One of the most innovative and sustainable architectural processes being used today in construction is that of using sandbags or earth-bags as they are commonly called. This process involves filling bags with a mixture of dirt and sand that when it is placed into position dries into a hard brick-like structure that is stronger than conventional building methods. Also the earth-bag building process possesses a large number of advantages over traditional construction processes. Simply put, you can build a small building for practically nothing with just some bags, some barbed wire and the dirt under your feet.
Earth-bag architecture was first pioneered in California by an innovative Iranian immigrant by the name of Dr. Nader Khalili. He studied the ancient architectural formations of the Pueblo and Navajo Indians and combined this with his knowledge of earthen structures from his native Iran. He then spent some time discussing his idea with friends of his who had served in the military and eventually came up with the idea that traditional houses and small buildings could be constructed from bags filled with earth. This idea led him to work with the building inspection department of Hesperia, California and develop a code approved process that is still taught through the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture.
As Dr. Khalili and other pioneers experimented with earth-bag construction, they found that the method has numerous advantages over traditional construction methods that makes it healthier, sturdier, and faster that traditional building methods. One healthy advantage that has been found with earth-bag construction is that there is no need to use any kind of insulation in an earth-bag building because the dirt in the bags provides solid insulation for the structures. This means that the risks for allergic reactions to things like asbestos, fiberglass, and other toxic substances found in traditional insulation is greatly reduced. An advantage that has been proven that makes earth-bag construction better than traditional building is that it is more earthquake resistant than traditional construction techniques. This can be seen in the fact that the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture has tested earth-bag buildings that have withstood the rigorous test requirements of the highest seismic zone in the United States without any problems. Another advantage that has been discovered with earth-bag construction is that a building made of earth-bags only takes only a matter of a few days to construct as opposed to weeks or months for most other building techniques. This method is so fast that the UN has approved it for constructing disaster shelters in stricken areas after disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Overall, the advantages of earth-bag construction make it a process that could be the answer to the world’s growing problem of homelessness.
A basic overview of the process shows just how simple it is to build with earth-bags,. To build a structure with earth-bags, one only needs to have sandbags, barbed wire and dirt. Then you fill the bag with dirt, place it into the position the structure’s blueprint calls for and continue to lay one layer of earth-bags Then you lay a layer of two strands of barbed wire over the top of this to secure the next layer to the first layer. Then you fill the bags for the next layer and place them over the layer of barbed wire. This process is followed until the structure’s walls are completed and a roof can be placed over the walls to protect the structure from the weather. For situations where a roof cannot be constructed, a building can simply be built as a dome and given a roof of earth-bags that protects it from the weather. Generally speaking, there is no simpler nor more sustainable way of building a structure than to use earth-bags This is why it has become such a hit among architects and homeowners looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly way to construct buildings.
With all of its advantages and speed, there really is no better way to build a building than to use earth-bags It is faster, healthier, and easier than traditional construction and offers a way that is sustainable while traditional methods simply do not. Simply put, earth-bag construction is going to be the wave of the future.
Dr. Owen Geiger, “Earthbag Advantages Over Other Earth Building Methods,” Earthbag Building
Derek Markham, “Earthbag Homes,” Green Lifestyle Magazine
Dr. Owen Geiger, “Health Benefits of Earthbag Building as Opposed to Traditional Construction,” Earthbag Building Blog
“About Cal-Earth,” California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture