Confined Earthbag

Confined Earthbag (click to enlarge)
Confined Earthbag (click to enlarge)

Sometimes incremental changes are the most effective. People are naturally resistant to major changes, but they’ll more readily grasp and utilize small changes. That’s the thinking behind this confined masonry/earthbag system. Confined masonry is one of the most common building systems in the world, with millions of structures built this way.

Confined masonry construction consists of unreinforced masonry walls confined with reinforced concrete (RC) columns and RC bond beams. In Mexico, where confined masonry makes up over 60% of all structures, it is used for lowrise construction and for buildings up to seven stories high. Confined masonry housing construction is practiced in several countries that are located in regions of high seismic risk, including Mexico, Slovenia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Serbia and Montenegro. A very important feature of confined masonry is that columns are cast-in-place after the masonry wall construction has been completed.

The drawing above shows how to mimic traditional confined masonry using mortared stone or rubble and rebar columns, with earthbags between. Make the columns with steel cages filled with mortared stone or rubble as shown. This is one good way to build long straight walls without buttresses. (Note: mountains of rubble are freely available in Haiti. This system was created to help utilize some of that waste material to rebuild the country sustainably.)

Confined Masonry Construction, by Mario Rodriguez

2 thoughts on “Confined Earthbag”

  1. Hi there I was noticing above on the ‘confined earthbag’ technique it says, “A very important feature of confined masonry is that columns are cast-in-place after the masonry wall construction has been completed.” This is to say that you leave gaps for the columns between the earthbag walls and then pour the columns so it all bonds together?? Is this ideal or absolutely necessary? My thoughts were to build a superstructure so to speak of concrete columns and beams and set the roof so that I have time out of the sun to work with the earthbag wall system. This of course is just for my first try on the storage/garage and also because we are in a very active earthquake zone. Thanks in advance!!

    • You can build the superstructure first if you figure out a way to connect the earthbags to the concrete posts. It must be a very strong connection in seismic zones or the bags might pop out in an earthquake.


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