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!

Friday, March 11, 2011

No More Roof Thoughts Either

This is the end of thinking about a hypothetical future roof. I had to think about it in order to make sure my house could have one but now...no longer any point. It's been hard to stop, but this is it. Here's two very reasonable roof designs. One is with soil and the other is with metal. I assume that when the time comes to erect a roof, it will be abundantly clear to me which way to go.

They will both insulate well, both be about 24" high, including the height of the vigas, which would also be 30" OC for both. While an adobe roof does sound really fun to me, practically speaking it probably wouldn't be as good for rain catchment, even with lime worked into the plaster for water-resistance. I'm pretty sure it would function, but I don't think that it would be as effective; adobe would absorb some water, do its magic and release it back out in vapor; metal wouldn't absorb anything. I plan on coming across somebody, or multiple people, who can tell me about real life experiences with the two types of roofs as rainwater catchment surfaces.

The metal roof would have vents at the lower east and west ends and also have some on the north and south at the ridge. There would either be a continuous vapor barrier laid over the decking or the wool would be in plastic bags.

The adobe roof would have the parapets slanted inwards in order to catch more water. It would not have any vents. It might have a second vapor barrier in between the decking and the wool. It would also have pretty adobe gutters sculpted over wire mesh.


  1. Found a link to your blog on Owen Geiger's website. I love what you are doing, and can relate completely to your choice of earthbag construction. I am planning to do the same within the year in southern Colorado or northern New Mexico. Will be living in Salida in the meantime and would love to come down once construction has started and learn from the process and give a hand. I really admire your attitude and spirit, and love reading the step by step...(sometimes two steps forward and one back, but always moving forward!)
    Best of luck!

  2. Thanks Annie,
    Would love to have you down to build! Contact me whenever you feel moved to come down from Salida. Look forward to meeting you :-)

  3. Hello there, Aly.

    Congratulations on your INSPIRING personal choices for appropriately taking care of yourself and Mother Earth.

    I also found your blog from the Earthbagbuilding.com site. A great big thank you to them for sharing links to so many other folks' projects.

    AND Yes, you have made your roof choices for now. I just want to share this information to get it out into the world for others to know about.

    I attempted to post the following information last week for your other post about the roof ideas. yet, it kept deleting for some reason.

    Here is the idea:

    A person named PJ Hafer designed a Geodesic Quonset hut, which is found here:


    The plans are a downloadable booklet written by PJ about his experiences building, working and living in the GeoQuon. THere is an abundance of information.

    Green Trust built this on their land, and it looks GREAT! Simple to build, EASY AND Inexpensive. It can be covered with whatever you'd like to finish it off and to create water catchment. Steven Spence of Green Trust says that they used it as wood shed, animal shed, chicken coop, and generator building. A person could certainly get some interesting window ideas with this Geodesic design.

    The plan is for sale on Green Trust's website. (I am not involved with them, as disclosure...)

    I thought of utilizing this GeoQuon as the higher part of wall and roof over an Earthbag/Hiperadobe wall, similar to Kelly Hart's Earthbag/Steel Quonset building he posted on: http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/hybrids.htm#quonset

    I envision that this is even a great way to retrofit over existing buildings, mobile homes, etc. In addition to creating GREENHOUSES! outbuildings, animal buildings, etc. This GeoQuon can be used to connect domes and other buildings. It is an idea with Infinite Possibilities. And Steven said that it holds up very well under heavy snow and high winds, which are some of the things to think about with future weather patterns shifting.

    Many blessings to you as you ride the waves of love on your adventures. We look forward to reading all about them!


  4. I'm wondering what books, videos, websites, blogs you found to be the best help to learn about earthbag construction?

  5. Check out the book list and website/blog list on the sidebars. All useful at different stages but all very useful.

  6. Hi Aly! I am a new heighbor of yours. My wife and I own 10 acres within a 1/2 mile of your new property. I started down the earthbag road and realized I wouldn't be able to "stage" the building of the home like I needed to since we don't live there yet. In other words you can't leave the bags uncovered for more than a few months or they deteriorate. Instead of earthbags, I have now altered my design to use compressed earth blocks, which I can stage. They allow me to use on site materials, and I can make the blocks 1 year and use them the next. You can see more here http://www.OurTaosHouse.com. I'd be interested in sharing designs on solar, water, plumbing, etc. I will be out in Taos this week to dig some dirt and have it compressed. Gook luck and keep in touch.

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