Earthbag Cellar: Getting Started

This year’s project is the most ambitious construction undertaken at Bhudeva: an earthbag cellar. Its design process was intriguing and inspired by some of the ideas I discovered in Christopher Alexander’s work … a gradual, adaptive approach, where each step informs the next (instead of having a theoretical master plan) … organically, during the spring months, a specific shape unfolded informed by a specific place behind the house.

Hopefully this will result in a hobit-like space where all you see is a door going into a hill and inside two rooms – one for dry storage and one for more humid storage). It will be completely buried, including a living roof … so that the hill will be restored (though somewhat reshaped) … and the whole space will become a pleasant place to be in and around.

Once we had a design that felt substantial enough we began preparations. This included clearing the site (overgrown with wild prune) which we had to extend twice (beyond what is show in these pictures) to allow a manageable work site (the cut wood pile is much bigger now). Until we had a clearing.

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Then we had to prepare some tools such as the tampers for the earthbags and forms for the two doors (an entrance door and a door connecting the two rooms).

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… and finally, after preparations and some other life-delays … the tractor came to excavate … a powerful and brutal process … and converted the clearing into what we now call the crater.

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In the crater we marked an outlines of the structure to be with some lime … that got washed out in the rain.

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Most of the structure has no foundations … however in the entrance area (the only part of the structure that is exposed to the elements and other life forces) we did put in some foundation to stabilize, to prevent rodents from being able to dig in underground and to insulate. We built a simple frame at ground level and used 8cm insulation on both sides as forms (that stayed in place)

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We borrowed a cement mixer (my first time using one) and filled it in.

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We brought in some gravel and spread it out (on top of some geo-textile to stabilize it) on the site to have a clean work-surface … the concrete we were proud of making quickly disappeared.

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We re-marked the outline of the structures (this time on top of the gravel) … then added a door-frame which gave it a whole new feel …

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… and after some experimentation we were able to lay a first round of earthtubes.

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We have since made more progress and more pictures to come …

We are also going to send out an invitation for people to who may be interested experiencing earthbag construction to come out and lend a hand … stay tuned.

One Comment

  1. david
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    very impressive

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