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Eco-Beam and Sandbag Homes
by Ashley Stemmett
The Eco-Beam and sandbag system was developed in South Africa six years ago by engineer Mike Tremeer as a way of providing low-cost housing. Today, timber-frame and sandbag homes have found their way into many suburbs across South Africa, as this building process - and the specific design of the materials - is particularly cost-effective.
The building process, which can be undertaken easily without using highly skilled carpenters, is very simple and owner-builders can complete many of the stages that are involved themselves. The method consists of three elements: a framework of Eco-Beams (timber and metal beams that form the framework for the sandbag walls); specially formulated geo-fabric bags, filled with sand and stacked between the beams; and, finally, the cladding of the beams with wire mesh and either plaster, timber or plasterboard.
The completed structure is waterproof (sand does not have the intrinsic capillary action found in cement), fireproof and soundproof, and has very good thermal properties. While standard walls may develop cracks in the plasterwork that can carry through the entire wall, this will not happen with this process, as cracks cannot run through sandbag walls.
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