held. They’re also developing innovative building techniques based on their site conditions on a tropical island. It’s very interesting to see people take the basic concepts, run with it and create new things.

Workshop participants came from Canada, Europe, numerous areas of Thailand and other places. Most participants said they were planning earthbag projects. One group of seven, for instance, was sent by their employer to learn the techniques so they could build an earthbag coffee shop. Most were planning on building their own homes.

The workshop included seven PowerPoint presentations, whiteboard tech talks combined with lots of questions and answers, a tour of their buildings, and hands-on practice building a retaining wall.

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Wooden shakes on domes

Wooden shakes are a sustainable roofing material because they can be made by hand using a froe and locally available wood. You can make shakes from many kinds of wood, but the best shakes come from old trees with tight growth rings. Install shakes over roofing felt, and fasten with galvanized roofing nails. Steep roofs of 5:12 pitch or more will reduce risk of leaks and wind damage.

Wooden shakes can be used on walls and roofs built of pallets. See Pallet Roofs

Here’s a good article by Mother Earth News magazine on making wooden shakes:
The Froe and You: How to Make Hand-Split Shakes

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We routinely ask readers to document their projects and allow us to publish them on our Projects page at EarthbagBuilding.com. This enables other readers to learn much more rapidly. It’s the old “two heads are better than one” except here we’re dealing with thousands who are working together and sharing ideas. Very powerful.

Eyebrows protect window and door openings on domes

Eyebrows protect window and door openings on domes

A perfect example is a project called Angel’s Dome in Mexico that shows a very practical and simple way of building ‘eyebrows’ – arched protective overhangs – over doors and windows on domes. Even though many domes are built in deserts, many are built in areas of higher rainfall and eyebrows offer a good, low-cost solution for protecting doors and windows from the elements. Angel’s detailed photos enable others to utilize this technique. It’s so effective that we’re planning on using the same method on an upcoming project. Thanks for sharing.

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Originally published by Owner Builder Magazine, this excellent article by Rob Wainwright of Permaforest Trust comes complete with many useful building details, as well as quite a few beautiful photos.  Rob explains how they built their four meter dome step-by-step clearly enough that others could build one similar.

Permaforest Trust domeThis project is now featured on our Projects page and our Articles page.

Part 2, Finishing Off an Earthbag Dome, also by Rob Wainwright, is not yet online but is available direct from Owner Builder Magazine, issue 147, June/July.

The Permaforest Trust website is a treasure trove of informative articles on living lightly on the land, with hours or days of free reading material.  Highly recommended.

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James and Suzanne McConnell, co-founders of The Foster Village, are creating a self sustaining earthbag eco-pueblo pilot program for foster teenagers near Ojo Caliente, NM.  Children living full time in an eco-pueblo along with their visiting parents, when appropriate, will work side-by-side, interacting and caring for animals, gardening, building earthbag domes, milking goats, making cheese – engaging in natural activities designed to reconnect them with nature and creation. The goal is reconnecting children and their parents, when possible, to their purpose in the world and their position in the circle of life.

Beehive Floorplan

In addition to The Foster Village, Broken Earth began offering Beehive Home Building Courses in the spring of 2008. This program is structured a bit like the Habitat for Humanity program, whereby people who have participated in a course will be the first in line to receive help building their own Beehive Home. Other similar courses cost over $1,500, their course cost $150 and runs three times as long. Workshop sign-up page: www.brokenearth.org/beehivehome/courses.htm

More information on beehive dwellings: www.brokenearth.org/beehivehome/index.htm

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