Posts Tagged ‘sandbag houses’

Patti Stouter's earthbag newsletter recaps news and events in the developing world.

Patti Stouter's earthbag newsletter recaps news and events in the developing world.

Patti Stouter has published a new earthbag newsletter that recaps recent news and events in the developing world. This is a great way to spread the word. Feel free to share with others.

Read Full Post »

Earthbag structures are sustainable because they are safe (fire and mold resistant, structurally sound, nontoxic), durable, code approved, easy to maintain by homeowners, low cost ($10/sq.ft. is possible with small, simple designs), site specific, maximize solar gain, resistant to natural disasters such as floods, low embodied energy materials, use locally available resources, reduce energy consumption (Zero Energy designs available), DIY friendly (no special training needed if you do the research), low long term maintenance costs, few tools required, no special forms needed, uses recycled materials (used bags are readily available from feed stores, farmers, etc.), poly bags are 100% recyclable, little or no wood required depending on design (ideal for areas with termites), ideal for roundhouses and domes which create more floorspace for a given length of wall, earthbag domes and roundhouses are ideal for hurricane/tornado/high wind areas, can be designed for seismic resistance at low cost, can be designed almost any size and shape to meet homeowner needs, suitable for cold, wet, dry and hot climates with the appropriate design, wide variety of fill materials available, no plaster mesh typically required, no concrete foundation typically required, scoria-filled bags create insulated frost-protected foundations that reduce excavation and use of concrete, empowers communities by creating jobs and enabling self-help projects…
[note to self: turn this list into carefully crafted prose so people don’t think I’m lazy]

Read Full Post »

As you can see from the list below, earthbag building is really starting to take off in Haiti. And these are just the projects we know about. There may very well be others. I’ll edit this list as things progress. Hopefully this list will spur sharing and networking.

Rodney Johnson, pastor from KY Baptist Church in Port au Prince SW dwelling @ Port au Prince

Gary McDonough, pastor, Michael Windover, from MI Methodist Church & Haitian Artisans group, SW dwelling @ Mizak & second SW Dwelling @ St. Rose

Indigo Green Building supply, FL http://www.barrelsofhope.org & agricultural mission SW community center @ Jakmel

Mark Long, former missionary from Uganda Church of Christ/ Haiti Christian Development Project dome dwelling@ Bois Marchand

Ben Wolf, Swoon, artists http://www.konbitshelter.org & Mango Growers Org. dome community shelter @ Leogane

Matt Gunn from UT http://www.UtahHaitiRelief.org & Children of Hope orphanage SW classroom building, http://howsitgoinginhaiti.blogspot.com/

Tim Merritt, Emergency Shelter Kits, Haitian Academy, http://hatianacademy.tumblr.com/, txmerritt@earthlink.net

Freedom School, Rochester, NY dome dwellings @ Cabaret multiples on 10 acres

Miragoane, Haiti and Maple Grove, MN Catholic churches dome dwelling @ Miragoane

Jakmel artist’s collective, http://www.atisjakmel.org SW dorm, school & gallery @ Jakmel

Orange Tree Atelye, http://theorangetreeatelye.weebly.com/index.html, http://theorangetreeatelye.shutterfly.com/

TYIN Haiti http://www.tyintegnestue.no/ http://www.tyinhaiti.com/blog/ haiti@tyintegnestue.no

Ecological Emergency Village, http://www.henkvanaelst.be/Henk/

World Shelters — Bags of Shelters, https://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/world-shelters-bags-of-shelter/

Foundation of St. Peter, Petite Goave, $500 houses

A businessman and former US government official working with mayors of 5 Haitian cities is seeking funding for a large SW dwelling project involving multiple sites

Read Full Post »

From time to time we answer reader’s questions.

Q: Why aren’t people making roofs from earth using domes or Nubian vaults? In impoverished areas the cost of a tin roof is sometimes a year’s salary.

A: Domes and vaults evolved in extremely dry areas of the Middle East, where wood was scarce and lack of rainfall wouldn’t destroy the earthen roofs. People are often captivated by the unique look of domes and vaults and want to build them in other climates. Earthbag building extends the possibilities beyond desert regions, yet still domes and vaults are somewhat vulnerable to moisture problems, and so if this is your plan then you’ll want to design and build them very carefully. Options include using cement stabilized soil or waterproof materials such as lava rock as fill material, cement plaster and elastomeric roof coating. Also, eyebrows over doors and windows are recommended to provide extra protection for these areas. Building a roofed dome is probably the best option in rainy climates.

So yes, wood roofs/metal roofing are costly, but you can see that domes and vaults also have costs: cement for stabilized soil, cement plaster, roof coating, eyebrows. There’s no free lunch unless you want to live in a grass hut or something. Plus, earthbag vaults are tricky to build and therefore limited to small spans.

Read Full Post »

An earlier post described how to use ¼” steel rod to install electrical boxes you may have forgotten. This steel is incredibly versatile and so it’s handy to have some around during construction.

¼” Steel Rod

¼” Steel Rod - Click to Enlarge

Here’s a list of things we’ve used it for: attaching bracket for wall mounted bath sink; attaching shelf brackets and nailers; reinforcing cast-in-place concrete countertop; reinforcing top of brick wall and arch; tying brick wall to earthbag wall; reinforcing brick wall footer.

Read Full Post »

It’s very easy to install electrical boxes in earthbag walls. The process involves two basic steps:
1. Anchors: Add anchors in the wall where electrical boxes will go. Do this as the wall is being built. You could use 2x4s placed between earthbags as anchors. Another way is by placing 3” diameter poles about 7” long between earthbags. You could also sharpen the poles and pound them in before the wall gets too hard. We use eucalyptus poles to deter termites. (Scraps left over from our roof poles and braces.) Be careful not to put them in too far. You want the front of the box to protrude about 1-1/4” beyond the earthbags to match the plaster.

Electrical Box Anchor

Electrical Box Anchor

2. Electrical boxes: After your earthbag walls are built, attach each electrical box to the anchor with two screws. This prevents boxes from rotating or jiggling loose over time.

Electrical Box

Electrical Box

Once the boxes are mounted, you can run electrical wire from box to box in the recess between earthbags. “UF” direct burial wire is one code-approved option (in some areas). You could use regular Romex wire if money is tight and there are no codes. The wires will get covered with about 3” of plaster. Some codes may require conduit, which is better if you can afford it. Conduit provides greater protection and enables you to add more lines in future.

Read Full Post »

We’ve been explaining how you can build a sustainable earthbag home for around $10/square foot. To build in this price range requires extra time and effort, but it is possible.

Unfortunately, if you look on the Internet, you’ll find people making outrageous claims about various building systems and how you can build for much less than $10/square foot. What they’re doing is playing games with housing costs. The bottom line is everything has a cost (including your time).

Unless they’re referring to a bare shell, an actual house has walls, windows, roof, basic electrical and plumbing, etc. If you want to create a realistic budget, you have to assign believable numbers to each item. Say, $200 for recycled windows, etc.

Let me tell you a story about Jim Bob, who’s developed a “breakthrough post and beam building system”. Here’s a summary of his “budget”.
creosote drenched telephone poles = free
cut and milled wood from owner’s property = free
windows, doors, roofing, and $20,000 solar system = free from curbsides
nails scrounged from burned down buildings = free
paint = $100

So Jim Bob has built this amazing house for only $100. It’s true, that’s what he actually spent. He’s not lying. But then he goes on the Internet and starts telling everyone about his $100 house, explaining how post and beam only costs 50 cents a square foot, or whatever. While he is telling the truth, it’s somewhat misleading if you don’t know the full facts.

You could do the same thing (play games with housing costs) with any building system and make outrageous claims. What’s the point? From my lifetime of building experience I’ve learned it’s nearly impossible to get below $10/square foot. Like I said, there’s a cost to everything.

Read Full Post »

Perhaps workshop fees and travel expenses are not affordable, or maybe you’re busy doing other things and can’t make it to an earthbag workshop. That’s okay because we provide almost everything you need for free on our websites.

You could get started without a workshop by following my step-by-step videos, http://www.youtube.com/user/naturalhouses, reading our websites and Doni and Kaki’s Earthbag Building book, and then building a small storage shed or something similar. It’s good to build something small at first so you can practice on a non-critical structure. You’ll soon learn the basics and then be able to build an earthbag house.

YouTube Earthbag Channel

Read Full Post »

Many people want to know the lowest cost way of building. Here’s a short comparison of costs to build an earthbag house using ‘free’ options versus buying the building materials:
hand dig soil on site = free versus deliver soil $200
gather materials and make thatch panels = free versus buy thatch panels $100
hand sift soil for plaster = free versus buying it already pulverized and screened $50
(You could itemize all building costs in a spreadsheet and evaluate various scenarios.)

This shows how you can save money if you want, but at what cost? Do you want to dig for two or three weeks to save $200? Possibly. But maybe your time could be spent more efficiently doing something else. In this example, at 14 days of labor, that’s about $1.79/hour for your time digging soil by hand. (8 hours per day x 14 days = 112 total hours divided into $200 = $1.79/hour.) This includes soil to raise the building site and for the earthbags.

The same is true with thatch. For example, we roofed our roundhouse in one day using $100 of pre-made thatch panels. I can’t even guess how long it would take to do it ourselves from scratch.

Now, I’m not saying to buy everything. I’m just trying to help people understand the options. For our project, we’ve decided to buy these materials because our time (in the case of buying versus digging soil by hand) is worth more than $1.79/hour. In other words, I can do enjoyable, rewarding work and make more than $1.79/hour. I also enjoy natural building, so I’m not going to contract out all the work. But it may make sense to hire someone to fill and carry buckets. There are lots of options and everyone needs to find the right balance that works for them. You may find it advantageous to spend $2,000 and finish your small earthbag house in one month instead of three, and that the least expensive approach is not necessarily the most efficient or best choice for you.

Read Full Post »

My Favorite Slider

My Favorite Slider

Here’s a drawing of my favorite earthbag slider that makes it easy to place bags on the wall without getting hooked on the barbed wire. If you want to make one, start out by cutting a sheet of 1/16th thick steel about 13 inches wide by 16” long. Tack weld a piece of 1” by 1-1/4” angle iron on one end for a grip and then weld the back edge. Radius the front corners 2” or so. Grind off sharp edges, remove any rust with sandpaper and then spray paint to protect the metal. Recoat after each project since these sliders really take a beating. And don’t skimp on the steel thickness or the barbed wire will quickly destroy it. Typical galvanized sheet metal is inadequate.

Related: My Favorite Tamper

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »