Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Authors: Kaki Hunter, Donald Kiffmeyer

Publisher: New Society Publishers (June 1, 2004)

Paperback: 288 pages

ISBN-10: 0865715076

ISBN-13: 978-0865715073

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Over 70 percent of Americans cannot afford to own a code-enforced, contractor-built home. This has led to widespread interest in using natural materials—straw, cob, and earth—for building homes and other buildings that are inexpensive, and that rely largely on labor rather than expensive and often environmentally-damaging outsourced materials.

Earthbag Building is the first comprehensive guide to all the tools, tricks, and techniques for building with bags filled with earth—or earthbags. Having been introduced to sandbag construction by the renowned Nader Khalili in 1993, the authors developed this “Flexible Form Rammed Earth Technique” over the last decade. A reliable method for constructing homes, outbuildings, garden walls and much more, this enduring, tree-free architecture can also be used to create arched and domed structures of great beauty—in any region, and at home, in developing countries, or in emergency relief work.

About the Author

Kaki Hunter is an award-winning actress who has been involved in the construction industry for the last 20 years, specializing in affordable, low-tech, low-impact building methods that are as natural as possible. Together with her partner Doni Kiffmeyer, she co-developed over the last nine years the “Flexible Form Rammed Earth Technique” of building affordably with earthbags and has taught the subject and contributed her expertise to several books on natural building. Donald Kiffmeyer is a trained fireman who has been involved in the construction industry for the last 20 years, specializing in affordable, low-tech, low-impact building methods that are as natural as possible. Together with his partner Kaki Hunter, he co-developed over the last nine years the “Flexible Form Rammed Earth Technique” of building affordably with earthbags and has taught the subject and contributed his expertise to several books on natural building.

Rammed Earth Walls for Farm Buildings-1933

Rammed Earth Walls for Farm Buildings-1933Author: Ralph L. Patty

Publisher: South Dakota State College

Unknown Binding: 67 pages


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Rammed Earth Walls for Farm Buildings-1933, Bulletin 277 South Dakota State College. 67 pages, xerographic.

This book extensively explores the soils and methods used for successful RE construction.

Covers many plaster and finishing tests, with recommendations for lime, asphalt, cement “cream” and linseed oil. Provides charts on aggregates % in soil for best compression, and other useful construction information from footings to roof. The Ag. Dept. built an experimental poultry house and recorded all experiments thoroughly to inform others on successful RE building. This booklet refers to #2012 Rammed Earth Walls, shown on the Adobe page, and to Ellington’s “Modern Pise Buildings” from 1923. The photos are very grainy due to document age, but the text information is most valuable for anyone wanting to avoid problems during manual rammed earth building. 67 pages, booklet, xerographic, b/w photos and drawings.


Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own

Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your OwnAuthor(s): Nader Khalili

Publisher: Cal-Earth Press

Paperback: 233 pages

ISBN: 1889625019

ISBN-13: 978-1889625010

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Reprint Edition

Paperback Publication date: September 1996

How to build, step by step, an adobe and ceramic architecture that is affordable and self-help. How to build arches, vaults, domes, and utilize the natural energy of wind, sun-and-shade to help save forests and create a sustainable architecture. How to fire and glaze an entire building after it is constructed from clay-earth on site. A NEW UPDATE CHAPTER introducing the Superadobe technology, building with almost any on-site soil using sandbags and barbed wire.

Internationally renowned architect Nader Khalili, creator of the ‘Superadobe’ earth bag style of building shows step-by-step how to construct, glaze, and fire adobe and rammed earth buildings.

His message…told in a haunting mix of prose and poetry, of memory and idealism…is that we can teach the poor to build their own homes even though they have access to nothing more than dirt and community kilns.
— Fessenden Review

This is an extraordinary work. Though very much the personal expression of an impassioned visionary, Ceramic Houses is full of experiential advice, technical guidance, and encouragement to those who would join the author in his search for cheap, durable, attainable housing for much of the world.
— Fine Homebuilding

The Cobber’s Companion: How to Build Your Own Earthen Home

The Cobber's Companion: How to Build Your Own Earthen HomeAuthor(s): Michael G. Smith

Publisher: The Cob Cottage Company

Paperback: 136 pages

ISBN-10: 0966373804

ISBN-13: 978-0966373806

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Rather than taking a recipe-book approach, The Cobber’s Companion explains the theory of cob construction so that you can design your own beautiful, inexpensive, earth-friendly home and make informed decisions at every step of the building process, from foundation to roof. Also includes natural plasters and earthen floors. 120 information packed pages include over 100 illustrations and many references. This book provides step-by-step guidelines for building a simple cob building; from finding, selecting, and testing materials to wall building, foundations, windows, doors, roofs, floors, plasters and finishes. This is as a basic text designed to help readers regardless of their experience understand the materials well enough to answer their own questions and make good design decisions.

Rammed Earth Structures: A Code of Practice

Rammed Earth Structures: A Code of PracticeAuthor(s): Julian Keable

Publisher: Intermediate Technology

ISBN: 1853393509

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Rammed Earth Structures : A Code of Practice Paperback Publication date: May 1996

Written by Julian Keable.

The book gets right to the “how to” of testing earth for construction of rammed earth (pise’) houses or walls. Well written, and good for beginners interested in all type os earth construciton, including cob and adobe, Details low tech and non-mechanical methodss for DIY builders; no expensive pneumatic tampers are used. Covers rising damp, protecting walls from water, soils, and many soil tests, site selection, winds, formworks, guides for design of forms, addresses termite prevention (less a problem in the US than in Aftica) and shows how to make a layered earthen floor with simple tools.

Simple, easy to follow with good drawings and instruction. Printed in the UK, Some Color pages, color cover, with B&W photos. 128 pages, 8.5 x 11.

Ramming earth has been a method of construction for centuries in various parts of the world. This technique can produce buildings that are strong, durable safe and desirable, and because earth is an abundant and cheap resources, rammed earth buildings are often very economical. To achieve the best results the right techniques for selection and testing of soils must be used to protect walls from water damage and shrinkage. This book aims to show how high standards can be achieved and the criteria on which rammed earth structures and building techniques can be judged.

The Cob Builders Handbook: You Can Hand-Sculpt Your Own Home

The Cob Builders Handbook: You Can Hand-Sculpt Your Own HomeAuthor(s): Becky Bee

Publisher: Chelsea Green

Paperback: 176 pages

ISBN: 0965908208

ISBN-13: 978-0965908207

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Cob (an old English word for lump) is old-fashioned concrete, made out of a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. Becky Bee’s manual is a friendly guide to making your own earth structure, with chapters on design, foundations, floors, windows and doors, finishes, and of course, making glorious cob.

“I believe that building with cob is a way to recreate community and experience the joy of working together while taking back the right to build our own homes and look after our Mother Earth.”

She loves doing something that makes sense in a world where lots of things don’t.


Charmaine Taylor from Humboldt Bay, California , 03/29/98, rating=10:
Lets you explore your artistic side while building! From advice on ‘snuggling’ foundation rocks together to practical explanation of creating the right mix..Becky really shows she knows how to work with earth. I began a cob bench after falling in love with photos of hers. I don’t know any other way to sculpt, have fun, get dirty, and still create something useful. People might not build a whole house, but a meditation room, or garden shed, even animal house would be doable. Local cobbers I know respect her skills highly, I’d love to see more finished home and project photos. Anyone can do this, it’s fun and gets you in touch with dirt! Paperback, 173 pages Publication date: March 1998

Australian Earth-Covered Building

Author(s): J. Baggs, S. Baggs, D. Baggs

Publisher: Intl Specialized Book Service

ISBN: 0868400602

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About the Authors

Dr Sydney Baggs was and David Baggs FRAIA is one of Australia’s leading authorities in earth covered and green roof building design and construction. As architects to nearly 40 earth covered and green roof buildings including residences, schools and museum they pioneered this work in Australia from 1979 to current time holding the first International Conference on Earth Covered Buildings in Sydney Australia in 1981. With numerous awards, magazine and television features the pair created a high profile for earth covered and green roof buildings during this period. While Sydney passed away in 2009, David continues designing, promoting and consulting in this specialist field to green buildings of all kinds.


Building with Earth: A Handbook

Building with Earth: A HandbookAuthor(s): John Norton

Publisher: Stylus Pub Llc

ISBN: 1853393371

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2nd Edition Paperback
Publication date: October 1997

This handbook provides practical help in choosing whether and how to build with earth, from soil selection through to construction and maintenance. The techniques described in the second edition–revised and updated–of this book have a focus on achieving good quality results with accessible methods, that can go on being used by rich and poor, and for simple buildings as well as the more sophisticated.

Table of Contents
How this Handbook Might Help You
General Considerations
What Earth Is
Strength and Weakness
Climatic Performance and Comfort
Earthquake Resistance
Choosing Whether and How to Build with Earth
Choosing a Suitable Soil
Soil Composition
Particle Characteristics
Expansive Soils
Soil Analysis
Initial Sensory Observation
Field Tests
Field Laboratory Tests
How to Determine and Improve Quality
Visual Assessment
Compressive Strength
Bending Strength or Modulus of Rupture
Resistance to Water Erosion
Moisture Absorption
Soil Improvement
Wall Construction
Combination Walls
Load-Bearing Walls
Self-supporting Earth Vaults Build on Shuttering
Vault and Domes Without Formwork
Flat and Pitched Roofs
Short Span Earth Components Between Support Beams
Reinforced Earth Roofs
Foundations and Floors
Preliminary Considerations
Caring for Your Building
Openings, Joinery, Finishes and Furniture
Electricity and Plumbing
References and Notes

Adobe: Building and Living With Earth

Adobe: Building and Living With EarthAuthor(s): Orlando Romero, David Larkin, Michael Freeman

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

ISBN: 0395566932

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From Booklist , 10/15/94:
When David Larkin’s name graces a title page, the book is bound to be well designed and full of superb color photographs. His most recent projects include Frank Lloyd Wright: The Masterworks and Barn (1993). Here Larkin has teamed up with Romero, library director for the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and expert on adobe in particular and southwestern culture in general, to create a picture-rich study of the history, technology, and dignified, sculptural beauty of adobe structures. The oldest of building materials, adobe bricks are made from mud and straw and have been used in Africa, the Iberian peninsula, and all across the Southwest and Mexico. Surprisingly durable if maintained, adobe constructions can last for centuries. Romero and Larkin explain brick-making and remudding techniques, showing both archival photographs of Native Americans at work on their pueblos and photographs of contemporary builders. They also document some of the Southwest’s most famous adobe churches and pueblos, such as the San Francisco Mission Church at Ranchos de Taos and the wondrous mesa-crowning Acoma Pueblo, as well as a selection of lesser-known buildings. Special attention is paid to interior decorative detail and to adobe’s intrinsic connection to the landscape.

The use of earth as building material is as old as civilization itself. For the 20th-century American, the process is most familiar in the sun-dried brick called “adobe” and the style characteristic of the desert Southwest. Here is the story of adobe, from Asia and North Africa to New Mexico and the fabulous homes near Taos. 200 color photos; line drawings.

Booknews, Inc. , 12/01/94:
This mouthwatering documentary and visual history of adobe structures encompasses their geographical, esthetic, and historical dimensions. It surveys North African earthen buildings, Hispanic-influenced Native American pueblos and churches of the American Southwest, and the contemporary architecture of Santa Fe and Taos, showcasing interiors, exteriors, and special features in gorgeous color photos (by Michael Freeman). The text is clear and informative. Of interest to a wide audience of architects, interior designers, and those with an interest in the esthetic, ecological, and economic appeal of adobe. No index.

Appropriate Plasters For Cob & Stone Walls

Appropriate Plasters For Cob And Stone WallsAuthor(s): Devon, England Earth Building Association

Free download from: Devon, England Earth Building Association
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Appropriate Plasters For Cob & Stone Walls … This pamphlet produced by the Devon, England Earth Building Association (where many hundreds of cob cottages exist, and are occupied) covers use of lime renders and washes for protection and repair of cob and stone.

Gives mixes, directions preparation methods, resources in the UK. Imported, 8 pages, xerographic.

The photo is of a cob house with thatched roof in Devon, England. A limewash over the cob walls makes the walls white.