Earthbag Building – An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Unprecedented growth in earthbag building is being fueled by Nepal’s huge need for affordable housing and schools.

We are truly living in remarkable times. They say necessity is the mother of invention. In the same way, adversity can boost development of alternative solutions. This is what is happening in Nepal since the recent earthquakes. Nepal is a country of rugged mountains and remote villages where transporting building materials is very difficult. It’s not practical to carry steel, bricks and heavy bags of cement on your back for long distances. Nepali architects, engineers, builders, NGOs and villagers very quickly understand the logic of using earthbags and simple tools that are available in every village to rebuild their communities. They love the concept and now hundreds of projects are being planned.

In just two weeks or so I’ve already trained over 120 workshop participants, and another 150 or so are coming soon. Each group gets to see, hear and do each step of construction multiple times over a two day period, and receive a free copy of my earthbag book (with printing donated by In addition, each group gets a free copy of my Earthbag Building DVD and a flashdrive of all the PowerPoint presentations, photos, house plans and PDFs used in the training so they can return home, study the materials in more depth and give presentations in their villages. Each group is being asked to copy, copy, copy – share the files with everybody to help spread the information across the country as rapidly as possible.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening here. There’s barely time to report what’s happening. We’ve had one meeting with the government and at this point it seems earthbag buildings will be approved. We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned.

Think about it. How would you rebuild after a disaster in a remote mountain village where money is very limited?

YouTube: Kids going to school in rural Nepal

9 thoughts on “Earthbag Building – An Idea Whose Time Has Come”

  1. you have done well to post an article in amongst the very busy and productive time in Nepal with the workshops Owen.
    Makes perfect sense the option to build in earthbagging in Nepal. And many are watching and seeing the success in the projects in earthbag building in Nepal, lets trust the Nepalese Government do what they can to encourage the support of re building Nepal in sustainable options such as Earthbaging.

    Great job on the training manual too Owen and the support through Vava Katernya and team to get it out far and wide.

    • Thanks. The training manual came out very good. The ashram has their own printing company and it looks very professional. The training manual has been translated by volunteers and will soon be available in Nepalese.

      My biggest surprise is HOW MUCH interest there is here. People kept telling me there’s a lot of interest, and I was getting lots of emails, etc. But I could never imagine how many people want to build with earthbags. Nepal is unique with it’s remote mountain villages, history of rammed earth monasteries, and now the enormous need for low cost houses due to the earthquakes. One volunteer working here said he’s learning of a new project almost every day!

      We were told by one gov official that if we submit the standard plans like architects do for any other house then the plans will likely get approved. We’ll see how it goes.

      And I agree, Vava and Kateryna are doing an incredible job. They do 95% of the work for me actually. I could never accomplish what I’m doing here without this support.

    • It’s possible. They get lots of tourists. They can build and rent earthbag guesthouses to tourists. The builders, NGOs, architects and engineers like the idea and want to build this way. And there very few other alternatives, so what else can they do? Some NGOs are planning international training centers to train more people and create more jobs.

  2. So pleased your work is finally being understood with all its potential. Here’s hoping the Nepali government do what is needed to roll out earth bag building in Nepal. Wishing you all the best

    • Thanks. The bad news is the dysfunctional government declined to approve financial aid to families that lost their homes. Today was the last day of the parliamentary session and it’s uncertain when they will meet again. There’s chaos over creation of a new constitution.

      • I read something that said it is too late to build before the winter so maybe there will still be time before the next possible build time in the spring – but housing people over the winter will still be a problem. Have you thought of doing a kickstarter appeal for £ ? It could do really well and a small amount of £ goes a long way.

        • People are building all the time out of necessity. They can’t wait for optimum weather.

          My interest is in training trainers, builders, architects and engineers and hoping it goes viral. There are dozens of NGOs who know about this, studying it closely and developing projects. So far things look very encouraging because the people understand it and want to build this way. So in summary, I’d rather do what I do best and leave the administrative/NGO type work to others.


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