Earthbag lessons from the field

IMG_3213-1024x1024Natural building is constantly about learning! Agari have recently embarked on their first independent Earthbag build project, having done a couple of workshops with some of the experts.

Here’s some things we’ve learned that might help you save some time on your project!

  • Bags wider than 450mm take a lot of material, are cumbersome to move around and can vary widely in length and height! If you are going to use single bags, try and find consistent and preferably identical bags to maintain a level height on your Earthbag rows. Stick to 450mm width and below to make life easier. Consider the Superadobe technique, using a single continuous bag for an entire row. It means you have to buy new bags ($45/100m) rather than recycling old feed bags, but it will save you a considerable amount of time in building.
  • Staging is important! Have your soil mix ready to go (typically 30% clay and 70% sand). Have a good water source so you can wet down your mix easily. Setup a safe spool for your barbed wire to prevent any nasty cuts. Agari are experimenting with the use of Scoria as a simpler bag fill, which provides great insulation and allows bags to be filled very quickly!
  • Start small. As with any owner builder project, you should always start small. Mistakes and unknown unknowns will always crop up and it is so much easier to learn from them on a small scale project. This also allows you to refine your skills so that when you build on a larger scale you are not compromising the integrity of your structures.
  • Consider running a workshop with your friends. Many hands make light work and you are empowering people by showing them natural building techniques. For a dome of 3-4m in diameter you’d typically want 8 people minimum. 2 people preparing the soil mix. 2 people filling buckets, 2 people passing buckets, 2 people filling bags.

More tips as we learn them finishing off the inaugural Earthbag dome at Agari!