Sustainable Building~Earth Bags

Cob Cottage Gifts Sandbag constructionEarth bags or Sand bags are exactly what they sound like… bags filled with sand.  Of course if you live in areas that flooding can be a problem, you may have a lot of experience with sandbags.  They have also long been used in the military to create strong barriers, but did you know you could build a house with them?

Traditionally the bags were made from burlap, and they would work fine for temporary measures, but they will not survive long enough to build a permanent structure.  For that purpose, you would want to use polypropylene bags, which are more durable.  You don’t have to fill them with sand or dirt either, you could use crushed up volcanic rock, or possibly even “urbanite”  (which is crushed up concrete)  These bags form thick insulating walls that are very strong.

The concept of building with sand bags is a lot like most other construction ideas, use the bags as you would bricks or cinder blocks.  In between each layer of bags, there is a layer of barbed wire, to grip the bags and hold them in place.  Then these bags are covered with a plaster of some sort, which can be the same type of plaster used in cob houses.  This plaster needs to be kept in good repair because long exposure to the sun will make the bags start to decompose.

Many of these structures are made in dome forms, which make it easier to make the entire structure out of the sand bags, all the way up to the roof.  But if you are using a cob plaster, you will need some sort of structure to prevent rain from eroding it.

So why would you want to build a home with sandbags?  Plenty of reasons.  The construction process is quick and can involve the local community and be built by just about anyone.  You don’t have to hire a bunch of professionals.  You are making it with sand (or dirt, or other locally available topsoil)  which makes it either free or mostly free building materials.  You won’t have to use any machinery to build this house, just some elbow grease. The walls will be thick and well insulating, and even work as sound barriers!

So, here is yet a third option to building a home that would be an environmentally sound choice!  And you know, if you are thinking about building a small workshop, play house or even a “man cave” outside of your current residence, this is a cheaper way to build than the traditional brick and mortar!

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