The importance of using trained engineers, architects and supervisors can’t be emphasized enough. Due to a lack of trained builders, a few dangerous earthbag projects have been built in Nepal by what I call ‘cowboy builders’ – those with little or no training or building experience. We heard of a school in Mazel in Ghorka that was described as “the worst earthbag building in Nepal”. It has bamboo pins eaten by insects instead of steel rebar, two large 8’x8’ windows set 3’ apart, and dry soil fill consisting of 100% silt which has no binding strength. Proper earthbags are made with moist subsoil containing clay and aggregates, and then tamped solid to create ‘rammed earth in bags’.
Another dangerous project, a school in Dhading, made the news when the concrete vault on top of earthbag walls collapsed, injuring several workers inside. The earthbag walls remained intact, only the concrete vault failed. Again, the cowboy builder had no relevant training other than taking a workshop in the US. The builder was warned at least two times by professional builders and engineers that the structure would collapse, and exactly how and why it would collapse. Unfortunately the builder ignored their advice. He fled the country shortly afterwards. First Steps Himalaya has since been contracted to bulldoze the structure and build a new earthbag school to proper standards.
Good Earth Nepal offers free earthbag training to locals in Kathmandu. The same training is available to foreigners for a very small fee. Please, please. Get good training and build safely.