Ang Aming Bahay Na Lupa

“This is the video of our completed house – an earthbag roundhouse with cogon thatch roof.”

This is one of the better earthbag houses we’ve seen so far and so Kelly plans to make a profile page soon at Earthbag That’s where we profile all the best earthbag Projects.

More at the source: Ang Aming Bahay Na Lupa
Please document and share your project so others can learn freely.

6 thoughts on “Ang Aming Bahay Na Lupa”

  1. Thanks for posting your comments Peter.

    I echo Owen’s comments. Please don’t take my comments as an attempt to pick your wonderful project apart. I really do think you have a very nice house, and I wish you and your family well.

    I do think that it’s worthwhile to point out key design elements, and when people go against common design principles. Clearly it is very unusual for someone to put a house in a low spot such as has been done in this instance. I’m glad you commented to list the precautions you have taken. Roadways are an excellent way to create a canal effect. You were very smart to take advantage of that.

    Perhaps it might be informative to others if you posted on your blog about all of your drainage efforts in one blog post, with photos of each line of defense? Perhaps a simple pencil-paper sketch map of your property to show how every element directs water and to where?

    When you encounter your first really big rain event… perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to put on your boots and go out with a video camera and an umbrella to visually show how water flows around and out of your home site? A great many people might benefit from just such a visual demonstration. Of course, it’s your house, and your blog. You should post whatever you think best. Just a humble suggestion on my part.

    My comments have been intended primarily as a caution to others. Placing a house in a low spot like this is not something to do without taking special precautions to avoid water problems.

    Congratulations on your accomplishment. Looks fantastic.

  2. Hi all this is peter the owner. We did consider the water situation. This is what we did:
    1. On the right side of gravel road is a canal to divert water.
    2. Right next to steps going down is anothet canal.
    3. The water flows right into the edge of the bowl because we sloped the land away from the patio.
    4. The patio itself has a lip to protect against overflow on the high side of the patio.
    5. And finally, there is the gravel trench underneath the bags and an outlet on the low side of the slope.
    Hope this is enough. We have had some strong wind and rains but no typhoon yet. The structure had held up quite well. Any other feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Sometimes it may seem we are picking apart projects (being overly critical). We do this to help people learn.

      Just wanted to emphasize a job well done. Very few projects make it onto our Projects pages at Earthbag Congratulations.

  3. As a contrast…

    There is a different way to approach a building like this which would avoid the soup bowl problem all together.

    Look at all the work they put into building retaining walls to hold the hillside at bay. Imagine if all that effort had been put into raising up the building pad a few feet. One day with a tractor or a front end loader would probably do the trick, and gravelbags around the perimeter to act as a retaining wall to hold the rubble inside the circle. Heck, you wouldn’t even have to have a big machine. Just get about 15 hard working guys to wheelbarrow it. Maybe have a couple cute female foremen around challenging them and encouraging competition between them to show off how strong they are to work fast ;)

    As it is… that wonderful house is built, and it would be a huge challenge to lift it now. I find myself wondering if it would be extremely wise (and very inexpensive) to build several redundant swales uphill. The more the better, and lay them out slightly off-contour. Have the highest part of each swale directly uphill from the house, and then have each swale drop perhaps a couple of centimeters down per meter of run. Not too much to make the water runoff fast and cause erosion….just a slow gentle flow. That would help assure that water from uphill during a big tropical storm doesn’t overwhelm the house. It would gently direct water around the house, at least most of it.

    As far as the roof goes, I agree that gutters make a lot of sense, and I would make certain that those gutters have an angled downspout that drains OUTSIDE the foundation bowl. Perhaps that downspout could be incorporated as part of an architectural feature or a landscape pergola to make it more attractive. The point is to not even let the roof runoff enter into the french drain at all. The french drain should be the LAST bastion of water defense, not the only defense. It’s best to keep as much water from getting close to the house as possible, and then let the french drain take just a trickle away when things get extreme.

    Also… in a situation like this… maintenance of the drainage system is paramount. One blocked french drain pipe could result in a round indoor swimming pool. Check them often, and make certain they are always clear. Don’t let them silt up, nor get blocked by trash, animal dens, or other debris.

    All this said, perhaps they have taken more precautions about drainage and they simply weren’t documented very well in the video or on their blog. I hope so.

    It’s such a nice house, it would be a tragedy if it got swamped. I hope they did their homework and have taken appropriate precautions.

  4. Extraordinarily nice.

    The blog that Owen linked to is well worth looking at. Lots of great photos showing how things were assembled. I recommend reading their entire blog.

    I hope they have that site extremely well drained, because it almost looks like they built the house in a soup bowl. I saw a scuffer on the short part of the bowl that I hope is enough to drain away any big downpours. They had problems early in the project as foundations were beginning with water on the site, and had to dig a swale uphill from the house site. That was BEFORE they dug all the way down to put the house lower. I hope the house site is well enough drained for the rainy season, and big events like monsoons and typhoons.

    Apart from that one issue…and that water issue is potentially a huge issue on any construction site… the rest of the build looks magnificent. Well done.

    Good roof overhangs and wrap around porch. Lots of natural light. Outdoor kitchen. Barrel oven. Beautiful ironwork. High ceilings give the feeling of vastness to a fairly small space. Wonderful finishes. Even custom built furniture just for this house.

    There was a small crack I noticed in the exterior plaster, but with those deep roof overhangs, it’s not a huge deal.

    For those wondering, the roof is thatch, but it has panels of netting all sewn together to wrap all around the thatch to prevent birds from attacking the thatch. I’ve never heard of that before. The bamboo roof rafters were harvested from the property, and hauled around by water buffalo. They also used smoke extensively as pest control agent for the bamboo and thatch.

    The house has a luxurious look to it, yet it is not ostentatious at all. That’s hard to pull off, but they did it well.

    What is even more amazing is that according to their blog they built that entire house in 6 months!!!! Sure, they hired out a lot of the work, but that’s still a speedy build.

    Just a few points of reference, their concrete bond beam on top of their bag walls was completed on day 34. The first gravel bags were laid on Day 10, and bagging was completed on Day 25. That should help reinforce the idea to everyone that a completed house is a lot more than simple walls. Earthbagging took much less than 1/6th of the time to build this house. Everything else took a lot longer. My experience is that most people don’t understand how long all the little things can take to finish a house. Getting the walls up is usually one of the fastest parts of a project. The roof took longer than the walls. Everything else took longer than the walls and the roof. I don’t think these ratios of time for walls/roof/therest are unusual for any build. Often the walls and roof take less than half the time of the total build.

    One of my favorite posts in their blog was showing all the workers huddled around a video screen as they learned how to lay earthbags. Was Owen the teacher for the video???

    There is something so awesome about getting a group of workers together… showing them a video… and 15 days later… earthbag walls that they had never attempted before are completed.

    On an unrelated note… I hope that the guy that coughed up half a lung about half way through the video is going to live. :\

    • You hit a lot of good points Jay. My main concern too is lack of drainage. All the water from the roof is going into a bowl around the house. Adding gutters seems prudent. I also noticed there isn’t much keeping water from flowing right into the house. No doubt it rains really hard there at times. Always use the “better safe than sorry” principle when it comes to risk of water damage (the number one cause of problems with any house). Think of the worse case scenario in 50-100 years and build accordingly.

      Yes, most people probably underestimate how long it takes to build a house, especially when doing most things yourself. It’s a lot of work no matter what materials you use.

      Untrained workers can definitely learn how to build with earthbags very quickly. Show them one step at a time and let them do that for a while until they’re proficient. Showing is often much easier and better than explaining. They don’t have to understand English at all if you show them what to do. That’s why I made the videos. Maybe I should start charging “pay per view”? Nah.


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