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$300 Earthbag House Update — 7 Comments

  1. From Sarah who posted this on my Earthbag House Plans site:

    This is a great plan for debt-free and low income housing. It’s a practical design for the third world, and those of us in the first world without first world money. My only change would be secure shutters to close over the windows for safety. Thank you for donating your time to providing all the free plans, and the innumerable tutorials on youtube and the like.

    After hearing Vijay Govindarajan’s video, I think this whole open design challenge of an affordable home is a noble goal. VG discusses using capitalism and mass production to meet the 5 billion in need of adequate housing. The idea of this seems great, though in practice I can see problems. In areas of poverty and developing nations, even $300 is a lot and that money leaving the region/country to a large corporation or bank seems somewhat unethical, when paying/bartering for local resources would strengthen their local economy. Especially if the way this project manifested itself did not involve educating the local people on building their own housing. When you factor in that anything mass produced will be made in a central location, will likely be heavy and the cost of shipping, meeting the $300 mark seems unlikely. Shipping by barge or plane to meet the demands of 5 billion? It seems wasteful.

    While Earthbag building is affordable, I don’t think it is the mass produced solution Mr. Govindarajan is imagining. In my opinion, that is okay. My personal belief is that educating people on how to provide their own safe, earthquake and fire resistance home is much better than giving them a mass produced shell of a house. Rather than a purchase, it is an empowering experience and they can pass the knowledge on to their community. And many aspects of your design can be salvaged. I’ve looked at quite a few of the proposed design, and so far I like yours the best. A lot of the ideas, creative and innovative as they may be, seem impractical and unlikely to meet the goals of the project. There is also a lot of wonderful ideas that may be feasible. I think bamboo is another great resource. It’s fast growing, strong for it’s weight and abundant in many areas.

    There are a lot of barriers that could prevent people from building their own home, or buying a mass produced $300 home (assuming they can afford it). Landlessness, building codes, local government, and that in some places (for example the U.S. and our homeless) there is no place for these people because people don’t want them around so they force them into temporary camps and slums, or into a nomadic life by police harassment. I think if progress could be made to lessen or eliminate these barriers we’d really be our way to uplifting people out of poverty.

    Owen:
    Thank you Sarah. This is the most insightful comment I’ve read so far about the $300 house contest, and I must say that I agree completely. This is worth reposting on our Earthbag Building Blog.

    I hope the judges don’t choose projects that draw money away from communities. That would be a huge mistake, counterproductive even. They can choose projects that create jobs locally. See my $300 CEB House for one example. Earthbag building also falls in this category because the bags are recycled and more bags are continually being made for multiple purposes. Another good example is the Recycled Plastic Block House: http://recycledplasticblockhouses.com/ Not sure if they’ve entered the competition yet. This method uses low grade plastic trash that’s not otherwise resold and recycled.

    And as far as shutters on my design, yes, I agree. I left them off due to the extreme cost limitation. In reality, people would add shutters.

  2. My designs are bounding around the top 10 or so. The Stone Dome was up to #4 at one point. Even one vote makes a big difference because not many people vote. Please take a minute a vote.

  3. Hi Owen, I went onto that site, lots of fun. I looked at, and rated, (and proselytized mightily for earthbag construction!) several ideas. Interesting how stuck people are in rectilinear design. Just accepting that structures can be built round instead of square would…well, don’t get me started.

    Good luck in the contest! I like this little design you made.

    I just finished several days of workshops with Patti Stouter in mid New York state. Learned a lot, can’t wait for your book to come out.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Jim. I was reading one of the dome entries (Superadobe Project) and someone left a comment saying domes made with earth aren’t strong. Obviously some of the readers there aren’t very informed. But the worst thing is the #1 entry right now is a concrete box. I couldn’t believe it. No way could it be built for $300. And no way is it sustainable. We’ll soon see how knowledgeable the judges are…

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