Remember the military bunkers from World War I? Dug in trenches and barricaded by sacks of soil/sand and of course, barbed wires, these makeshift facilities were powerhouses of revolution. Whole operations were carried on from within and with personnel living their way for several months at a stretch. Well, it’s time we revisit the DIY bunking idea! With population increasing and the ever increasing demand for homes, the world is getting a more polluted place. The use of cement and concrete has been adding the most amounts of pollutants to our air, making cities suffocating in several parts of the world. It’s time we shift to a more sustainable way of existence. With the creative faculty that we humans possess, it won’t be too hard to turn something like army bunkers of yesteryears to cozy homes of tomorrow. Therein comes the concept of Earthbag buildings. Though not yet popular, the idea of Earthbag buildings is getting pushed by environmentalist groups and sustainable builders across the globe.
In any case, earthbag homes house a third of the human population today. So, why not get a little bit creative and turn to cheap, sustainable and cozy green buildings for everyone? It’s not even that Earthbag buildings are a concept that arises out of lack of resources and skills. In early days, we realized the integrity of arch and dome construction and adding some new age materials to the mix, these can be contemporary building designs.
- The Concept
Going back to the very basics, a home would be a roof above your head and walls around for protection and privacy. That’s what the first Earthbag buildings offered. The basic material for Earthbag building is soil. Soil also is the most favorable structural element since it helps to create curvaceous constructions while offering high structural integrity. The construction follows the age-old technique of putting rammed earth into woven polypropylene sacks, making the arrangement flexible. Earthbag construction eliminates the requirement of bricks and cement from the process, thus also making buildings more environment-friendly and sustainable.
- Materials Used In Earthbag Building
The primary ingredient of an Earthbag construction is soil and it can be of any type, depending on the place you live in. It is necessary to understand here that soil here comprises of silt, sand, clay, and gravel. Silt being too fine, too much of it in the overall material will eventually weaken the construction. Consequently, you might have to add gravel and rock pieces in the Earthbag. Commonly, however, the Earthbag consists of a mix of sand and clay. While clay acts as glue, and offers the ruggedness and stability to the building. It is common among builders to use jagged and coarse sand since they adhere better than bigger rock pieces. The expert recommendation for the mix is 70 percent of sand and 30 percent of clay.
When digging out the soil, it is also important that you leave out the topsoil layer that consists of debris including rots, grasses, twigs and plastic. These biodegradable elements will eventually decompose and if used in the mix, will leave a void that affects the structural integrity of the finished building. After refining the raw material (soil) out of debris), experts recommend a moisture saturation of 10% to make the perfect mix to work with.
Once the base construction is done, Earthbag buildings are reinforced with plasters, wooden forms, and barbed wires to add to the strength of the buildings.
Why Build With Earthbags?
There are several advantages of an Earthbag building. Primarily, however, it helps save the environment. As opposed to construction methods using cement and bricks, Earthbags are completely natural and don’t add any pollutant to the environment. Secondly, since the materials can be sourced directly from the immediate nature, the construction cost is very low. In fact, you are paying mostly for the labor involved. Earthbag homes are also fast to construct and whole colonies can be established in a few weeks time.
Lastly, Earthbag constructions have proved to be more resistant to natural calamities like rain, wind, fire or flood than conventionally constructed homes. These buildings are also easier to maintain since they don’t have issues with moisture and dampness.
Issues With Building With Earthbags
The only possible issue with unconventional methods like Earthbag buildings is that they don’t look luxurious. While they can offer the space of modern homes, there are limitations to the extent of construction done with Earthbags.
Sturdier than conventional homes and looks as beautiful, here’s how a family in Tamil Nadu, India has created their homes out of earth!
Earthbag Construction Saves Forests
Earthbag buildings are perhaps the most environment-friendly housing alternative out there. They become a part of the environment around and as opposed to conventional construction, don’t exploit natural resources or add pollutants to the environment.
If you have been looking for a home that is cozy and is in perfect harmony with nature, an Earthbag construction would be highly recommended. You do also have the advantage of saving a lot of money and time in the process.
Curated by editor at Wienerberger India