Cylindrical Earthbag Shelters

Cylindrical Earthbag Shelters
Cylindrical Earthbag Shelters

Here’s a great shelter design by Delani that was posted at Core 77 as part of a recent shelter competition.

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest, and this design is exquisite because of its simplicity. That means it’s inexpensive and easy to build. And no doubt about it, it will work structurally. (However, it remains to be seen if these shelters would be culturally accepted.)

Here’s the description from the Core 77 website:
Kay 0.2 (Kay means house in kreyol) is a rapidly deployable, easy to build shelter that can protect occupants from a cat 5 hurricane. Construction specs: sandbags are stacked in a circular shape to form a cylinder with inside diameter of 8 feet with a height of 10 feet. A roof of corrugated steel placed atop the wall at 8 feet height then 2 feet of sandbags are added on with a scupper to catch rain into 55 gallon drums in back.

Comments: I would slightly taper one course of bags just below the metal roofing so water will drain freely toward the rain barrels. Add rafters perpendicular to metal roofing. (No purlins necessary.) Windows and other design features could be added as desired. Tip of the hat to Delani for this exceptional design.

4 thoughts on “Cylindrical Earthbag Shelters”

  1. If you were to create a structure this size on a permanent basis, would you need to use barbed wire between layers?

    And how many layers would you need for a foundation?

    Also, how long do you think it would take one person to build this structure?


    • Barbed wire (2 strands, 4-point) is important for tensile strength as well as preventing slippage. And in hurricane and seismic areas, this is doubly important.

      In non-seismic areas with no hurricanes, you could get by with one strand of barbed wire on small structures like this.

      Earthbag foundation: I like to use two continuous courses below grade (below door threshold level) and one course above grade to raise the earthbags above moisture level. I use gravel-filled bags, double-bagged for strength, with about 6″-12″ of gravel in bottom of trench.

      Add lime or cement to stabilize the top course of earthbags.

      Speed of construction is based on strength, skill, number of workers and how hard you work. Two workers could build the walls in about 2-4 days. Some could do it in one day. This assumes a truck load of suitable soil is dumped next to the building.

      Allow extra time for the roof, plaster, etc.

      Also note, the walls could be lowered to 8′-9′.

  2. I know you have good intentions but I suspect that you’ve never been in an actual high category hurricane.I think would blow this design away.In a severe hurricane everything has to be tied down tight.

    • No one said that it can’t be more securely built. This is a preliminary design sketch that had to be completed in one hour. There wasn’t time to address every design detail. You could add nylon strapping (the kind used to secure loads on pallets), plaster mesh on both sides tied together through the walls, a bond beam, rebar pinning on each side of the door, etc.


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