The Earthbag Revolution – finding the techniques to get you building in no time!
Of all earth building techniques, Earthbag building (or ‘Superadobe’) is the easiest to learn and most forgiving in terms of what type of earth you can use – this means that anyone can start building structures for their backyard or additions to their home, using the earth beneath your feet.
Because Earthbag doesn’t necessarily have to be load-bearing, you can use it an an infill material for an existing structure or for Council-approved post-and-beam structures and still gain the huge benefits of building with the earth without needing to worry about engineering and Council approval.
Building with the earth provides you with huge health and comfort benefits. You can build any thickness wall and notice a difference but ideally, to achieve maximum benefits you should aim for walls with a thickness of at least 300mm. Using earthbag is a quick and easy way to achieve this thickness, giving you all the properties of a solid rammed earth wall but in a flexible form and without the need for awkward formwork – so you are free to design the house of your dreams!
Best of all, this method is achievable. It is so simple that is is possible even as a solo builder to construct using this – although why do that when friends and family love getting involved and make the process all the more enjoyable.
Earthbag earth walls provide you with:
High thermal mass
Great acoustic insulation
Protection from electromagnetic radiation (for example from mobile phone towers and overhead powerlines)
Internal day/night temperature balance
There really are no excuses – get earthbagging today! Don’t forget – starting small is the key. There are boundless opportunities for trying out this technique and after completing a weekend workshop or better still, a week-long course, you will have the confidence to start on your own projects. Earthbag is great for garden projects such as kids cubby-houses, raised garden beds, retaining walls, outdoor benches, sculptural seating…the list of possibilities is endless.
Earthbag is the simplest way to build a strong, beautiful house in any form. There are various incarnations of this relatively new earth construction technique, but essentially it is a type of ‘flexible form rammed earth’. Whether you would like a roundhouse, a dome or a traditional house form this technique provides you very quickly with thick earth walls and a high thermal mass, the technique is very simple to learn and best of all you can use almost any type of earth in it and minimal water.
It is also a fantastic tool to use when needing to construct raised garden beds, retaining walls and privacy walls for your garden and also doesn’t need to go on top of a traditional concrete foundation, you can use many alternatives for this due to it’s inherent stability and great mass.
HYPERADOBE (or ‘Hiperadobe’ as it is known in Portuguese) is the Brazilian evolution of the popular ‘Superadobe’ system, developed by the Brazilian Engineer Fernando Pacheco, which instead uses a type of plastic mesh bag commonly used for fruit or onion bags rather than the normal closed-weave white grain sacks. Fernando also discovered, as Gernot Minke found through extensive testing, that the barbed wired is unnecessary when you are building walls with no inclination.
The advantages of this technique is that it uses less plastic which is not only more ecologically sound but provides more surface area for contact between the bags equaling a more unified rammed earth structure and less need for the (difficult to use) barbed wire between the courses as there is less likelihood of slippage. (However you should remember to still use the two strands of barbed wire any time you have junctions, arches or any type of inclination.)
We experimented with using simple onion sacks on our last project in Uruguay as it was difficult and expensive to import the continuous sacking and found this also worked very well – so you might also find this is the best option in some cases though can be slightly more time consuming.
We love to use the open-weave material and it is easy to source the bags in Australia from local manufacturers – the continuous sacking which is better again is more difficult but we have finally sourced a supplier for this.
Sustainability from the Ground Up
LISTENING to the inhabitants and LEARNING from the land, we can come to know again the cultural relationship between place, the landscape and the environment.
Using appropriate technology while at the same time building socio- and environmental sustainability – whether this means the tropical jungle or the arid desert – and low-tech solutions combined with intelligent design, it is possible to strengthen self-reliance within communities using what we have locally abundant and above all, renewable.
AuwaEarth facilitates workshops in various techniques such as Earth Building, Energy & Water Conservation & Ecological Sanitation, as well as consulting with communities, individuals and schools looking for ideas in how to live more sustainably.
Sustainable Architecture & Bio-Construction – Design and Consultation
Soil Testing & Materials Research
School Earth Building & Ecology Awareness programmes
We give design advice and workshops in the following techniques:
COMPOSTING TOILETS / GREY WATER SYSTEMS
As well as holding informative and fun school awareness days where kids can learn hands-on all about the earth, ecology and get to make some great structures for their schools!
We are passionate about disseminating knowledge on how to return to building with the earth, for the benefit of all.
Our core team is comprises of an architect specialising in ecological and earthen architectural techniques who has been teaching workshops around the world since 2011.
We adhere to low-cost, low-tech solutions so that one can learn these and then pass on the knowledge. We particularly adhere to ‘appropriate technology’ principles so that the best site specific and sustainable solutions can be found, according to location, which will have the least impact on the planet. This in turn leads to developing not only environmental sustainability, but human sustainability.
We have been fortunate to have had a close relationship for the past 10 years with the famous Brazilian institute for appropriate technology TIBÁ based in the Mata Atlântica rainforest. Our friend and mentor for this time was Johan van Lengan, author of the book ‘The Barefoot Architect’ – who has been instrumental in guiding thousands of people in rediscovering the intuitive knowledge for construction within us all, and the joy of coming together and working together to achieve a common goal.
We have also been very fortunate to work with German Architect, professor and renowned leader in advancing earth building technology Gernot Minke, in building an adobe dome with grass roof in TIBÁ as part of an intensive workshop held there in 2009, and more recently with South American Natural Builder Jorge Belanko, an inspiring man who practices ‘slow building’ with great results.