Full text of the video is available on my Naturalhouse’s YouTube channel. This blog post will focus on summarizing the test results. Please note that even though half the samples were earthen blocks, you can do these same tests on earthbags to help develop a good soil mix. A link to additional tests can be found at end of this blog post. Also note, although I say “clay” for brevity it’s actually clay soil not pure clay that’s used in all these tests.
The strongest sample turned out to be the earthbag made with vetiver, clay soil and rice hulls. This sample not only passed every test, including zero damage in the drop test, it also had a distinctly different feel than the others. It made a ringing sound when it was dropped that reminded me of clay brick. The sample was lighter weight due to the hulls, and, of course, would have improved insulation value. It probably gained strength from compaction and the long vetiver fibers.
Adding rice hulls to adobe and other forms of earthen construction is an ancient process that begs further research. For instance, I just learned rice hull/clay was the traditional method for building houses in Taiwan, and now the high cost of energy for air conditioning in Taiwan is creating renewed interest in this ancient technique. (No air conditioning needed in a properly designed adobe or earthbag house.) Note the similarity with straw/clay that has proven a huge success in Europe for centuries.
For additional soil tests, please refer to Patti Stouter’s excellent soil testing guide Soil Tests for Earthbag.