Sharing information and promoting earthbag building
|A Patio Wall
Soon after I discovered Middle Caicos on the internet, I also discovered the Natural Building movement. I was seeking an affordable means of building an island home for our family. As a bonus, I found a philosophy that also promises to recognize and preserve the natural beauty that attracted us to the island.
In short, Natural Building utilizes building materials and construction techniques that minimize impact on the environment, both locally and elsewhere. It depends heavily on local and recycled materials. It also considers the lifetime costs of the building; energy, water and food production are all considered in the design.
To learn more, I took a short course in Sustainable Building Practices at Colorado State University. In a more practical vein, I also attended the 1999 Colorado Natural Building Workshop in Rico, Colorado. I was a little skeptical that I could learn something at 9000 feet in the Rocky Mountains that would work at sea level in the Tropics. Boy, was I wrong. I came home full of ideas. Most of the pictures are from CNBW.
This method really got me excited. It was presented by Doni Kiffmeyer and Kaki Hunter of Moab, Utah. Earthbag uses misprinted polyethylene feed bags which are filled with dirt and stacked like bricks. Barbed wire layed between the courses binds them together. Each course is hammered till it's hard. With time, the dirt hardens like concrete.
Doni and Kaki help friends of theirs build the first story of a house on Rum Cay using this method. Rum Cay is in the Bahamas, about 200 miles from Middle Caicos. The Turks and Caicos building code is much like that of the Bahamas so I hope the Rum Cay project sets a precedence I can rely on.
The fill material used on Rum Cay was a sand/coral/limestone mix dredged from a marina. The sharp corners and dissolved lime of this material made it well suited to this method. On Middle Caicos, the local road base called "curry" might work. I also know of several imminent construction projects which may provide suitable fill.
The Earthbag project at CNBW was a patio wall in front of the Casita. The wall features an arched doorway. Earthbag domes can be built to enclose living spaces.
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