Low Cost Earthbag Options for Nepal

Budgets are obviously limited for most every project in Nepal, while at the same time the need for affordable housing and schools is almost endless – hundreds of thousands of new, safe structures are needed. Here are a few suggestions to rebuild sustainably and affordably.

Gravel bag foundations: The recently built school by First Steps Himalaya survived the earthquakes with no serious damage. They used a gravel bag foundation on a rubble trench like we have been promoting for years. This can save thousands of dollars in foundation costs. Foundations like this are best on rocky, stable ground. Search this blog or get my ebook for more information about gravel bag foundations.

Mortared stone foundations: Softer soils typically need a reinforced foundation. Instead of the usual concrete foundation, consider using a mortared stone foundation to save on concrete. This is what Holy Himalaya Builders used on the after school study center in Goldhunga, Nepal.

Double earthbag walls on terraced hillsides: Building on steep slopes is tricky at best. One suggestion is to rebuild on existing stable building sites. If space is limited, as it typically is, and there is risk of mudslides and rock slides, consider building double earthbag walls on the side facing the hill for added safety. Integrate the two earthbag walls with barbed wire and possibly overlapping the bags or tubes. The outer wall could be shorter than the main wall. Use a swale or trench around the building to drain the building site.

Polypropylene tubes are less expensive that bags, plus they are about twice as fast.

5 thoughts on “Low Cost Earthbag Options for Nepal”

    • We at the Natural Building Blog are only engaged in providing information, not actual construction. You could leave a notice on the bulletin board about what you want and you might get a response.

  1. When building an earthbag wall that is over one story high, or when building a retaining wall as inferred to in the original post above, I like to look at the example of the Servian Wall built encircling the city of Rome around 396 BC and still stands in places today. It is composed of stone blocks that are shaped much like a tamped down earthbag, longer when looked at from the side and shorter when looked at from the end. The blocks were placed in alternating layers, first turned one way with the next course laid at 90 degrees to the layer beneath it.

    If the walls are built two bags thick, and then the next layer laid 90 degrees across, it will make the wall much more stable than simply laying two bags side by side in layers up the wall. Here is a link that shows a couple good photos of this method, the first and last photos being the best example.


  2. Imagine if 100 homes in your neighbor were suddenly destroyed and had to be rebuilt. That’s the situation in Goldhunga where I am conducting the first earthbag training in Nepal. So far the training is going extremely well. Nepalis like the training and earthbag building, and plan to start building this way when they return to their villages. The current class is a group of about 20 young engineers. Skilled builders like them are the future of Nepal. They have the skills to design and oversee projects, not just stack bags.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.