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Our earthbag earthship  RSS feed

 
Morgan Caraway
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In 2009, my wife, Mary Jane, and I, built our first earthbag house, while living in a yurt we built that we called the "easy yurt." The earthbag structure was a 20' diameter round house, with around 300 sq ft of space. Last year we began building a 1000 sq ft earthbag house inspired by some of the principles of earthships and are living in a short bus while we build - homesteading adventure 2.0! I've been documenting the process for an upcoming book I'll write ("DIY Sustainability") and we've taken lots of pics and vids as well. For those who are interested, some pics can be seen at http://sustainablelifeschool.com - click on the projects tab.

I like building an earthship style home with bags because it seems much easier and quicker than the rammed earth tires and we have been able to build at minimal expense so far -  I'd estimate that we're currently somewhere in the 6k range.

We hope to be done with phase 1 in a couple of months and will be building an earthbag root cellar next year (which we will likely have a workshop for). Just wanted to share some of our progress. I also wrote an article on medium.com. It can be read here.

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Alan Loy
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Location: Melbourne Australia
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Looks to be a good alternative to bashing those tyres!  Will you end up with similar mass and insulation to the tyres method?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Looks good.

I consider the ReUse of old tires, to be the least green, and most dangerous thing done in the so-called Green Building world. Glad to see that you found an alternative.
 
Christopher Steen
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Looks like an awesome and quality build!
I like the strong curved shape on the North bermed wall.
Did you find the blue pvc electrical boxes deformed after tamping out all the bag work?
Keep us posted!
Chris
 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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two things;
I see workshops as a sourse of slave labour to build ones own house, other see it differently.
How do you see it?
secondly, Dale, what is your aversion to re using old tyres?
Thanks
 
Mark Tudor
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Location: SoCal USA
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Hi John, points regarding tires/tyres that I've seen brought up: while decades ago when Earthships were first designed there was little recycling of tires so it seemed a way to reduce landfill. Nowadays, tires re being ground up and reused in other applications, so the supply can be hit or miss, especially with getting enough of the same size, and they might not be free.

Second there's the concern for off-gassing. Some experience it and others don't so it could be a reaction to something else in the ground or contaminated tires or a poorly sealed wall covering, but considering earth bags are available for very cheap and require less pounding it might be worth avoiding tires just in case.

Earth bags also seem to result in a bit smoother wall compared to tires, and it's certainly no tougher, if not easier, to tie in deadmen to the earth berms. I've seen some earthbag builders use gravel in the first couple courses to limit wicking of moisture from the ground; not sure if that's a good option for a full wall, if you had a lot of gravel?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Yes, the off-gassing. If a tire has been made that does not off gas, that is new to me. I remember years ago the actor Dennis Weaver did a video about his Earthship. He had to move out of it a couple years later because it was destroying his health.
 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Thanks, that was something I was not fully cognisant with.
In Australia, earthships are not popular in part because the labour costs are a lot higher than in New Mexico etc.
I have tried filling tyres, it is hard work, and I can see the benefit of earth bags.
We use a fair bit of Adobe here, and I noticed another punter using a single layer of earth bags but calling it Earthship, I thought that was not correct.
Earthships benefit from very wide walls and plenty of volume I would have thought.
regards
 
Morgan Caraway
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Alan Loy wrote:Looks to be a good alternative to bashing those tyres!  Will you end up with similar mass and insulation to the tyres method?


Thanks for all of the responses and interest, everyone! Hello, Alan. Yes, we have lots of thermal mass in the walls, floor and, of course, berm. We are only going half way up in the back of the building but the roof is going to be super insulated so the thermal mass should keep us comfy.
 
Morgan Caraway
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John C Daley wrote:two things;
I see workshops as a sourse of slave labour to build ones own house, other see it differently.
How do you see it?


My workshops aren't about getting a bunch of work done. My focus is on helping attendees learn what they want about the process. I would agree that charging someone a decent chunk of change for them to come bust ass for you seems a bit unfair.
 
Morgan Caraway
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The discussion of tire off-gassing is interesting. As was pointed out, when tires began to be used in earthships, there wasn't much else being done with them so it was a way to reuse them. I have had some concerns over the off-gassing but the main advantage of earthbags is that they are much easier to fill than rammed-earth tires. I will post updates and more links to my videos as I'm able to get around to them.
 
Morgan Caraway
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Here's a quick tour with some recent progress I posted on youtube:

 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Thankyou for the explanations
 
Morgan Caraway
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No problem. Glad to share what we're doing.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Do you normally have the outside walls covered when you're not filming or working? I thought that earthbags deteriorate in sunlight. It looks awesome by the way. Thanks for posting it.
 
Morgan Caraway
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Hello! What I've noticed in working with different batches of sandbags is that all claim good UV resistance but only some actually have it. The bags we're working with now have held up extremely well with partial sun exposure. Since we started last year, when the building season was over, I applied a "sunscreen" made of cement-stabilized dirt on the most exposed bags which is still there protecting them until they're plastered.
 
Morgan Caraway
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I posted another update. Will try to do so weekly.

 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Would lime stabilised earth be a better plaster?
the cracking of the plaster may be reduced by dampening the wall initially before applying the plaster.
The wall may be sucking out moisture from the plaster, preventing the plaster from behaving properly.
 
Morgan Caraway
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Hello John. The first coat was a rough coat with no sand added. The finish coat cracked much less because we added some sand. My wife made a lime and sand putty which has been great for filling the cracks. Our next step will be to paint on a coat or 2 of lime wash. Will show some of our progress in the next update.
 
Morgan Caraway
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The latest update:

 
Morgan Caraway
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Christopher Steen wrote:
Did you find the blue pvc electrical boxes deformed after tamping out all the bag work?


Hello Cristopher, I missed this question earler. No the boxes didn't deform. They are the extra strong and deep variety and, if I remember right, cost a quarter or so more than the flimsier, smaller ones.
 
Morgan Caraway
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Here's our latest update. We talk about the hydronic (radiant floor) piping and get started on our cement-stabilized earthen floor.

 
Morgan Caraway
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We finished the floor in the back and are now taking a break for a bit. Here's the latest update:

 
Morgan Caraway
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The floor is done and the house is almost closed in!

 
Cass Tippit
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Hey, really love what you're doing. I'm curious, is the berm actually up against the back wall? I only ask because I want to do an earthbag earthship, but the only one i've seen attempted had issues with the weight of the earth warping, and eventually collapsing , the bermed wall. I would imagine your's isn't truly bermed, otherwise why bother putting windows back there. lol
 
Morgan Caraway
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Hello Cass. You are correct - it's a partial berm. Because of the lay of the land, one side is buried deeper than the other. We are going to backfill so the berm slants away from the house for better drainage, as well. Our first house didn't have many windows and was kind of dark, so we wanted more light/ventilation.
 
Cass Tippit
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Awesome, thanks for the reply. Can't wait to see more pics. Subbed your Youtube channel.
 
Morgan Caraway
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TY!
 
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