Watch: Time-Lapse of Building an Earthbag Home
Russ Chastain 09.22.16
An earthbag house? Never heard of it, but it sure looks impressive.
This is a time-lapse video in which some folks create a building in Fairbanks, Alaska from August 27-October 27, 2011.
They used a 4-foot-deep footer of compacted gravel as a foundation for the walls, and then they began laying bags, which appear to be the same kind of sandbags that are used for flood protection.
The first three courses (or layers) of bags contain gravel “for drainage.”
Between each course of bags, two strands of barbed wire are lain lengthwise along each wall. The purpose is to discourage the bags from sliding off of one another.
Wooden inserts are laid low in the walls for attaching electrical outlets to later. This drives home the point that in a house made of dirt, you can’t really mount such fixtures in conventional fashion. If you’re going to want to hang something on the wall, you’d better plan for it ahead of time.
We see the doors and windows placed, but read dire warnings on the screen to frame doors and windows differently if we were to try this ourselves. I believe it! There’s not much lumber in these.
Working through snowfall, they managed to get the floor for the second story in place, and later they added a temporary slanted roof so it would shed snow during the winter. At least they were able to move out of the tent in which they’d been living, and we see photos of the interior after they’d set up some stuff inside.
Later on, they added a second story and a proper roof, but sadly they’ve moved away. Details about that and more are in the video’s description, which is quoted in part below:
The cabin is two stories now and does have a proper slanted roof. We moved to town in 2014 to be closer to school and work and have been too busy to finish the project.
I get a lot of questions about the rocks. The rocks were for holding the barbed wire down, which is hard to make out unless you are watching in 1080. The barbed wire acts as a bond between the layers.
I also get a lot of questions along the lines of “why not use logs?!” The logs you see on the property are not suitable for cabin building, and buying logs is really, really, really expensive relative to earthbag construction. Also, we were just really curious to see how such a building would fare in Alaska.
Pretty cool… I’d like to see what it looks like today.