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Posts Tagged ‘safe’

One of the greatest needs in the world is disaster-resistant housing – houses that can hold up against hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, flooding and other natural disasters. If you follow the news like I do then you’ll realize that tragic disasters affecting tens of thousands or millions of people occur almost daily. It’s sad and painful to see so many lives lost, and so many families and homes upended. But it’s even sadder and more painful when you know most of this tragedy is preventable by using sound construction methods. Properly designed structures that can withstand natural disasters can save millions of lives and millions of structures every year.

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

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Reinforced Mesh Corners (click to enlarge)

Reinforced Mesh Corners (click to enlarge)


The idea presented here is for Haiti and other areas susceptible to earthquakes. It’s a very simple concept, but even small steps like this one can save lives.

The main idea involves reinforcing corners of earthbag buildings with plastic mesh or plastic fencing. For background information, see my previous post on Low Cost Reinforcement of Earthbag Houses in Seismic Areas that discussed the research at the Catholic University of Peru. Blondet, one of the lead researchers on the project, said plastic reinforcement mesh was the strongest method they’ve tested in 35 years of seismic research.

The main addition here is ¼” rebar to secure the plastic mesh. Add ¼” rebar and plastic mesh on both sides of the wall and tie together through the wall with baling twine or nylon cord. Bend the rebar and plastic mesh at the top of the wall and embed in the reinforced concrete bond beam. Embed it in the concrete foundation if you have one. Lower cost chicken wire or fishing net may be adequate for the remainder of the walls. There’s also a 1/2″ internal rebar pin pounded through corner bags. Note: earthbag walls in non-seismic areas typically do not use mesh unless required by code.

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Confined Earthbag (click to enlarge)

Confined Earthbag (click to enlarge)


Sometimes incremental changes are the most effective. People are naturally resistant to major changes, but they’ll more readily grasp and utilize small changes. That’s the thinking behind this confined masonry/earthbag system. Confined masonry is one of the most common building systems in the world, with millions of structures built this way.

Confined masonry construction consists of unreinforced masonry walls confined with reinforced concrete (RC) columns and RC bond beams. In Mexico, where confined masonry makes up over 60% of all structures, it is used for lowrise construction and for buildings up to seven stories high. Confined masonry housing construction is practiced in several countries that are located in regions of high seismic risk, including Mexico, Slovenia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Serbia and Montenegro. A very important feature of confined masonry is that columns are cast-in-place after the masonry wall construction has been completed.

The drawing above shows how to mimic traditional confined masonry using mortared stone or rubble and rebar columns, with earthbags between. Make the columns with steel cages filled with mortared stone or rubble as shown. This is one good way to build long straight walls without buttresses. (Note: mountains of rubble are freely available in Haiti. This system was created to help utilize some of that waste material to rebuild the country sustainably.)

Confined Masonry Construction, by Mario Rodriguez

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