Have you heard about earthbag houses? Well, they are awesome, and this post will introduce you to them.
I you look up “earthbag house” on the internet, this picture, or one very similar, will be the first to pop up.
An earthbag house is just a regular house built out of earthbags (basically, it’s a plasticky sandbag). The bags are stacked like bricks and have barbed wire between them. They are pounded down, and the completed project is plastered over. The building technique is an alternative one, and it gets lumped in with other alternative building methods like cob, straw bale, rammed earth, and cord wood. However, other than being an alternative building method, there’s not a ton that it has in common with these other methods.
While other alternative building methods generally focus on using natural materials, this method uses a fair amount (relative to more natural methods) of manufactured materials. It takes hundreds of earthbags to make a house. Plus, a lot of barbed wire is used, and (for extra cautiousness) wire of some kind is laid over the project before plastering. Many earthbag gurus suggest that people acquire misprinted bags to create their home, because these bags would go to the landfill anyway. Not only is this cheaper than buying new bags, but it is also environmentally friendly. However, as a person who has spent weeks trying to locate a source for these unwanted bags and never finding one, I would say that this is a very cheery outlook. I’m sure some people have been able to source misprinted bags for their earthbag structure, but I think that that is not what most people do.
While earthbag building is not the most eco-friendly of the alternative-building category, it is still a green option for building. The bags themselves are filled with earth, usually from the site. And the occupants of these houses are generally alternative themselves, and lean towards green living.
Earthbag building can also be quite cheap. Like anything, it can be as expensive as you make it, but this method of building is pretty basic, and many that choose to do this choose to build their earthbag structure themselves. By DIYing this and using dirt for much of the structure of the house, earthbag building only has the cost of the finishing materials.
Some people choose to finish the inside with a simple, natural plaster, which is, by far, the cheapest option.
Some people choose to finish the inside with drywall. This is more expensive, but it does give a finish to the house similar to the majority of other houses.
One of the great things about this building method is the flexibility! Earthbag houses tend to have a lot of curves and circular features,
but can also be rectangular.
Some of these houses have a dome shape,
and some have roofs.
The biggest perk about earthbag building is that the houses are really beautiful:
Not only are these homes beautiful, but they are virtually disaster proof. Think about it – the military uses sandbags to stop bullets. Sandbags are used to prevent flooding during hurricanes. During tornadoes, people go into cellars and basements to be protected by the earth. Earthbags are just sandbags by a different name. An earthbag structure is pest-proof, fireproof, bulletproof, and pretty much and other kind of proof. Earthbag building would be a great option for a bug-out shelter for all you preppers.
A downside to earthbag building is that it is an alternative method that many people are not familiar with. It will likely be difficult to find anyone to finance the project, construction people to work on the project, or inspectors to sign off on the project. But if, say, you have a piece of land outside city limits and plan to do most of the construction yourself or with friends, then all these problems just went away.
It is hard work, though. I made a fire pit out of earthbags a few years ago (and I wish I had kept those pictures- I don’t know why I got rid of them), and there were days of labor involved. I only worked a few hours each morning, so it’s not like I worked from dawn till dusk, but it was some hard labor. Be prepared.
If you are interested in earthbag building, I highly recommend visiting several of the many websites that are out there (here are a few: earthbagbuilding.com , earthbagstructures.com , homedit.com) and reading Earthbag Architecture by Kelly Hart and Dr. Owen Geiger.
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