Building with earthbags is essentially building with adobe bricks without going through the lengthy process of making them. You take polypropylene sandbags, fill them with a moist mix of sand and clay, tamp them down hard and connect the layers with 4 point barbed wire. Then, you cover them over with an earthen plaster.

In reality, I didn't use polypropylene bags. Some Brasilians started a type of construction they call hyperadobe which uses mesh bags, or continuous tubing, made from the same material as the onion or potato bags in the grocery store. They don't require barbed wire, though otherwise the process is just about the same.

As I talk about in the blog posts, my design has been guided by simplicity and efficiency. More than anything, what's been most important to me is to live in a house that I myself, with no building experience whatsoever, can design, build and maintain. A natural extension of that has been the desire to live in a peaceful space. For me that means a home that's in tune with nature, thus limiting the use of imported materials for construction, in addition to those that will be needed later on, such as for heating. Please enjoy reading, ask me any questions, get inspired, and come help and learn!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Plan

Coming up with this final plan has been a very circular process. I began the design from the bottom up. Having no prior experience with earthbag building, knowing no one who does it, and coming up with my own experimental design means that I have had to figure everything out myself. Imagine taking hundreds of pieces of different soup recipes in order to come up with your own egg scramble, which better work because you're cooking for a thousand people, with no trial run. Balancing the foundation--which, since the house is sunken two feet, is part of the structure itself--and the subsequent concerns of moisture, insulation, strength to combat the push of the earth etc. is enough in and of itself. From there I had to figure out the interior layout for two reasons. First off, so that I could build the water/greywater, flues and electricity entrances/exits into the building design, made that much more complicated by its buried aspect. Secondly, and just as important, I had to make sure that my ideas about plumbing and solar water heating would actually work with the design so that I didn't get to the roof and realize I can only have outdoor plumbing and no heating.

I spent considerable amounts of time building up and mapping out the design when I finally got to the final roof plan. It didn't work and made everything fall apart, or so it seemed. To make a long story short, I had kept the interior span at 16 feet throughout the house because I didn't want to have to use vigas (the logs that will be holding up my roof) that were larger than an 8 inch diameter. However, the way in which I had planned to place them was not physically possible. Putting them in in reality would have involved spans of more than 20 feet and a considerable cost increase. Also, I wasn't sure about the structural integrity of that roof design and since I have nothing but my own wits to ensure that my roof doesn't kill me and my first-born child while we're sleeping, I chose to modify the house design.

At first it seemed like a big blow and I decided to make an unburied rectangle instead. It seemed like I had regressed significantly. That was definitely not the case, however. In the end, I kept everything the same except I made the curve less intense, which in reality was the design I had been drawing before I made my clay model a couple months ago. Also, it allowed me to see a HUGE oversight in my passive solar design. I essentially needed to flip the house, putting north where south was and vice versa. That led me to significantly change the interior design (more misplaced feelings of unraveling all my hard work) ending up with something that works better. As a huge plus, changing that design has solved some plumbing issues that were still twirling around in my mind.

1 comment:

  1. We are land owners 1/2 mile from your property. I spoke with Jeff this a.m. He gave us your link. We're interested in seeing your project evolve. Perhaps we can help at some time. Would like to hear from you. email-kberner12@comcast.net.
    Kevin and Cheryl