Super Adobe ….for when you cant afford a tin roof over your head

Imagine building a cosy house  with huge thermal mass out of nothing much but some bags, some dirt and some barbwire. The tools of war in fact, turned to creative not destructive use. It looks gorgeous, blends in to the landscape, and  would be a super tent that no one would make you pull down. Thanks to a wonderful architect Nader Khalili (he  passed away last year), we have such a building technique and its called Super Adobe. Milkwood Farm at Mudgee NSW has made a great photo series of their superadobe dome being built by a team who have obviously enjoyed this Mud Pies for Adults creative experience. Wacking the bags flat must also be quite therapeutic.
 Here ‘s a link

 I purchased a DVD on the subject which turned out to be a HOW NOT TO video….many of this guy’s sloppy attempts at superadobe fell down! I want my money back and I am hoping his buildings don’t kill someone .
 However, here is the introductory passage from the really excellent book “Earth Building Tips Tricks and Techniques” by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer, which, in contrast was was SO worth the money ( I got an E- copy for $16 something ). Kaki’s Honey Hive House looks as safe as houses, as is their building knowledge:

The Merits of Earthbag Building

 With a couple rolls of barbed wire, a bale of bags, and a shovel one can build a magnificent shelter with nothing more than the earth beneath their feet. This is the premise that inspired the imagination of international visionary architect Nader Khalili when he conceived the idea of Sandbag Architecture. In his quest to seek solutions to social dilemmas like affordable housing and environmental degradation, Nader drew on his skills as a contemporary architect while exercising the ingenuity of his native cultural heritage. Monolithic earthen architecture is common in his native home of Iran and throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Thousands of years ago, people discovered and utilized the principles of arch and dome construction. By applying this ancient structural technology, combined with a few modern day materials, Nader has cultivated a dynamic contemporary form of earthen architecture that we simply
Using earthbags, a whole house, from foundation to walls to the roof, can be built using one construction medium. 


 Earthbag Building utilizes the ancient technique of rammed earth in conjunction with woven bags and tubes as a flexible form. The basic procedure is simple. The bags or tubes are filled on the wall using a suitable pre-moistened earth laid in a mason style running bond. After a row has been laid, it is thoroughly compacted with hand tampers. Two strands of 4-point barbed wire are laid in between every row, which act as a “velcro mortar” cinching the bags in place. This provides exceptional tensile strength while allowing the rows to be stepped in to create corbelled domes and other unusual shapes 
Walls can be linear, free form, or a perfect circle guided by the use of an architectural compass. Arched windows and doorways are built around temporary arch forms until the keystone bags are tamped in place. The finished walls then cure to durable cement-like hardness. Simple, low cost foundations consist of a rubble trench system, or beginning the bag-work below ground with a cement-stabilized rammed earth mix for the stem walls. Many other types of foundation systems can be adapted to the climatic location and function of the structure”.

And more links from the wonderful Milkwood Kirsten here:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for sharing. I just worked with a Roofing Contractor. They did a great job! It looks like you have a great company as well; I will have to recommend you to family and friends in the area.


  2. Merri Bee says:

    Thanks Joseph. You must be a brave person to work way up there on a roof. I'm sorry to say my working 6 meters off the ground days are over.


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