Posts Tagged ‘earthbag school’

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:

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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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We have been following the building of a school in Nepal with earthbags and just got the following note from one of the organizers of that project:

I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts and work in documenting and promoting earthbag construction.  I am working with an organization in rural Nepal to build schools in areas where timber is scarce and skilled labor is limited and we have started building with earthbag construction. Your websites, reports, video’s, etc. have been an invaluable resource and I think I am safe to say there is no way we would be where we are today without your resources.

Not only are we just building schools but more importantly we are training the local NGO (non-profit organization) to build with earthbags, who will in turn educate all of the local villagers of an alternative building method to the traditional stone and mud.  The areas we are working are only accessible by foot (8 hour hike from the nearest air strip) and all materials not found in the natural surroundings have to be hiked in by porter or mule.  Due to this restriction building technology in general has not advanced and villagers are still building the same un-reinforced stone and mud structures they did centuries ago, even though they are in the highest of earthquake zones.

Anyway I just wanted to say thank you again and let you know of the impact and reach of your work.
Travis Hughbanks

A previous blog post about this project explains more about this project.

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This school, an earthbag construction project, is the first of its kind in the region and (from what we know) just the 2nd time earthbags have been utilized in Nepal! (click to enlarge)

This school, an earthbag construction project, is the first of its kind in the region and (from what we know) just the 2nd time earthbags have been utilized in Nepal! (click to enlarge)

“Together, with the local community and our Nepali project partner, we began construction on a much-needed lower secondary school for students in classes 7 and 8. Inspired, energized and more aware of the issues facing the developing world, our volunteers are now settling back into life at home as they process through their experiences.

The Need: In rural Nepal, most families live off of subsistence farming. Household chores like collecting and chopping wood, harvesting millet, feeding animals, fetching water, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so on, require more hours than there are in a day. Families need the support of their children to get by and sometimes opt to keep their kids out of school (particularly if the school is not nearby). In rural areas, girls bare the brunt of the work, often marry early, and are disproportionally affected by the barriers to education. In Nepal, just 38% of girls eligible to attend secondary school actually attend school regularly (in comparison to 46% of boys).

The Solution: Phuleli’s community leadership approached our Nepali project partner, asking that we construct classrooms for grades 7 and 8, so that more students (and thus more girls) could receive a basic education in the village where they live.

Thanks to Edge of Seven’s generous community of supporters, we were able to raise the funding required for the school and broke ground in early November. The school should be finished in late December and 49 students will move into the new classrooms in January. Over the past several weeks volunteers worked tirelessly beside skilled laborers and the Phuleli community to clear the site, lay the foundation and begin construction on the facility. See photo of our progress below (the white bags are where we are building). In fact, I actually heard news just this morning that the team remaining in Phuleli laid the last earthbag today!”

Source: Edge of Seven
(Lots more great info on their website. Of all the places doing earthbag building, Nepal is at or near the top of my list to visit and help build. Don’t forget I’m from the mountains of Colorado, ya know!)

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This article is from www.ndtv.com, where there is also a video showing the school that has the same sound track as the text below.

A school in Pune, India is a model example of how to follow a greener lifestyle. It’s not just teaching its students chapters on recycling, but setting an example.

With walls made of plastic bottles, cow dung plastering interiors, roofs of bamboo and straw and pipes for ventilators, the Aman Setu Primary School on the outskirts of Pune in Wagholi is a school literally made out of waste materials of all kinds.

Its aim is to create an eco-foundation for its children: A fundamental lesson in recycling and conservation.

All classrooms have been built using the Earth Bag Technique – sacks filled with a mix of the earth and waste products have been sealed and stacked up like conventional bricks, tied with barbed wire and plastered over with a mix of natural waste.

The roofs have been waterproofed with old hoardings [vinyl billboards].

“By creating a learning space like this, we are bringing children closer to nature. Not only is the structure kinder to the earth, aesthetically satisfying, cool and comfortable, it is also a dynamic learning space. It’s a hands-on experience for the children to know Mother Nature,” said Madhavi Kapoor, founder, Aman Setu.

Staying true to its belief, the students of Aman Setu Primary School are allowed to play in natural spaces instead of designed playgrounds so that they learn about the flora and fauna and how to live eco-friendly.

They are also taught how to turn organic waste into fertiliser and grow vegetables.

If schools are all about laying the right foundation, this place seems to have got it right. Just as we say, – you learn what you live – here the young minds are learning how to live with nature.

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