Cal-Earth Superadobes

The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture is a charitable non-profit organization that was founded in 1986 by Nader Khalili (1936-2008). They focus on developing truly sustainable earthen architecture. Their primary building method, nicknamed superadobes, uses long sandbag tubes filled with a semi-moist mixture of earth, cement, and water. The rows are laid with barbed wire between the sandbags in a similar fashion to other methods of earthbag construction.

I’m not sure how this method compares with building with sack-size earthbags. The inclusion of cement in the earthen mix must give the walls some added water resistance, but even unstabilized adobe bricks can hold up to years of weathering, and centuries if protected from direct rain. In any event, if you’re considering building an earthen building, here is yet another way to build with the stuff under our feet. Learn more on the Cal-Earth website.

Sustainable Architecture – Metal Boxes vs Earthen

This post was sparked by a comment from Steve, one of my long-time readers. In a nutshell, he suggested that people would be much better off living in handmade homes than living in machine-made prefabs.

Like most people, modern prefab designs grab my attention. I suspect that it’s their product-like polish and our learned weakness for nifty consumer gadgets that incites us to be drawn to shiny prefab designs. So naturally when I see a shiny design concept that looks like it has potential my initial reaction is to share with my readers.

But I must completely agree with Steve on the issue of metal boxes, we deserve better. Prefab homes aren’t really all that sustainable considering that they are made from a bunch of factory-made components. I actually chortle to myself every time I run across a luxurious modern LEED-certified home on display over at Dwell and Inhabitat. I just can’t see how tons of glass, steel, and engineered lumber could possibly add up to an environmentally friendly housing solution.

To be quite honest, I think the whole LEED-certification thing is a joke. I just don’t see how these hermitically sealed high-tech boxes can be considered sustainable architecture after adding-up the impacts created by all the factories and mining operations necessary for producing the prefab parts.

Which leads me to a construction method that, in my humble opinion, blows away any new-fangled LEED-certified concoction… earthen homes.

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Earthbag Daydream

When I first read about Ryo Chijiiwa’s tiny cabin on Tiny House Blog I was fascinated by the adventure this fellow was on. He quit his job at Google, traveled America, and is now working to setup a more comfortable place to live on the remote property that he recently purchased in northern California. You can read about it on his blog, Laptop and a Rifle.

But what I’ve been obsessing over for days is a simple solution that someone like Ryo could theoretically implement for a little money and a lot of sweat equity, an earthbag tiny house. Below is my earthbag daydream for simple sustainable living.  The main room of the house is 12′ by 16′ and the bathroom is just 6′ by 6′.

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