Dream House | Unconventional ‘earthbag’ home has unexpected benefits
When this column exposed earlier the dream house (with swimming pool) built literally from actual dirt, many readers were flabbergasted at its very concept and existence! How could that be possible they pondered.
That house, had utilised sun-dried clay blocks from natural clay soil, with grass added for tensile strength.
This environmentally friendly house in the spotlight today is quite likely to render you even more speechless with surprise, owing to its method of unconventional construction. Its walls are built with durable, empty bags filled with raw earth! This, my friends, is the intrinsic nature of earthbag architecture.
This type of construction has been in continuous use, around the world for 10,000 years. The structure essentially employed the use of rice bags with local soil from the site (with additives), along with barbwire acting as a stabilising force, offering tensile strength. Earthen plaster was then applied to the exterior for a smooth, paintable white finish.
This alternative, sustainable, architectural construct elicits so much compelling interest because earth is readily available everywhere and is by far, more economical compared to other building materials. Earthbag construction has remarkable strength and longevity. It can be fashioned in innumerable design shapes, easy to build with, energy efficient, engenders very cool interiors, and is non-toxic.
If that is not consequential enough, we can augment this with being mostly water, bullet, and sound proof. Yet, its advantages are still not exhausted. The system is also fire, hurricane, earthquake and insect resistant.
We are now in this simple, but comfortable, unorthodox abode of Nicola Shirley-Philips and her family in St Thomas, who believe, and actively contribute to the conservation and preservation of our planet. Floors were prepared with colour-dyed concrete; with some of the bespoke furniture also made of concrete, for example the upholstered living room couch.
The building is not dependent on the Jamaica Public Service or National Water Commission utility companies, with electricity generated by wind turbines, along with its own rainwater catchment area.
A kitchen garden is right outside nourishing the occupants with fruits of their organic and natural gardening.
We continue looking fervently to the future, and even the past, searching for those tangible architectural answers that will realise our dreams of bringing housing within the affordable reach of the great majority.