Good Earth Global Earthbag Construction
Good Earth Global
Wall system made with stacked polypropylene bags filled with soil and adhered using barbed wire as mortar.
Good Earth Global (previously Good Earth Nepal) employs and promotes Earthbag technology and other sustainable building methods and teaches these methods to others. Using earthbag construction they work with villagers in developing countries to build disaster-resistant, affordable and eco-friendly homes and schools, and teach an emerging class of builders, architects, and engineers to build with safety and sustainability considerations.
Earthbag technology is a wall system, with structures composed primarily of ordinary soil found at the construction site. The soil is stuffed inside polypropylene bags, which are then staggered like masonry and solidly tamped. Barbed wire is used between the layers of bags and serves as mortar. For seismically active zones, reinforcements like buttresses, vertical rebars and bond beams are recommended. The classical foundation used in earthbag construction is a rubble trench foundation. The roof design can be by preference, as long as it is lightweight.
*Please note that building designs are being included as “products” in the Habitat Sector of the Solutions Library to allow readers to learn from how projects were designed and constructed and how they are serving the occupants, whether effective or ineffective.
Good Earth Global estimates that Earthbag construction costs approximately 9 USD (1077 Nepalese Rupee)Converted in July 2020 per m² while more conventional concrete block costs 25 USD (2992 Nepalese Rupee)Converted in July 2020.
Earthbag construction in Nepal competes with rubble stone and mud, concrete block, and confined masonry construction.
Polypropylene bags, barbed wire, rebar, and sand and cement mix are purchased elsewhere and brought to site. The earth used in the bags and the rubble for the foundation are found on the site.
Open source building method
Good Earth Global offers programs that include:
Training and education: Standard 7-day workshops, private workshops, on-site training, lectures and presentations, conferences and exhibitions.
Service trips: Construction trips for schools, universities, and building professionals.
Build with them: Good Earth Nepal offers services for the design and management of Earthbag projects and can include everything from conducting site surveys and evaluation, performing cost and budget estimates, meeting with the community and obtaining commitments for required labor and support, designing structures, purchasing equipment and supplies from local merchants, hiring local laborers, establishing a worksite and accommodating volunteers and interns, managing and supervising the construction, and safety inspection.
Good Earth Global has a collection of detailed drawings for Earthbag buildings that are freely available upon request.
Good Earth Global has completed more than thirty Earthbag designs for houses as well as designs for schools for specific geographical requirements. Thirty four Earthbag projects are outlined on the Good Earth Global website.
Indication of whether design can be replicated in multiple locations
Number of individuals. 1 family = 5 persons.
Number of days from start of construction to completion
Surface area of footprint
Number of occupiable floors (ground floor only = 1)
Primary materials used
Composite estimated R-value
As calculated by designer
As calculated by designer
Based upon primary structural system as per the International Building Code
Based upon Structural Occupancy Category and soil conditions of site; as per the International Building Code
List of suitable climates for use of this design
The main building materials are soil, polypropylene bags or tubes, and barbed wire. Components that can be added to make a building more earthquake resistant include a rubble trench foundation, thick walls (16 – 19 in.), concrete bond beams, and reinforcements that include vertical rebars, buttresses, and corner reinforcement.
Detailed specifications can be found in the article Earthbag Technology – Simple, Safe and Sustainable, by Dr. Owen Geiger, Director of the Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building, and Kateryna Zemskova, Co-Founder and President of Good Earth Nepal. The article was published in the Nepal Engineer’s Association Technical Journal.
Technical support can be provided by builders who Good Earth Global has trained in Earthbag construction.
It is unlikely that repairs are needed (see Lifecycle section), however additional bags and other required materials can be purchased separately should sections of a structure need to be rebuilt.
Though the full lifespan is unknown, some of the earliest Earthbag structures, such as those constructed by Nader Khalili, founder of CalEarth, have been standing for 20 years. An estimated 55 Earthbag structures built in Nepal survived the 2015 earthquake.
Performance targets include safety, ease of construction, reduced use of materials, reduced use of fuel and transportation, less pollution, and cost effective.
Structural engineers reviewed the standard earth bag designs submitted to the government of Nepal. Earthbags are now included in the building code. Although Good Earth Nepal has not had the resources to conduct a shake table test, 55 Earthbag buildings withstood the 2015 Nepal earthquake.Interview with representative
Good Earth Global has gained their knowledge from the practical field testing done by key experts including Dr. Owen Geiger.Interview with representative
Workers are subject to the general dangers of a construction site such as working from heights and with sharp tools. Earth bag construction does not require the operation of any large machinery.
Complementary technical systems include earthen flooring, wood frame with slate tiles or corrugated metal panel roofing, or HyPar thin shell concrete roof.
Croft C., and Heath A., 2011, Structural Resistance of Earthbag Housing Subjected to Horizontal Loading, University of Bath, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Somerset, United Kingdom.
Geiger O., 2015, Earthbag Building Guide: Abridged and Adapted for Builders, Osho Tapoban Publications.
Kaki H., and Kiffmeyer D., 2004, Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques, New Society Publishers, British Columbia, Canada.
Vadgama N., and Heath A., 2010, A Material and Structural Analysis of Earthbag Housing, University of Bath, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Somerset, United Kingdom.
Good Earth Global’s Earthbag design and protocols have been approved and published by Nepali Federal Government, Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC).
Good Earth Global receives feedback from community members who they are training and the final occupants of the building.Interview with representative
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