To Code or Not to Code? — 8 Comments

  1. I’m thinking of earth bags for a add on. My home is on piers and all living space is above ground. I’m also a dooms day freak. I have surveyed very carefully and found an area under my home and I’m digging straight down. At 18ft I will start to expand. Yes I’ve spent a great deal of time on how to do this safely. The area I’m digging in is, “lucky for me” an area that once done I can extend outside siding to hide it. Actually just makes an area already there about 42 inches longer. From the inside utility room on the ground I can make a hidden door to the entrance and just go down a ladder to the undergrouns living/storage area. My insanity is the amount of earth required to reduce Gama radation to safe levels. Your earth bags would/will do a pretty good job as it takes around 36 inches packed earth to absorb Gama to a safe level.
    I want more than that. Hence digging to 18 ft so a room with a 8 ft celing will still have 10 ft earth above. I’m working with complete water sealing and structual for 250 lbs sq ft load. The loads of earth in the US average around 110 to 120 lbs cu ft. I like over kill on design when thinking of a cave in.
    I don’t want any chance of being burried! Soil loads calculate to about 1,166.4 lbs per sq ft. or .81 lbs per sq inch. This is what my celing in the living and storage area will be supporting at 10ft of soil on top.
    I am building for a design load of 2,332.8 per sq ft. In otherwords a 100% overload factor.
    I know this is a little off topic here but while building earthen structures, particularly to live in or as a safety shelter you might want to think about Gama radiation. Like after a dirty bomb or a real nuclear attack.
    Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
    So check radiaton protection of your structure just in case.
    Alpha radiation, “actual particles” can be stopped by as little as a sheet of paper. Just be sure your ventilation system has a filter so as not to allow dust etc in. Breathing hot dust would be really bad. Beta radiation another particle readiation is stopped by ” a thickness of about 2 inches of paper or a single sheet of thin foil.”
    The bad boys of radiation are radio frequency radiation, ” X-ray and Gamma.”
    They can be stopped by a few inches of led. Not practical but about 36 inches of packed earth will suffice.
    I’m still thinking of a very lartge over engenieering. In other words I like my shelter to have 10ft of soil overhead.
    That’s just me. I choose to go underground because I can disappear.
    Hope I haven’t drifted too far off topic here. I just see it as you are choosing a good material so why not include protection from the worst case senario?
    Good luick.
    Pete G Cleveland, TX

  2. I’m such a dyed-in-the-wool Florida Boy, I don’t think I could hack it in Colorado… Don’t even think about SD, WY, etc… So sad Thailand is as xenophobic as it is.

    Though I do like the people…

  3. Well, I’m trying to keep the home completely off the grid using solar power. And I figured I’d go with geothermal to heat and cool the house because an air conditioner would drain my batteries big time. but then again im not sure how much energy the geothermal unit would drain either…..I was thinking of using an on-demand water heater unit (nice because they are cheaper than water heaters and they use much less space) and probably make my own solar panels to charge my batteries. I was going to use motion detector interior LED lights, I’m just trying to figure out how many batteries I would need to run a tv, a couple of lights and the heating/cooling system without completely draining the batteries… This is obviously going to be a learning as I go type of thing, but I will enjoy it along the way.

    • Like I said, I doubt you’ll need geothermal, because earthbag is so efficient. You can change the fill material to meet local conditions. For instance, Kelly Hart filled his bags with scoria (lava rock), and his home stayed comfortable under harsh mountain conditions in Colorado. (I can validate his claims, because I lived there for a while.)

      Look into high efficiency wood stoves, water jackets for wood stoves, heat exchangers, whole house fans and ceiling fans, radiant floor heat and earth sheltering.

  4. Hello Owen,

    I can’t tell you how excited I am about this building method. I hope to learn a lot from your site and possibly other readers that leave comments. Perhaps meet a network of like-minded individuals….

    I just got a great deal on an acre and a half in Anderson County right next to knoxville, TN (my neighbors across the street are in knox county). I was fortunate enough to get it for $16,500 and I paid cash. It’s out in the country away from the city. Now I own it outright and and am going to build my first earth bag home. The lot is covered with huge trees and brush so I don’t think anyone will notice anyways….Regardless, whatever the codes are in my county, I’m not asking permission from some stranger or third party to build something I want on my property. The fact that people conform and believe that they need to get permission is insanity to me. The world is all about control and conforming…..but that’s another book to write ;)

    Anyways, I am going to build a mother-in-law type dome with a loft to sleep in first, then live in that. And then I was going to give away the prefab home/trailer (that was on the lot when i bought it) to a family in need or a single mother or something. What’s important to me in life is helping people every chance I get for the sake of the needy, plus it makes me feel good and probably gives me karma kookies ;) too!

    Well, I’m going to get back to reading your blog. I am still trying to research solar power and geothermal technologies for heating and cooling. Anyone with any links to share on these subjects would be great.


    • Glad to hear you’ve got land and are interested in earthbag building. Almost everything you need to know about earthbags is on our sites for free.

      Geothermal is probably not practical for small, simple structures. It may cost more than the house!

      Solar is a huge topic. Lots of ways to use the sun. The most practical options are passive solar heating and daylighting, and hot water heating. Photovoltaics are pricey, but maybe get one panel for your laptop and LED lights.

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