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Posts Tagged ‘earth house’



These screening machines are primarily for production earthbag builders and other natural builders who want to mechanize the building process for maximum efficiency. They are useful for screening soil for earthen plaster, earthen floors, straw/clay and, of course, soil for earthbags. One advantage is the ability to utilize soil from the building site, which would offset the purchase or rental cost of the soil screening machine/attachment. The screened soil would be ready for filling earthbags. The rubble can be used in rubble trench foundations, under floors and as fill material.

Soil screening machines are usually not needed for earthbag building. Typical clayey/sandy soil can often be used as is to fill the bags. Or you can use road base or crusher fines, which have been processed in a gravel yard. This is my preferred approach because using a readily available material that’s already been processed greatly reduces labor, speeds construction and eliminates the need for a screening machine.

More soil screening videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFsoV0–mys
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyqru_YR2tE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9ys7YapOjM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSaWVcnQ7Xc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEnZFqpLGkc (note how he is standing and shoveling from the wrong side — either that or build a lower soil screen)

Related:
Sandbag Machines (covers a wide range of machines for automating all aspects of earthbag building)

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Alternate title: How to Build an Earthbag House That Will Last as Long as the Pyramids. I can’t say for sure that the pyramids were built this way, but this video describes a reasonable theory of how the blocks of the pyramids were made with natural materials from the Giza Plateau – limestone, kaolin clay, sodium carbonate, lime and water. According to the video, the mixture consists of 95% limestone aggregates, 5% rock making binder and between 12%-17% water. The same methods could be used to create rock hard earthbags with incredible durability. And it’s simple enough that anyone can do it. It’s ancient technology after all.

There’s a great deal of very interesting information about this by Professor Joseph Davidovits and other researchers at the Geopolymer Institute. Here are a few quotes from their Archeology page.
“The pyramids stones are man-made (synthetic, artificial), cast in situ.”
“The Great Pyramid of Kheops is comprised of about 2.5 million blocks, most weigh two tons and could have been hauled by no less than sixty men. But some weigh up to seventy tons and these are to be found, not at the base of the pyramid, but some forty meters high. Since the ancient Egyptians did not yet have the wheel, they would have needed more than two thousand men to haul each block.”
“How could the Ancient Egyptians have cut these stones, which are extremely hard, with only the most primitive of tools? At best they would have been able to use copper saws, and copper is a softish metal, incapable of hewing the hard limestone blocks from which the early pyramids are constructed.”
“If the stones were carved, as most people believe, where are the fragments of broken stone left over? Limestone frequently splits on being cut. 5 million tons of limestone blocks must have produced millions of broken blocks and fragments. Yet, not a trace of them has ever been found.”
“The pyramid casing stones are light in density and contain numerous trapped air bubbles, unlike the quarry samples which are uniformly dense. If the casing stones were natural limestone, quarries different from those traditionally associated with the pyramid sites must be found, but where?”
“In natural stones, we expect to find elements that had the time to crystallize. However, silicates in pyramids stones are completely amorphous (not crystallized). This allows us to think that we are in presence of a cementitious process. The silicates were formed in a very short period of time.”
“This photo shows a sample of the casing from the ascending passage of Kheops great pyramid… the cross section is characterised by the presence of organic fibers and air bubbles that do not exist in normal situation, especially in a 60 millions years old limestone from the eocene era!”
“Barsoum’s team took a fresh look at 15 samples using scanning- and transmission-electron microscopes. The samples contain ratios of elements, such as calcium and magnesium that do not exist in nearby limestone. The imaging also revealed regions of amorphous structure. Both observations suggest that other substances were added to make a concrete mix.”
“The famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA, is supporting Prof. Davidovits’ re-agglomerated stone (concrete) pyramid theory. At MIT, Professor Hobbs and two colleagues and students are experimenting the construction of a small scale pyramid using the method recommended by Davidovits.”

This video helps explain the geopolymer process. In this video Professor Davidovits explains how they made a man-made sample of re-agglomerated stone and then submitted it for laboratory analysis. The laboratory said it was natural stone. For more details, go to the Geopolymer Institute YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/kadamix to see more videos such as: Bricks made at low temperature, low energy, low cost http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjeVeDVtghc&feature=related,

If the microscopic, x-ray and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy analysis doesn’t convince you, think about the Colosses of Memnon, which these same geopolymer scientists believe were cast of amalgamated/agglomerated stone in a similar manner as the pyramids using geosynthesis (limestone treated like a concrete).
“In antiquity, the statues commanded respect; the Colosses of Memnon are monoliths: they are made from a single block of stone weighing nearly 1000 tonnes and standing on a pedestal of 550 tonnes. They are 20 metres high, equal to a seven storey building. The stone from which they are made is quartzite, which is practically impossible to carve.”
“None of the great quartzite blocks bear any trace of tools that is so common in the sandstone and granite quarries: a material that is so hard, so refractory in the face of sharp tools cannot, it is true, be worked by the same methods as ordinary sandstone nor even of granite. We know nothing of how the blocks of such a rock were squared, how their surfaces were dressed or how they were given the beautiful polish that can still be seen in some places… Did the sculptor, in the middle of engraving a hieroglyphic character, strike one of the flints or pieces of agate that are encrusted in the material, the line of the character continued in all its purity, and neither the agate nor its enveloping stone bear the slightest crack.”

Summary: Whether or not the pyramids were made with geopolymer cast stones could be debated endlessly. However, the key point for natural builders is geopolymer scientists have developed recipes using natural materials and simple production techniques that can be utilized in rammed earth and earthbag construction. This is an exciting new field of opportunity in my opinion. Please refer to the publications by Professor Joseph Davidovits and other researchers at the Geopolymer Institute for complete information.

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Half Moon Earthbag Earthship

Half Moon Earthbag Earthship


I’m very happy to see more details of this excellent design. We’ve been following the construction progress on their YouTube videos. Now, they’ve added a website with much more information. I have to say, this is one of my favorite designs. It is very well thought out, very affordable, very practical. I would love to include a photo of this home in my upcoming earthbag book. If you’re the owner, please contact me.

The following information, photo and drawing are all from the Half Moon Earthbag Earthship website.

The Half Moon is a kind of cabin in the mountains, built with some special features that make it livable and sustainable at low cost in its very remote, off-the-grid location. Like typical cabins in the mountains, it is intended to be used as a getaway place for the rest of my working life. It is also my hope to live in the Half Moon when I retire from full time work.

The idea was to build the shell of a cabin, built on earthship principles but with earthbags instead of tires. The structure would be my vacation (and/or disaster) refuge for the next five years, during which time I would finish it out to a more livable permanent residence. The systems and design, however, would be very simple: the smallest necessary 12 volt electrical system (enough to support 3-day visits) and no internal plumbing apart from cistern-fed drinking water. All waste would be forever composted, which ultimately would be placed in a future greenhouse.

Half Moon Earthbag Earthship

Half Moon Earthbag Earthship


Final building plan
My design idea went through a lot of changes. I originally thought simple and square, then added on wings for rooms for tool storage and mechanical systems. While Earthship modules are recommended to be U-shaped, Hunter’s [Earthbag Building] book points out that “underground, round is sound” and has an illustration of a site excavated for what appears to be a semi-circular structure. Since I was queasy about using an earth cliff, as many Earthships do, and I wanted to follow the best advice for building with earthbags, I ultimately accepted Ken’s suggestion to redesign the site plan in the round, with the shelter to take the form of a semi-circle (this ultimately led to Ken’s suggestion of the name Half Moon).

The Half Moon was mostly built in July 2008. Prior to construction the site was excavated from a sloping area selected primarily because of its view of the mountains to the south. Excavation took place in one day in June, largely because of the preparation and skill of our operator, Mark.

Much more information on this outstanding design is on the Half Moon Earthbag Earthship website. If you’re serious about building with bags, this plan is worth careful study. It’s one of the few true zero energy homes out there. The Half Moon is averaging 63 degrees inside with no supplemental heating. And because of the owner’s careful documentation, others can follow in his footsteps to take earthbag building to the next level.

Graphs of internal temperatures
YouTube videos

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This is the finished roundhouse that we built in 2010. The walls were built during our April workshop, and plaster and finish work continued through May and June at a slower pace. To say the least, we’ve very happy with the results. If you want to learn more, you can search this blog for the keyword “roundhouse.”

For pictures, go to the Picasa earthbag roundhouse photo gallery.
(Note: Most of the best photos are being held back for a potential magazine article. Please contact me if you’re a publisher who’s interested in this article.)

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Roundhouse/Dome Cluster (click to enlarge)

Roundhouse/Dome Cluster (click to enlarge)


The Roundhouse/Dome Cluster and Roundhouse Cluster share the same floorplan, although in this case I’m showing a larger master bath with laundry.

Specifications include 1,330 sq. ft. interior, including lofts in the roundhouse and both large domes, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, Footprint: 31′ x 70′, not including buttresses.

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The following text and list of properties has been gathered from various poly bag supplier websites to give you a snapshot view of poly earthbags. The information is presented here in a condensed format for brevity. It’s fun doing these blog posts because I always learn something. For instance, did you know polypropylene is 100% recyclable? That’s just one of many positive properties.

Woven polypropylene bags are designed to ship large quantities of dry product in a cost-effective manner. Woven PP bags are the most common bags in the packing industry due to their wide variety of usage, flexibility and strength. These bags are commonly used in packing fertilizers, feeds, grains, flours, salt, sugar, cement, seeds or any other palletized and powdered materials. In addition, millions of poly sand bags are used every year for flood control. Bags can be made according to your desired specifications of mesh, denier, tape width, color and sizes depending on the required capacity.

Flexible and high strength • Anti-skid – treated to prevent slipping • UV resistant or UV stable (but protect from sunlight if project will take more than a few weeks) • 100% recyclable • Resistant to chemicals (alkali and acid resistant) • Corrosion resistant • Resistant to fungal growth • High strength to weight ratio • Moisture resistant – virtually unaffected by water and atmospheric moisture, doesn’t absorb water • Available in a wide range of sizes and strengths • Low elongation/dimensional stability • Lightweight • Tear and wear resistance • Low electrostatic charge • Electric insulation • Aging resistance • Low cost • Radiation resistant • 40-120gsm typical, 90-95gsm typical for grain bags

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Here’s a new video by Guiding Star Creations. Text below is from their website.

Guiding Star Creations: Cultivating thriving environments through inner transformation, earth architecture, and well-being. Neil and Stella are committed to empowering others through facilitating workshops, teaching, and creating projects that combine thriving environments with co-creation and inner transformation. They are planning their projects for this year and are interested in being contacted from parties who resonate with their mission and want to follow their bliss through creation.

You can watch all the best earthbag videos on our Videos page.

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Desert Submarine (click to enlarge)

Desert Submarine (click to enlarge)


This unique 241 square foot all solar design qualifies as a zero energy home. It’s for desert regions only. The home is cooled with water trickling over the metal roofing using the same evaporative cooling principle as found in the original Desert Submarine. It’s a simple yet proven technology. Solar panels power the water pumps, lights and other electrical needs. A solar hot water heater provides domestic hot water. Electronic controls regulate the flow of water to maintain interior temperatures. The main structure consists of steel studs covered in galvanized metal roofing. Earthbag walls help keep the home comfortable year-round.
You can see more details and the floorplan on my Earthbag House Plans site.

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Larger structures such as schools and other commercial structures in earthquake zones require strong reinforcing. Patti Stouter and I have been working on a school design for Haiti. The first earthbag school is now under construction near Leogane. Part of the design is this reinforced earthbag buttress, which will help stabilize the long walls.

Reinforced Earthbag Buttresses for Earthquake Zones

Reinforced Earthbag Buttresses for Earthquake Zones

Complete drawings are now available for free on our EarthbagStructures.com website, along with many other resources on rebuilding with earthbags in disaster areas.

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Tall grass on our dome (click to enlarge)

Tall grass on our dome (click to enlarge)


It’s been somewhat of a struggle to get the living roof on our earthbag dome established. The steep sides make it quite challenging, because water runs off quickly and washes away the soil and nutrients. This causes dry areas to develop. As you can see from the early Mother Earth News photos, the grass didn’t look very good the first few months.

But finally after about two and a half years the living roof is really taking off. This is the best it’s ever looked. It’s improved quite a bit in the last four months during the latest rainy season. I’m hoping dry areas are a thing of the past now that the grass is tall and totally filled in. It’s hard to tell by the photo, but the grass is now dense and 8”-12” tall, with 36” tall vetiver grass on the backside. The vetiver shoots to 6’ high if we let it. And our bamboo in back (visible in the photo), which we planted at the same time we built the dome, is as tall as a two-story building.

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