This three-bedroom house for a family of five is being constructed using earthbags and is the first of its kind for a residential home in the Kenya.
“The bags used are the onion-net type while the dome shape of the house means that the house does not require a roof, greatly saving on cost,” says Mr Gichuhi, the architect. “The perforated and net nature of onion bags produces friction between the layers, which is important in keeping the walls intact and preventing sliding.”
“This is the first time I am seeing this concept despite having headed several construction projects over the years. It is such a joy to have been able to execute instructions from the architect and pull it off,” said Mr John Kibet, the labor contractor.
“This is excellent work you have done John,” remarked a neighbor. Even builders on the site seemed inspired by the house they were building, and often spoke of what they would include in their own houses when they get to build them.
Mr Gichuhi says earthen buildings have superior thermal qualities compared with other buildings. “They are warm at night and cool during the day, creating a very conducive living environment inside the house.”
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this construction method lies in the cost-saving aspect, largely because the primary construction material, soil, is readily available and free.
Construction of the domes is the most challenging as it has to be done to precision, with the radius from the center of the dome reducing with every layer of soil. Domes, however, eliminate the need for a separate roof, which can be very expensive. “The roof appears hidden from the ground, meaning you would have to be on higher ground to get a glimpse of the roofing structure. This also means you can go for the usual corrugated iron sheets as the house’s appeal is not dependent on the type of roofing,” offers Mr Kibet.
“The couple asked for a cheap and practical method of construction. They also wanted something that would give their house a unique shape. Seeing the abundance of soil in the village, I advised them to consider earthbag technology,” says Mr Gichuhi.
The dome shapes resemble traditional mud-walled huts, and the feeling one gets when entering a room is as if one is getting into a cave.
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