CORGANIX Project Update

Hybrid designs like Ronin’s earthbag/ISBU home illustrate how sustainable materials can be combined for optimal results.
Hybrid designs like Ronin’s earthbag/ISBU home illustrate how sustainable materials can be combined for optimal results.

Ronin’s CORGANIX shipping container/earthbag hybrid design is gaining a lot of traction. His post yesterday at Renaissance Ronin Blog triggered 33 emails and mirrored content on about 30 sites. This is a new approach for earthbaggers that’s well worth considering. In this case, Ronin is selling the ISBUs with a pre-finished kitchen and bath. He estimates it would take a plumber and electrician about one hour each to hook up the utilities. You’d have a safe, disaster-resistant shelter to live in (check local codes first) while the surrounding walls and roof were built. Creative designs with workable solutions and excellent value like this one are bound to catch on.

The following discussion provides a snapshot of the main questions people are asking.
Dear Ronin,

I’ve been reading about your Hybrid (Earthbag/ISBU) house everywhere! It seems that it’s caught on like wildfire. MANY of the lists and forums I participate in have threads talking about it.

But something still troubles me. If you build a home with a STEEL SPINE (ISBU) as you say, isn’t the achieved r-value STILL a concern? Isn’t that box still an oven?

Dirty hands but active mind…

Dear “Dirty hands”…

I suppose it’s better to have dirty hands and an active mind… than the other way around… ;)

Here’s the deal;

While the “heart” of the Hybrid Corganix home is an ISBU, it’s completely surrounded by earthbags, except on the ends. Those exposed ends are insulated using SPF to achieve extremely high R values. We’re talking about insulating less than about 1/6th of the shipping container, based on a 20′ High Cube. That greatly reduced surface area requiring insulation saves the home builder a TON of money.

Further, the TOP of the ISBU is covered with high-performance SIPs (Structual Insulated Panels) to insure that it performs exactly as required.

The real meat in this hybrid home is in the earthbag system. You see, the ISBU is just “a box filled with goodies” that is incorporated into the home as a “housing system”. The use of the ISBU allows us to “preassemble” the guts of the house so that you don’t have to. You “set it and forget it”… (I know, I know… too many late nights watching infomercials. Sorry, RONCO!) ;)

The idea behind the Earthbag/ISBU home is to use the earth as insulation. This is a little confusing to some, but here goes. The standard use of the term “R-value” doesn’t necessarily apply to earthbag homes in the way most people are taught to believe it would. Simply put, R-value represents the resistance of any given material to it’s conductivity and transfer of heat.

Homes constructed using Earth utilize all that created “thermal mass” to store the heat during the day and then… release it at night. That earthen wall structure just becomes a simplified battery used for heating and cooling. And earthbag home acts like a drive gear in a machine… it keeps the temperature fluctuations within the structure relatively small (and sometimes even constant), provided you use somebody like Dr. Owen Geiger to help you with the math.

In fact, I rarely see Owen incorporating anything that even remotely resembles AC into his earthbag homes. Because of the caliber of the design work, AC and Heat are rarely required.

And, if you get out on the ‘Net and start asking earthbag home owners the hard questions, they’ll tell you that they rarely have power bills relating to heating and cooling that approach a single Benjamin. At least that’s been my experience.

Again, it’s a testament to good design and using the materials in the way that they work the best.

Here’s Owen’s response:
I agree completely with Ronin. The earthbags will shelter and protect the ISBU except for the ends of the container which are insulated with SPF. About the only thing I can add is to look into insulated earthbag houses if you’re planning to build in cold climates. See my article How to Build an Insulated Earthbag House for details.

2 thoughts on “CORGANIX Project Update”

  1. You guys must be smoking the same ” stuff ”

    I am a big fan of the work you do and your site is both interesting and informative but this “CORGANIX” concept is only getting traction in this Ronin’s guys mind.

    Type CORGANIX into Google and see who is talking about it

    Ronin and you – that’s it.

    I am actually not saying the idea lacks merit I just don’t like bullshit self promotion and this character seems to be the king of talking himself up but not delivering anything useful.

    A whole website of advice and not a single photo of anything he has ever actually built – not one home.

    Look the truth is that not one site picked up this Corganix concept in 60 days – not even some shitty scraper site running adsense – that’s hardly what you would called getting serious traction now is it.

    Keep up the good work in earthbag buildings but stay away from the snake oil salesmen.

    • New ideas take a while to catch on. I know, because it’s taken us 4 YEARS to build up a good sized reader base for this site. I think the CORGANIX idea has a lot of merit and we’re getting lots of emails for more info. Time will tell.


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