Earthbag Construction

Around the world, various new types of sustainable, affordable construction methods are gaining in popularity. These alternative building options make use of natural, locally-sourced materials that are generally much cheaper to produce or acquire than conventional architecture. They can also be stronger, safer, more energy efficient, and longer lasting. We believe that rural Armenians would benefit greatly from the spread of this knowledge. Unfortunately, there is little information available in Armenian (or even Russian) about such techniques, and virtually no one available locally to show how they can be done.

Our first focus is on earthbag construction, but we will also cover other alternative techniques like light straw clay, cob, and rammed earth in due time. We presently constructing what I believe to be the first earthbag house in all of Armenia, in fact.

Earthbag construction, also known as sandbag construction, involves stacking bags filled with inorganic material like gravel and earth or earth-filled sacks to create walls. The bags are stacked like masonry and tamped down firmly, creating strong, well-insulated walls. Some of the key benefits of earthbag construction include:

  • Uses plentiful, locally available materials like soil and gravel
  • Simple building technique requiring minimal skilled labor
  • Extremely low material costs so long as you have access to local dirt. The main additional materials are cheap polypropylene sacks (which are abundant in Armenia) and four-point barbed wire.
  • Durable, earthquake-proof, and fire-resistant when plastered.
  • Excellent thermal mass properties for passive heating/cooling.
  • Easy to construct curved and artistic shapes

We will cover the entire process, from material selection, to laying gravel bags and filling them, to stacking and tamping the earthbags into place, to plastering the walls. You will gain hands-on experience building small earthbag structures.

Other Natural Building Methods

While earthbags will be our primary focus for now, we'll also introduce other natural building techniques that are low-impact and take advantage of abundantly available local resources:

  • Light Straw Clay: A mixture of clay and straw that can be used for insulative wall infill.
  • Cob: An ancient building method using a multi-layered structural mixture of clay-rich soil, straw, and water sculpted into monolithic free-form walls.
  • Rammed Earth: Compacting layers of damp soil between forms to create dense, load-bearing walls.

This workshop connects ancient wisdom with modern innovation to create affordable housing that is sustainable, comfortable, and in harmony with the natural environment. 

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