You don't often see a home for sale advertised as "dirt cheap." You certainly won't find many contractors who brag about a dirt cheap building method. A dirt cheap price for a home might just signify a money pit, a disaster in the making. An exception to that rule, however, might be building with actual dirt.
Earthbag construction is a very strong and cheap way to build a structure. You start out with a piece of land, you scrape up the dirt on the land and you fill a polypropylene or burlap bag with the dirt and you stack the bags on top of each other to create a wall. The bags on the wall are stabilized by strands of barbed wire laid down between rows of stacked bags. Earthbag structures are not constrained to angular shapes and as a result you are only limited by your imagination. Earthbag structures are also strong enough to withstand earthquakes, fires and floods.
Building With Earthbags
Using soil-filled sacks (earthbags) for construction has been recently revived as an important natural building technique for several reasons. It is inexpensive, using locally available site soil and polypropylene or burlap sacks, which often can be obtained free or at low cost. The technique demands few skills, and is easy to learn. In addition, building with the bags goes extremely quickly, much faster than any other earth-building technique. They are adaptable to numerous site conditions and can be used with just about any type of fill material available. When built properly, earthbags are extremely strong, and as the bags themselves are lightweight and easily transported, they are useful for remote locations or emergency shelter. Thus, it is a flexible means of construction usable in a wide range of situations to create a variety of forms and structures
There is a Sustainable Solution to Human Shelter, based on Timeless Materials (earth, water, air and fire) and Timeless Principles (arches, vaults and domes). Every man and woman should be able to build a shelter for his or her family with these universal elements, almost anywhere on the earth and other planets. These principles, interpreted into the simplest form of building technology have created emergency shelter which can become permanent houses, and which have passed strict tests and building codes. Since 1975 we have been dedicated to researching and developing this low-cost, self-help, eco-friendly technology which can resist disasters, and to offer it to humanity. The only missing link is to educate humans how to use these timeless techniques, developed at Cal-Earth Institute, to fit their own culture and environment.
This website was conceived, written, and organized by Kelly Hart and Dr. Owen Geiger in an effort to bring the concept of earthbag building to the broadest possible audience. It is offered with an attitude of good will toward all of those who might employ the ideas and further this very sustainable approach to building.
Earth building is not just traditional to the drier areas of the world, but Britain, France, Russia, Germany and China, as well as most other countries, have successfully built with this abundant and ever present resource for hundreds of years. In Germany a standard building code for earth houses was in existence before World War II. New Zealand earth buildings up and down the length of the country have successfully withstood rain, wind, heat, freeze and thaw for up to 150 years.
What originally began as a project for illustrating a documentary film has grown into a full-time occupation. We now have over 20 years of combined experience in earthbag building. Our goal is to innovate and inspire affordable, enduring, eco-friendly homes, outbuildings, root cellars, and garden walls, which are as beautiful as they are functional.
Earthbag homes are exactly what they sound like -- bags filled with earthen materials stacked to make a house. They often look like big beehives when they're completed, but it's possible for them to take other forms as well. Sandbags have long been used to create military bunkers and flood walls, but their role in building homes is fairly new.