When most people think of sandbags, images of flood barriers and military fortifications typically come to mind. However, what most folks don’t know is that sandbags can be used to build more than just temporary structures. With a little more time, resources, and elbow grease, they can form long-lasting freestanding buildings.
When you think about it, the potential was always there. This is a building material that is frequently used by civilians to seal off flood waters. It’s also been used by the military to shelter their soldiers from small arms fire and rocket attacks, as well as reinforcing damaged buildings in war-torn areas. Sandbags are by all accounts, incredibly strong and structurally sound.
Until recently though, it was never considered an option for permanent buildings because traditional sandbags don’t last that long. The earthen materials tend to decompose with time and the bags themselves will eventually degrade. Fortunately, there are a few ways around these problems.
For starters, the invention of synthetic materials such as polypropylene has created bags that last significantly longer than their burlap predecessors. And by applying plaster or cement onto the finished product, they won’t be so quick to decompose. Builders can also line the bags with barbed wire, which works much in the same way as rebar does in concrete, allowing the bags to be stacked higher.
Using these techniques to create permanent housing has since been dubbed “earthbag construction.” This has seen increasing popularity in the developing world, and for very good reason. Since the materials can be sourced locally, it is one of the cheapest ways to build a house; and the skills required are simple enough that even people with little construction experience can build them. But more importantly, when built properly they can withstand just about anything including fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.
To give you an idea of what it takes to build an earthbag house and what they look like, take a gander at this quick video.
If this is something you’d be interested in building, you won’t have any trouble finding numerous videos like this online. It’s important to note though, that while these buildings require mostly unskilled labor to assemble, there are still some finer points to their construction.
For a more in-depth analysis on earthbag construction, I’d recommend that you take a look at earthbagstructures.com, which provides detailed instructions and links to integrity tests conducted on these buildings. I think you’ll be convinced that this is one of the safest and most affordable ways to build a comfortable, long-lasting home.