Earthbag construction is a method to create structures which are both strong and can be quickly built. It is a natural building technique that evolved from historic military bunker construction techniques and temporary flood-control dike building methods. The technique requires very basic construction materials: sturdy sacks, filled with inorganic material usually available on site. Standard earthbag fill material has internal stability. Either moist subsoil that contains enough clay to become cohesive when tamped, or an angular gravel or crushed volcanic rock is used. (Sandbag structures with sand fills are an alternative technology and require very different construction details). Walls are gradually built up by laying the bags in courses — forming a staggered pattern similar to bricklaying.
Earthen bags can be used anywhere that the user has access to enough earth or dirt to compact into bags to form walls.
Certain sources claim earthbag homes can be built for as low as $16 USD per square feet.
Any standard earthen block or average brick has a similar function as an earthen bag.
Goal 1 and 11: Aims to provide fast, affordable, and durable shelter.
Any person, community, or organization that wants to construct a structure out of readily-made material: earth.
The bags themselves can be mass produced or made to order depending on the manufacturer. The final building modules that are filled with earth are individually made on or near the construction site.
An earthen bag can be created anywhere there are excess bags and earth/dirt to fill the bags.
Unknown. A typical structure will most likely feature over a hundred earthen bags.
An average of the maximum compressive strength a typical structure could withstand with this building material. Units: σ (N/mm2)
An average of the maximum loads/forces perpendicular to the compressive forces that a typical structure could withstand with this building material. Units: σ (N/mm2)
A seismic design category expresses an area’s likelihood of experiencing damaging effects of an earthquake (A(low), B, C, D0, D1, D2, E(high)). This parameter denotes the highest acceptable SDC for the material.
Climatic zones appropriate for construction based on a material’s availability/feasibility in each climatic zone.
R value associated with material/product
Earthen bags are individually made by filling the bags with locally available earth or dirt. The type of earth mix is important because it needs to be suitable to allow the earth to harden over time. Stabilizers such as lime or portland cement can also be added. The bags are generally made from polypropylene because it is a strong, durable, and semi-permeable material. The filled bags are laid in their desired form and each layer is tamped before laying the next layer. Each layer staggers the bags from the previous layer and barbed wire is placed between the layers to act as mortar and prevent a wall (particularly the dome shape) from expanding apart from the weight. Several resources exist online that detail earthen bag construction, like the one cited here.
Manufacturing and creating earthen bags is a simple process that can be taught to anyone anywhere. Constructing with earthen bags, however, requires general brick construction knowledge, which can be offered by any general construction company or contractor. Resources can also be found online.
Another bag can be easily made using local materials.
The lifetime of a bag depends on the quality of the construction methods used to construct the building.
It is the designer of the building that specifies performance targets. The quality of the construction is key here.
Vetting is dependent on the designer of the building. The quality of the construction is key here.
Testing is dependent on the designer of the building. The quality of the construction is key here.
If the earthen bags used in a structure are not dense enough, the structure will lose strength, and the building will have a higher risk of failure. Also, the construction method that incorporates the earthen bags must ensure proper structural strength for the structure to remain sturdy.
On exposed walls, many suggest to use a protective topcoat, embed tile or pebbles in earth plaster, use lime plaster or cement plaster on sandy earthbag fill. The user can cover temporary walls with tarps or plaster to prolong use beyond 1-2 months.
As a construction material, there is no widespread regulation for this product even though it has been used worldwide. There are no cited standards for using earthen bags in construction.
The designer of the building determines the evaluation methods.
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