This article launches my new blogging gig at Mother Earth News, the leading US publication on sustainable living.
Recently, I had an epiphany in a building supply center while looking at the thousands of products used to construct modern buildings. Even though I’ve been in the building trades for over 35 years and made countless trips to purchase building supplies, this trip was different. You see, I’ve been immersed in writing a new earthbag building book and now the differences in the way I build and the way most of modern society builds has been brought into even sharper relief.
Read more at Mother Earth News Blog.
5 thoughts on “The Case for Using Sustainable Building Materials”
Owen, I think that your MEN blog piece is very well considered and written, and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.
I have recently came across your blog and I am enjoying it immensely.
I plan to build my own home using straw and minimal timber and pole construction. I hadn’t known about earthbag building till I happened onto your blog.
My question is can earthbags be a suitable foundation for a straw home? My original plan was to pour a concrete foundation. But can earthbags do the same job? Also would you drive the rebar posts, that normally would be set in the concrete for the first layer of straw bales, through the earthbags without comprimising stability?
Earthbag foundations are extremely practical and very popular among strawbalers. It’s the fastest, easiest, least expensive foundation system. One option is to fill the bags with scoria (lava rock) so you get a frost-protected foundation. This saves on energy bills and may reduce excavation and labor.
Design Guide for Shallow, Frost-Protected Foundations: http://www.toolbase.org/Design-Construction-Guides/Foundations/Design-Guide-Frost-Protected-Shallow-Foundation
Yes, you can spike rebar through the bags for stability.
I like to set the bags on a rubble trench: http://www.buildnaturally.com/EDucate/Articles/RubbleTrench.htm
The latest issue of The Last Straw Journal (#60) has my article on earthbag foundations. It’s the same as described above, except you use 24″ wide bags on lower courses and 18″ bags on top. You can set mortared stone on the ledge (the difference between 24″ and 18″ naturally creates a ledge). This will add a real nice look and protect the earthbags.
Earthbag foundations passed a major shake table test in Nevada. Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB) http://nees.unr.edu/projects/straw_bale_house.html
When do you estimate your book will be ready?
I plan to finish the bulk of it the next two months. Then there’s the editing process. Hopefully it will be ready in January.