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Earthbags - or not?

 
Posts: 2
Location: Dominican Republic
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Hi all. I'm new to this forum (to be honest, had trouble finding one that suits - quite a few seem to be fussy about where one lives).

I'm an experienced builder (father was an architect) and have even designed a full site before, including landscaping and a bar-restaurant in the mountains (described by the Mnistry of the Environment as the most ecological project they had seen).

I'm now planning to build my home. I have land that is fiercely sloping. In fact, it is worse as a brother-in-law dumped tons of soil on it - which I will have to remove. It's because of this slope that I'm not sure if I could sensibly build with earthbags?

The biggest issue is security. In the Dominican Republic, if a house can be broken into, it will be. and that includes burrowing through walls. For that reason, all buildings here (if secure) are made from concrete blocks containing large amounts of what Americans call rebar (I'm British). If I use earthbags, I would have to find a way to incorporate rebar, presumably as a skeleton on the inside or outside of the bag walls. I have no idea if anyone has ever done this but assume that, if the earthbag walls are covered, the rebar skeleton idea might work. Comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

In addition, the weather has to be considered. We get torrential tropical rain even in the sub-tropics and we can get occassional hurricanes; the main danger from hurricanes is flooding, not the wind, and flooding can include temporary rivers of water inundating a site. Will earthbags suit this?

I''m just trying to find a way of using traditional concrete blocks and use a more ecological solution so any advice would be welcome.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3643
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You can run rebar between layers of bags instead or in addition to the barbed wire, and pound vertical stakes so that part is easy.

The flooding is probably the bigger issue.  You can do concrete/block stem wall up to what you think the flood line is, then earth bag. But that may use more concrete than just building a normal block wall.  
 
steward
Posts: 8841
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm thinking that you'd want the thieve to hit the metal before they've dug through your earth bags and compromised the strength of the wall.
 
Mike Haasl
steward
Posts: 8841
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm thinking that you'd want the thieve to hit the metal before they've dug through your earth bags and compromised the strength of the wall.
 
PaulAlex Temple
Posts: 2
Location: Dominican Republic
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OK - so I understand options/benefits/issues with building a base below the bags - thanks.

Yes, placing rebar outside the bag walls would be more logical, so as to prevent damage to bags if people tried to burrow through the walls.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3113
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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It will be pretty easy for criminals to make it thru your windows, doors and possible roof.
A bolt cutter/rebar cutter/hack saw can quickly go thru rebar.
A sledge hammer can easily go thru entrances too. But the biggest thing is that it probably only takes two burly guys with their fist much less gun to make someone help them load up their get away truck.

Now with that out the way. Earthbags need protection from the sun, with 1.5inch ferrocement/stucco/cob/plaster/etc. A nice overhang is also good too.

So my overall answer is to go with earthbag or strawbale. You can even go with concrete post and beam+roof if you like the idea alot.

As for your safety concerns. Dogs help alot. Building two house/floors and having a company rent it out one of them as a short 2day-6month rental to tourist sounds good, so it is never 'abandoned' and always occupied. You could build a super-secure room for all your appliances+electronics/etc and keep them in there while you are away for months, and then bring them back into the house in the winter when you are back. That way they will 'breakin' and see nothing of value just a wood stove and then tell their friends not to bother with your low-tech mud-house.


 
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