Our homes are our shelter against the elements, where we live and raise our families. They are where we go when we need rest and to get away from the outside world. With today’s construction methods they have a significant weakness. They don’t hold up very well to natural disasters and are expensive to build.
An old method of construction that is gaining popularity in the rural parts of the country is called Superadobe, or Earthbag or Rammed Earth construction. For centuries man has been building their dwellings from dirt and mud and with the advent of new construction materials and design we have gotten away from that. Understandably so since having a wall made of dirt isn’t as attractive as having a wall made of wood, or sheetrock.
But man’s use of earth in the construction of his home didn’t stop evolving and is worth another look.
Utilizing inexpensive polypropylene plastic bags or tubes which are the same kind of woven plastic that is used to make sand bags or animal feed bags, using a mix of earth, clay and sand, you can build beautiful, amazingly strong structures that can stand up to some of the worst weather we have ever seen.
In Nepal after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, the country was devastated and people’s
homes received significant damage, except for a neighborhood made entirely from earthbag construction.
Since dirt and clay doesn’t burn but is considered and insulator, should you find yourself in the path of a forest fire you can sleep easier that if you are ever evacuated, you will have something to return home to.
The dome design isn’t required for this kind of building technique but is highly desirable since it creates a lot of space, is less expensive in materials and also makes the structure more durable in a tornado or hurricane since the super strong material allows for turbulence to pass around the building without offering much resistance that would normally destroy other traditional built homes.
Youtube offers thousands of videos of people both young and old, in large groups or just couples building this style of home proving just how simple it is. While the techniques are simple to understand and the costs are amazingly low, the trade off is that the process is labor intensive. But as long as you have your routine and consistently do a little every day you could build your own home for less than $5,000 and complete it within several months. If you are able to get help from friends, family or even if you have to hire the help, you could have your structure up within weeks.
If you are thinking of building a new home and would like to consider this type of construction, be sure to check with local and county building codes. Most cities and counties that have large populations have adopted building codes that don’t consider this type of construction and because it is “new” and different and doesn’t fall within their definition of construction deem this kind of building illegal. Even though it is stronger, less expensive and more environmentally friendly, there is typically little room within these building codes to allow for this type of construction. But if your area doesn’t have building codes or does have provisions for this type of construction, an earthbag style home could be just the type of home for you.
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