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Posts Tagged ‘earthbag construction’

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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Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)

Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)


Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)

Demonstration wall showing cordwood stacked on earthbag bag foundation (click to enlarge)


There are a lot of little details you can search on the Internet. This is just a basic introductory video to show you the cordwood/earthbag concept. What I like to do is have the mortar recessed slightly. It looks a little better if the wood is protruding slightly. You smooth this out. The mix is very similar — it’s basically cob. You could also call it earthen mortar.

Here is my general impression of cordwood construction. It’s extremely beautiful. It’s very practical in certain areas where you have an abundant wood supply. But it’s very labor intensive. Earthbag is several times faster. So it’s very slow. What I would recommend for most people is maybe just use it around a doorway, an entryway, because it’s very beautiful. Maybe around your fireplace, something like this, because it’s very beautiful. You can search the Internet and see some really beautiful examples of cordwood construction.

You can watch almost 100 videos at Earthbag Natural Houses YouTube channel. Each step of instruction, including how to make gravel bag foundations, is shown in detail.
Earthbag Instructable: steo-by-step earthbag building instructions

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Today I want to talk about passive cooling strategies for keeping your home cool in hot climates. This is a very hot climate and yet our earthbag roundhouse is about 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler inside than out. So 15 degrees Fahrenheit, 8 degrees Celsius temperature difference with no mechanical cooling systems. No air conditioners, no fans, no anything. It’s just passive strategies, natural strategies for keeping the home cool without the use of machinery or electricity. So we’ll discuss about 11 different strategies that you can use. They’re all very low cost and simple.

The first one is the color of your wall — your exterior wall. You want the walls to have a light color so they reflect sunlight. One of the most important things is to have wide roof overhangs. This is about 4 feet, a little over one meter. So the sun almost never hits the wall. Because they’re high mass walls, if the sun hit the walls frequently, that mass would heat up and eventually that heat would transfer inside. So we keep the sun off the walls as much as possible.

Another important strategy is windows. We have casement windows that swing open and catch the prevailing breezes. So the breezes come from this way and these are like a scoop — a wind scoop — to pull the wind into the roundhouse. We also have windows on all sides of the house so the breeze is always blowing through.

If you look up above the window, we have screened openings above the windows that keep insects out, but let hot air escape this way. I don’t know if you can see it, you might want to come closer. Above the bond beam is a gap of a few inches. In between the rafters there’s a gap where hot air can escape. So the hot air is rising and it goes out the top. Also we use thatch roofing and some air passes through the thatch. We also have one of these screened openings above the door as a transom.

Let’s go inside and I’ll show you the earth coupled floor. This is our earth coupled floor right here. What that means is the floor — the high mass floor — in this case concrete, but it could be tamped earth, stone, CEBs, brick, recycled brick, whatever. The floor is in direct contact with the earth underneath with a moisture barrier to prevent wicking of moisture. So the floor is absorbing the coolness of the earth. It’s very cool, surprisingly cool even in this hot climate where you can start sweating in just a few minutes. So this is surprisingly cool. We also have earthen plaster on the inside. All that mass and this mass partition wall [and earthbags] all absorb the coolness of the earth — the coolness coming up from the earth. And the breezes help all the hot air escape. So the temperature inside stays the same night and day. You don’t need an air conditioner or even a fan. It’s surprisingly comfortable in here.

Some other strategies — you want to look up and see the high ceiling, so there’s plenty of space for hot air to rise and escape. There you can see the gap above the bond beam to improve ventilation.

The last strategy I’m going to talk about is vegetation — using plants to keep the building cool. Here we’ve used a mango tree on the hot southwest side of the house. That’s the hottest direction. We have different plants here. So the sun, as you can see, almost never hits the house directly. And also we have a very large tree above here that protects and shades the house through most of the day. Again, these are all simple, low cost strategies that anyone can do. Very low cost, very simple. You can save a lot of money on energy bills and also help the environment.

Almost 100 videos at Earthbag Natural Houses YouTube channel.

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Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower (click to enlarge)

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower (click to enlarge)


View of eastern Grand Canyon from Desert View (click to enlarge)

View of eastern Grand Canyon from Desert View (click to enlarge)


Looking up inside the Watchtower (click to enlarge)

Looking up inside the Watchtower (click to enlarge)


Kabotie Mural in Desert View Watchtower

Kabotie Mural in Desert View Watchtower


“Build a structure that provides the widest possible view of Grand Canyon yet harmonizes with its setting: this was architect Mary Colter’s goal when the Fred Harvey Company hired her in 1930 to design a gift shop and rest area at Desert View. Colter’s answer was the Watchtower.

A perfectionist, Colter scrutinized every detail, down to the placement of nearly every stone. Each stone was handpicked for size and appearance. Weathered faces were left untouched to give the tower an ancient look. With a lavish, highly publicized dedication ceremony, the Watchtower opened in May 1933.

The Indian Watchtower is at the eastern end of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. From a distance the building’s silhouette looks like the Anasazi watchtower it was meant to mimic. In actual size the tower is considerably larger than any known Anasazi tower. In plan the structure is composed of one enormous circle at the north, a small circle at the south, and gently arced forms connecting the two. The largest circle and the arced portions are the sections of that building that are just one story in height. The smaller circular plan is for the tower itself, more than five stories high. The building sits out on a promontory overlooking the Grand Canyon.

The most noteworthy aspect of the exterior is the stonework–a variety of uncoursed rubble below and coursed sandstone above, with decorative patterns of triangular stones adding architectural interest directly below the tower’s parapet and other bands of color masonry adding even more visual interest.”

Text and image source: Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower
Image source: Field Studies in the Grand Canyon Region
Image source: Adam Schallau.com
Image source: Flickr

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Grain bin root cellar

Grain bin root cellar


“This is a root cellar we built out of an old grain bin that was going to be sold for scrap metal. When we had our CSA farm in Montana we needed a place to store vegetables to eat through the winter. We also wanted a place to keep the veggies cool while we prepared them for delivery in the summer season. We had so many rocks on our property that I was thinking about building a circular root cellar, using a rock wall that by design would keep the walls from caving in. That’s where the thought process started, circular things that would hold up to the pressures of dirt pushing against them. I was thinking about culverts at the time, and it led me to thinking about grain bins. Gigantic culverts! I’d always see what seemed to be abandoned grain bins in the fields along the highways and thought that maybe some farmer would be interested in selling one of them. So I checked into it. Low and behold, a farmer friend of ours knew somebody who tore down grain bins for scrap on the side, so I called him. He had two to choose from at the time, so I picked the 16 foot high by 18 foot diameter one. He said if I paid the $200 he would get for the scrap metal I could have it. SOLD!”

Read the entire article with step-by-step photos of construction at the source: Homestead Haven

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Attached greenhouses have numerous advantages in addition to just growing plants.

Attached greenhouses have numerous advantages in addition to just growing plants.


“Building your own greenhouse is a great idea if you are a gardener and want space to start seedlings, or grow plants that require a longer growing season than your climate can normally provide.

But a standalone greenhouse is one thing — an attached greenhouse design for your house brings in a whole other host of benefits to be considered that extend beyond the conveniences of growing food more easily.

Read on ahead to learn about all the reasons to consider an attached greenhouse design for your home — they include providing additional free heat, extending living space, and supplying space to grow food for a longer period of time.”

Read the entire article at the source: The Year of Mud
And while you’re there, check out Ziggy’s Timber Frame Workshops at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

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Ceramic tile floor

Ceramic tile floor


Soil-cement floor

Soil-cement floor


Stone floor

Stone floor


Recycled brick floor

Recycled brick floor


Earth coupled floors – high mass floors in contact with the soil below (slab on grade, tile, stone, CEB, earthen floors, salvaged brick) – are ideal for keeping homes cool in hot climates. They are not recommended for cold climates where underfloor insulation is best. Our earthbag roundhouse, which is in a hot climate, remains cool year-round due in part to the earth coupled floor. The indoor temperature is about 15 degrees F (8 degrees C) cooler inside than out, and the temperature remains nearly constant night and day. Plastic sheeting under the floor prevents wicking of moisture.

“Floors are often the primary link between the structure of a building and its foundations (the ground upon which it sits). Where floors are in direct contact with the ground, they can have a major influence on the internal climate by adding thermal inertia (capacitive insulation) which is assisted by thermal coupling with the mass of earth underneath the floor.

The coupling effect of the earth and building structure increases with depth. Walls and roofs can also be earth coupled if the structure is excavated below ground. Once a structure lies about 3.0 metres below ground, it has such great thermal inertia that it is no longer subject to day/night temperature swing, but only to slight effects from seasonal variation.”

Text source: TT Architecture
Image source: Ceramic-Floors.com
Image source: Rammed Earth Works
Image source: Inehome.com
Image source: Vintage Brick Salvage

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