Forum Discussion

As I’ve said several times here, is a great source of information. Although their emphasis is on gardening, they also have a lot of useful information on natural building. Today’s blog post highlights one interesting discussion on their forum. Each building method has pros and cons, and it helps to research each option carefully. This is the sort of thing every owner-builder has to sort through for themselves.

“What is the quickest natural building method?
The situation is this – my husband and I are going to move to our property next spring. We have a small trailer to live in while we build, and weather-wise we could probably be okay in the trailer from April until September.

So, that gives us a 5 month window to build. We’re planning on building the 33-foot 1 bedroom w/ loft earthbag roundhouse by Owen Geiger. However, we don’t know what the employment situation will be.

Comment by R. Scott: “Lots of quick, cheap, less DIY methods–depending on how much winter you need protection from.

If I were doing it again:

Pole barn (contracted out) for a big roof. I would add tin sides to protect from prevailing wind and then build a straw bale house under the roof. Owen had a blog entry about it earlier this year.

If I liked the straw house (which was simply stacked and tarped to begin with because it didn’t have to hold up a roof), I would stucco it and be done. If I didn’t, I would work on something else the next year–probably earth sheltered something.

Weekends only really limits the work–BTDT. If you do the pole barn and simple shelter under it, you can spend more time on firewood–that needs to be done ASAP so it seasons a little by fall.”

More at
Post and Beam Earthbag Houses (note how this family could use scoria bags since they live near large scoria mines)
Post and Beam Barn Home Kits (could use metal siding)

4 thoughts on “ Forum Discussion”

  1. I’ve thought often about doing the pole construction/post-and-beam with earthbag or straw bale in-fill. When it comes to earthbags as an in-fill, I always worried about how well bags would conform to the posts. I also worry about how well they would compact/harden, as a result of potentially poorly-conformed sections next to the beams.

    How would you address those concerns, Owen? Obviously the bags/bales aren’t structural, in this situation. Is the compaction not necessarily as important, as a result? Is it just a matter of ensuring a good tie-in between the top of the walls and the upper framework and maybe some vertical stabilizing periodically throughout the walls’ construction?

    Maybe I just answered my own question, but I’ll feel better hearing the (best) answer from an engineer. ;-]

    • The post and beam frame is structural all by itself. Like you say, the earthbags or bales are just infill. You can put the posts on the exterior, the interior or inside the walls. Both bales and earthbag can be shaped around the posts. It’s probably easiest to put the posts on the interior so the bales/earthbags are stacked uninterrupted. Less work that way. Plus, this leaves the post and beam exposed for esthetics. That’s where recycled wood or roundwood really shine.

      Bales and bags can be easily attached to the wood frame with pieces of expanded metal mesh or scrap metal sheeting.

      A post and beam frame allows you to work out of the sun and rain in greater comfort. There’s also less tarping/UV and rain damage concerns.

  2. Pole construction or post and beam construction is very fast and efficient. It’s easy to get code approval. Once the roof is on you can add straw bales, earthbags, scoria bags, whatever are your leisure. Ex: Start with a scoria bag or gravel bag foundation and stack straw bales on top. That would be very fast and provide high insulation value. Again, take into consideration the climate, codes and what’s available in your area.


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