Yesterday I wrote to the two largest industry associations that are related to earthbag building — the Geosynthetics Society and the Textile Bag and Packaging Association. The Geosynthetics Society is the professional organization that represents engineers who design large earthbag projects for highways, railroads, erosion control, mining, marine facilities and many other industrial applications. The Textile Bag and Packaging Association represents manufacturers of bags and tubes that in addition to earthbag building are used for many purposes such as grain and feed bags, cement, etc. Both of these industries are poised to capitalize on a rapidly emerging new market in earthbag building.
These two professional associations combined represent companies that do hundreds of millions of dollars in business. That’s a lot of money, but so far these organizations have not addressed the enormous untapped potential of the earthbag housing market. So far, earthbag building has been quietly growing over the last 15-20 years. The recent quakes in Nepal may catapult this niche market into the mainstream because every earthbag building in Nepal survived with little or no damage, while many or most of the surrounding buildings were severely damaged or flattened. Lots of people are taking notice. About 100-200 NGOs are now interested in building with bags in Nepal, and we’re getting emails from architects and engineers looking for technical assistance. Villagers who have earthbag buildings in their area are asking for assistance to rebuild their homes with earthbags.
The message is clear. Earthbag building is very strong, even stronger than most people realized. In addition, earthbag buildings can be upgraded with additional reinforcement and be made much stronger if needed.
So do the math. Let’s say 50 NGOs decide to build earthbag projects such as houses and schools. Several hundred people complete earthbag workshops this year. Several hundred earthbag projects get built in the next 12 months. The news will soon spread throughout the country (it already has to a certain degree). Once villagers see how easy and low cost it is to build with bags, many will build their own homes this way. After all, it’s one of the lowest cost, strongest building methods in the world. Villagers can learn most everything in a few days just by participating in a building project. Factor in villager’s reluctance to rebuild with concrete blocks due to earthquake fears and high cost, and over the coming years there could be thousands of earthbag structures in Nepal.
Large parts of the world struggle with earthquakes and hurricanes. Millions of disaster resistance structures are needed. Once earthbag is widely used in one country it will be more easily adopted by other countries, especially with backing by design professionals. That’s the key — if we can get architects, engineers and the industry associations mentioned above on board, then growth of earthbag building will accelerate much faster. On a global scale earthbag building could turn into a trillion dollar business in the next 10 years.
Image: Geosynthetics Magazine