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Posts Tagged ‘rubble house’

Totally Tubular: Hyper-Wattle on Rubble Bags

Totally Tubular: Hyper-Wattle on Rubble Bags


Here’s Patti Stouter’s entry for the $300 House design competition. Rubble bags on lower walls provide a solid, flood resistant wall. Hyper-wattle provides lightweight insulating upper walls made of mesh tubes. Thin walls conserve space and materials, and take less labor. Her design is one of only a few in this competition that could actually be built for $300 or less.

Patti’s project is getting rave reviews. Over all, the jurors have posted very few comments, but RSmith posted this comment: “Genius! I love this concept. You are maximizing the most available resources: Human labor, earth and trash! This is one of the best design I have seen so far! …”

This could very well be a winning design. Please vote as soon as possible. There are only a few days left.

Update: Voting is getting vicious. There appears to have been a coordinated attack against all three of my designs in the last hour. All three designs suddenly plummeted in unison by about 20 points each. I’ve been cautioning people about some of the drawbacks to other designs and this has likely triggered some hard feelings. If you haven’t voted, please help support our designs.

RUBBLE BAGS:
HEAVY BASE WALLS
13” THICK BAGS FILLED WITH RUBBLE OR GRAVEL AND/ OR SAND (OR OTHER MASONRY)

A WATER-RESISTANT FOUNDATION WALL
Low height allows thinner width
Barbed wire between courses for tensile strength
Less expensive than metal gabions
Doubled poly bags for 3”- 4” coarse rubble
Finish with cement stucco

LIGHT UPPER WALLS
8” THICK MESH TUBES FILLED WITH STRAW OR CHIPS, DIPPED IN CLAY SLIP
NATURAL FIBERS RAISED ABOVE WATER AND INSECTS AND COATED IN PROTECTIVE CLAY; R-12 TO R-16
LIGHT CLAY IN PLASTIC MESH TUBES
 NATURAL, SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
 ADAPTABLE TO DIFFERENT SHAPES
 STRESS-SKIN TECHNOLOGY
 LOW-TECH AND SIMPLE
 USING LOCAL LABOR
 FINISH WITH LIME & EARTHEN PLASTERS

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I’ve pulled together the recent posts on rubble bag houses, expanded and edited the info, and published a new blog post at Mother Earth News. It includes details on how to build and reinforce rubble walls.

Concrete rubble from collapsed buildings is a huge problem in Haiti. It is blocking roads and hindering reconstruction. Instead of spending millions of dollars trucking the rubble away and disposing of it, why not use it to build affordable housing? Utilizing this abundant local resource would cut building costs, save transport, and create jobs by turning a waste product that’s in the way into much needed housing. (One year after the quake, over one million people are still homeless.)

Note: There’s no shortage of rubble in Haiti. This Oxfam site says only 5% of the rubble has been cleared. That’s a lot of free material sitting close to future building sites just waiting to be used.

You can read the article for free at Mother Earth News Blog.

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The Kay Hybrid combines the best features of two building systems: rubble or gravel-filled bags up to windowsill height and a lightweight frame above made with whatever is most practical.

The Kay Hybrid combines the best features of two building systems: rubble or gravel-filled bags up to windowsill height and a lightweight frame above made with whatever is most practical.


Like many other designers, architects and engineers who are working to help rebuild Haiti, we’re constantly trying to create new house designs and improve previous efforts. This new hybrid design for Haiti is based on our Transitional L Kay design. The Kay is the most common house style in their country. Both versions provide immediate shelter and ease of expansion. But the Kay Hybrid starts with two rooms and a broad porch in the front. Future rooms are added in the back. This is the opposite approach of the Transitional L Kay that starts with the rooms in the back.

The Kay Hybrid combines the best features of two building systems: rubble or gravel-filled bags up to windowsill height and a lightweight frame above made with whatever is most practical – bamboo, recycled wood, even straw/clay or vetiver/clay. This creates a strong, flood resistant base, speeds construction, improves ventilation and reduces plaster work. This approach keeps the weight low in the wall for improved earthquake resistance. It also eliminates the need for clay soil, which can be difficult to find and expensive in parts of Haiti. Rubble bags are filled with rubble screened approximately to 1″ minus (or gravel), which is widely available for free.

Free L Kay plans are available at EarthbagStructures.com, and the Kay Hybrid will be added shortly. Please contact me from our Contact Us page if you’re interested in using this design.

More info for those wondering “why not use all earthbags.” Yes, that’s often the best solution, but not always. You have to adapt plans to the site for optimal performance. According to a San Francisco professor of architecture, who is currently studying alternative housing methods in Haiti, a hybrid approach is gaining adherents. “The strong foundation/flood resistant base and lightweight upper walls and roof is a path that we/you and several other folks seem to be pursuing–so in that sense it is “stickier”. Another way to think of this is no building system is perfect for all situations. Be flexible and willing to adapt to each situation.

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I’ve been scouring the Internet looking at photos and videos of concrete rubble in Haiti. As you probably know, much of the concrete there was reduced to rubble in the earthquake (largely due to poor quality construction). But what is less apparent is a great deal of the concrete was pulverized. There is a tremendous amount of rubble available – pulverized and in chunks – so much that it is blocking roads and hindering reconstruction. Utilizing this abundant local resource would cut building costs, save transport, create jobs turning what is essentially a waste product into much needed housing.

Up until now, this rubble has primarily been used for rubble trench foundations, gabions and road construction. It has not been widely recommended for earthbags because sharp edges on the rubble could cut the bags. But after studying images on the Internet I’m convinced the rubble could be screened down to 1” or so (1” minus) and used as bag fill. This is experimental since I’m not Haiti, but I would like to explore this possibility with someone who’s building there. Please email me from our Contact Us page if you’re interested.

Suggested earthbag rubble method (subject to further tests):
– Search for piles near the building site that contain mostly pulverized rubble
– Separate large pieces of rubble and save for other uses (urbancrete, mortared rubble walls, paths)
– Screen remaining rubble down to about 1”
– Use screened rubble for lower courses (rubble bag foundations) until you’re above the level where moisture will cause problems. Be careful not to overtamp and tear the bags. Only light tamping is needed to settle the contents. And always double-bag foundation courses – one bag inside the other – for added strength.
– Use typical soil-filled bags for remainder of walls for increased stability or build a lightweight wall system above windowsill height

List of possible uses:
– Use medium and small sized pieces for rubble trenches
– Raise the site if necessary using rubble fill
– Build the floor on a base of rubble
– Use rubble bags for benches and stairs
– Add screened rubble to improve characteristics of heavy clay soils

Note: some groups in Haiti have had difficulty obtaining good fill soil for earthbags. Sometimes the soil on site is mostly rocks, and trucked in soil is ridiculously high. Filling lower courses with screened rubble can reduce the amount of soil needed.

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