Earthbag construction — building with polypropylene bags usually filled with earthen materials — is a versatile, easy-to-master, low-impact, and highly durable form of building, suitable for structures from houses to root cellars.
Containing over 75 photos and illustrations, Essential Earthbag Construction is a practical guide to this affordable method of building. Going well beyond the scope of other sources, this indispensable manual is packed with all the information you need to determine if it's the right choice for your project, and to start building. Distilling decades of experience, research, and best practices, it covers:
Material specifications, performance, and when and where to use it
Pros and cons of different fills from gravel, to earth and clay, to insulative perlite, rice hulls, and volcanic stone
Illustrated, step-by-step guidance for efficient bag filling and installation
Details for various designs, including domes and arches
Foundation options and seismic and stability considerations
Finishing and maintenance techniques
Tools and materials
Essential Earthbag Construction presents the practical guidance and best practices for both the DIYer and professional to design and build high-quality earthbag structures.
I give this book 9.9 out of 10 acorns. It's not the author's first book on this topic, and his depth of experience is apparent. This is a very thorough book, covering what seems to be every aspect of designing and building a safe, strong and inexpensive structure using earth bags or earth tubes. I found it striking that none of the 55 earth bag structures in Nepal failed during the devastating 2015 earthquake - that's quite a testament to their safety!
He is right up front in listing the limitations of earth bag construction (they're best at making round structures no more than 20 feet in diameter, for example) early in the book, in Chapter 2. He gives detailed instruction in what sorts of material are needed, and some advice on how to locate what you need. I might not have realized that plain sand isn't a good material, because it can change shape in the bags, leading to the collapse of your dome!
There is an amazing amount of highly detailed and practical information, plus many many inspiring photos of successful buildings. He covers all the steps you will go through building a house, from foundation to finishing plasters, and covering how to incorporate plumbing and electrical wiring. The focus is mainly on building housing, although he also covers using earthbags to build retaining walls, dams, and root cellars.