Steel Framed Earthbag Buildings in Tanzania

Steel framed earthbag buildings in Tanzania
Steel framed earthbag buildings in Tanzania

“Good day Mr. Geiger. I have a small construction company in Tanzania. Just more than 2 years ago I started doing earthbag buildings and up to now have done 24 buildings. I use a system similar to the South African one, only I use steel for everything including roofing. Problem is the costs of steel and headache associated with welding everything together. I only operate in game reserves, national parks, and rural areas where there is no electricity. So, generator powered sites.
I’m in a small town east of Ngorongoro now and as experiment I’m going to build a small shop here for a priest, following your guidelines. I’ve just discovered the site and signed up.”
Regards, Albie Kloppers

Owen: How do you attach the bags to the steel posts?

Albie: We have 1.2m spacing between the steel pillars. As I haven’t used barbed wire between layers the bags slip with bigger spacing once you reach more than 1m high. All walls covered with chicken wire to receive plaster. Maybe on next building I could I increase column spacing to cut down on steel (1″x1″hollow section and 1″flat bar) and use barbed wire between courses like you do. The advantage of this system is that it has a steel ring beam so I can weld on roof structures before walls are done. During rainy season we can continue building under cover. By attaching gutters at this point and filling plastic tanks with rain water we become self sufficient. I encourage clients to do some sort of rain water harvesting. We build 60,000 litre ferrocement reservoirs (water tanks) to avoid using blocks or bricks. Water tanks are built to UNHCR design. They are tricky though.

Note: Thanks to Albie for sending information about his projects. Reader input like this makes our blog much more interesting (and saves me lots of work – ha!). In this case it’s someone I’ve never heard of and yet he’s built 24 earthbag structures. If you’re a new reader, do a search online for keywords such as earthbag or superadobe and you’ll find hundreds or maybe even thousands of pictures. (I use Google Images for speed and ease of searching.) Most people do not publicize their projects, so one can only guess how many earthbag buildings have been built. I suspect the number is over 10,000 now.

6 thoughts on “Steel Framed Earthbag Buildings in Tanzania”

  1. Hi Albie, I am looking to build a sandbag/earthbag house in Dar es Salaam and was wondering whether you would be able/interested to assist or supervise?

  2. If the earth in the bags was stabilized to an extent sufficient for it to retain its’ shape once formed, then it could act like bricks that come preformed with holes and notches for reinforcing bars. That still begs the question of preventing bag slippage. Perhaps leave the top surface very rough and uneven between courses, allow a little time for curing, and let the imperfections lock the building together like legos. To make that work you’d probably have to use enough cement or geopolymer you might as well be working in concrete or fake stone, but it could work.

  3. Hi Owen,

    The “How do you attach the bags to the steel posts? ” question is also one that puzzle me.

    I get the feeling, that if bags are not overlapping and boxed in a frame, the wall is very unstable and can be pushed out.

    Let say, you have a 4 post frame house – how do you tie the bags into the pillars, for the walls to be stable?

    Would it be the same for door and window frames?


    • It’s easy to come up with simple solutions since earthbag building is so simple. You can drive rebar pins down through the bags. You can use barbed wire, plaster mesh, baling twine, etc. to tie things together. Here’s just one example: make 1/4″ rebar ‘staples’ about 16″ long x 6″. Pound the staples into the bags on each side of the posts. Build a test structure such as a tool shed or pump house and try various techniques.

      Also note, building a steel frame like this will make it easier to get code approval.

  4. It’s great hearing how people around the world are building with earthbags. Albie, I wish you well and I hope your business only grows and everyone prospers.


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