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Earth Bags, the next step?  RSS feed

 
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I just watched a Modern Marvels episode that showed Hesco Walls; how they're made and arranged. They replace the use of sandbags in certain structures for our military, like parameter walls and barriers. The information was new to me, but I'd bet others here are more familiar with them.

http://www.gabion.biz/gabion/hesco-barrier.html

As they are currently configured for military use, I don't think they could feasibly be used in place of earth bags for building a structure. But, if they were smaller, I think they might work well in place of earth bags for building strong, sustainable homes in a much quicker, less labor intensive way. The military uses them to block trucks with bombs on them from reaching buildings and camps, so they seem way over engineered for building an earth bag home.

They're basically boxes made of metal mesh and lined with material inside the mesh to hold dirt. They're filled with dirt from a front loader. It looks like they can be stacked on one another as well. Each cube holds much more dirt than a sandbag, which makes filling them much quicker. With the right equipment, I can see a structure being completed in under a day with very few workers.

If adapted for permaculture purposes, the materials would probably need to be changed a bit to reduce cost and ensure sustainable manufacturing techniques of those materials or even identify existing items that can be repurposed to make them. But, this seems possible---maybe. It'll take some out of the box thinking to make it work.

If we could identify materials to repurpose for the Hesco-type boxes, it might be of use to folks as an option for sustainable housing. They don't even have to be square, if we keep an open mind and give it some serious thought.

Are these Hesco Walls, adapted for use in sustainable home building, worth considering, or should everyone just stick with earth bags and be grateful we have them as an option? On the down side, I can see their use encouraging the operation of heavy equipment for a day or two. (Run them on biodiesel to reduce the impact?) But, on the upside, very strong structures could be erected very quickly using locally available materials that are sustainable, encouraging the adoption of sustainable building techniques on a wider scale. They seem like earth bags on steroids.

Thoughts?
 
pollinator
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Bill Bianchi : If you have unlimited funds, and access to heavy construction equipment, some one will come along, re-invent the wheel and get rich charging you big
bucks for it ! The operative word here is Gabion. Gabion is basically pre-made baskets used to stabilize hillsides, stream banks, and lasts decades and can be multi
stories high! I believe Dale Hodgins has an article on alternative uses of it here at Permies! Gabion baskets made out of withes and woven together like wattle walls
Have been used to make gun emplacements for siege warfare for Centuries, a lot of our Civil War Pictures show them as a universal background to the big guns !

Been there, got the t-shirt, wore it out, used the rag to polish my low quarters ! Big Al !
 
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Hesco has the corner on the market for fast deployment gabions--military and flood control.

They are not strong enough to ram the earth inside, and the fabric they use does not last long enough without a topcoat.

I thought about making some using cattlepanels and old tarps, even did a test as the base to my cob oven--basically you end up with Abe's rapidobe. http://www.permies.com/t/15914/wofati-earth-berm/Rapidobe-cheaper-easier-alternative
 
allen lumley
pollinator
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R. Scott : the wheels are spinning I'll have to see where they go when I get some traction ! Thanks for sharing !
 
Bill Bianchi
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I see. They looked quicker to fill than individual earth bags, even if using a shovel & wheel barrow. But, I figured there was a reason no one was using them to build buildings. Really too bad they couldn't be redesigned for longevity, scaled down a bit in size, and plastered over to protect them, as with earth bags. Might have made the building process a bit easier, though renting a Bobcat for a day or two would have added to the cost quite a bit. And there's probably no way to make one from up-cycled items, at least not safely.

Not the first time I've been wrong. Won't be the last.
 
Bill Bianchi
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http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/gabion-tiny-house/

Someone thinks they could be used to build a home, but it's just a theoretical drawing. So far, I've found nothing to indicate they've successfully been used to construct a building.
Still, I feel better knowing someone else thought they might work. If misery loves company, so does being wrong. lol
 
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There was a TV show, Grand Designs, which had an architect using them to support a house but they were filled with rocks and more for decorative purposes than anything else.
 
Bill Bianchi
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What I imagined when I first thought about their use for home building was 3 sections in each basket, allowing the regular fill material in the big main section and an insulating fill material in the smaller interior and exterion sections, each section as large or thin as needed. Thought there might be an advantage to handling structural fill material and insulation at the same time.
Use same cloth material earth bags are made of inside the wire cages. Make sure metal is treated for corrosion or coated to ensure the cages don't fail from deteriation.
Half and quarter size baskets used to accommodate doors and windows.
Plumbing and electrical handled while foundation is set.
All "baskets" tied or welded together for strength, especially at the corners. Stakes driven into baskets between rows to help lock the layers.
Put a roof on it and a floor in it. Stucco the exterior. Mud the interior walls with whatever you choose.

These seemed like they would make strong enough walls to be burmed, or even serve as support walls for an inground home, if energy conservation was a concern. Columns made of these would help support the roof.

But, even if all that were possible, these would still be more expensive than earth bags.
 
Bill Bianchi
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http://www.constructionphotography.com/Details.aspx?ID=34049&TypeID=1

This was a pretty cool use of them. It's a maze. I wondered if the walls inside the maze help support the exterior walls surrounding the maze. It looks like they're attached. This also looks more than sturdy enough to support a roof.

If the inner maze walls were instead configured for square rooms, and they were linked to the exterior walls, wouldn't they both reinforce the exterior walls and help support the roof? If the cages were lined with earth bag material and filled with dirt and rock, wouldn't the structure be more like an earth bag home?

Too bad it's just not possible.
 
Bill Bianchi
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http://umbl0g.blogspot.com/2011/01/gabion-house-for-haiti-project-r-rubble.html?m=1

This link shows a gabion house built in Haiti. I would not be comfortable in the one pictured because I wouldn't trust it. These gabions are made of chicken wire and they're using rebar to somehow help hold it all together. Rubble from the fallen buildings are in the gabions.

At what point will the chicken wire corrode and fail? I wouldn't want to be inside it when that happens.

The earth bag folks suggested using the rubble as well, but in earth bags instead of gabions.

I wonder if the gabions could be combined with earth bag construction to get the best benefits of both. Speed of construction and wall thickness of gabions with the aesthetic curves of earth bag construction.

Anyway, since some folks are apparently building homes with gabions, we have the opportunity to watch this technique from the safety of our homes. Time will tell if these catch on or not, or are safe or not.

It's obviously possible to build living quarters with them, after all. Took quite a few searches to come across examples of them used in actual buildings. Don't know if these will ever catch on, but it's another tool in the toolbox and something to keep an eye on if folks continue adapting the technology for home building.
 
R Scott
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Bill Bianchi wrote:I see. They looked quicker to fill than individual earth bags, even if using a shovel & wheel barrow. But, I figured there was a reason no one was using them to build buildings. Really too bad they couldn't be redesigned for longevity, scaled down a bit in size, and plastered over to protect them, as with earth bags. Might have made the building process a bit easier, though renting a Bobcat for a day or two would have added to the cost quite a bit. And there's probably no way to make one from up-cycled items, at least not safely.

Not the first time I've been wrong. Won't be the last.



You aren't wrong. But search out military guys and they will tell you about the limitations. All the problems you list can be overcome. The problem you missed is the compaction, which I think you can overcome with a trachoe mounted compactor. The big problem is the money. No matter how you do it, they are a lot of steel and steel is not cheap.

There is another brand that uses much less metal, they are a honeycomb pattern of fabric. I can't think of the name, but still not as cheap as bags.
 
When all four tires fall off your canoe, how many tiny ads does it take to build a doghouse?
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