Bio-Construction with Earthbags: Volunteers in February get going!

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In February, we were joined by students from Easterbrook Discover School in San Jose, CA and Central High School in Springfield, MA (10th year) to lay the foundation for the Learning Center using Earthbags, sometimes called Sandbags. Frederico joined our delegation to teach the students more about this ancient natural building technique.

The Basics of Earthbags:

– Earthbag building uses polypropylene rice bags or feed bags filled with soil or insulation that are stacked like masonry and tamped flat to create the walls.

– Barbed wire between courses keeps bags from slipping and adds tensile strength.

– The final plastered walls look just like adobe structures.

Earthbags have long been used for creating strong, protective barriers and for flood control. The same reasons that make them useful for these applications carry over to creating housing. Since the walls are so substantial, they can resist all kinds of severe weather and also stand up to natural calamities such as earthquakes and floods. They can be erected simply and quickly with readily available components and simple hand tools, for very little money.

Thousands of people are now building with bags to create their dream homes, home offices, shops, resorts, rootcellars, storm cellars and survival shelters. There has been a rescent surgence of earth bag construction for use in building building schools, orphanages, emergency shelters and other structures in poverty-stricken communities around the world, particularly, Haiti.

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Why build with earthbags?  

Economics. The cost of the building is quite small since the basic materials needed are often available locally, not particularly expensive,  and can be recycled or salvaged. The bulk of the material used is the earth itself.

Sustainability. Local soil is used to fill the bags and use of recycled or salvaged materials, makes the result extremely “green.”

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Breaking Ground on our Eco-Community Center in 2014: Implementing Bio-Construction

sustainability service learning mexico

We officially broke ground on the construction of our new Ecological Community Center in Tecuanipan in January and February of 2014 with help from four student groups who participated in our International Service Learning Program in Mexico.

In Tecuanipan, just 20 minutes outside Puebla City, we are creating a Demonstration Site for sustainable living, where we are working alongside local farmers and communities to teach and implement bio-construction, organic farming and sustainable livelihood projects. It is our hope that we can help create alternatives to address the issues of unemployment, migration and water shortage to strengthen communities and create economic opportunities for future generations. See our previous post on Bokashi composting, on how we have been optimizing the land prior to construction.

Working together with previous volunteers from Arizona, we shared our vision for building a Learning Center in Mexico dedicated to environmental sustainability and in 2013 we were awarded a grant from a Foundation in Arizona to help make the first stage possible.teaching bio-construction mexico

Eager to get started, we have teamed up with reknown local Permaculture architect,
Frederico Barceló Aspeitia, to guide us in the ecological design of the new center and capacitate a team of local men in bio-construction to coordinate the project. Frederico is the creater of Granja Tequio, an organic farm outside Puebla where he teaches Bio-Construction and Key Line Design, a form of water design.

He uses the organic produce from his farm to supply his chain of organic coffee shops in cafe yagua pueblaPuebla, called Cafe Yagua, which he designed using adobe. This is what a sustainable economy looks like! We are excited about this new partnership and thank his team for their guidance.

 

Bio-Construction is an internationally known, environmentally friendly building design model that promotes health and wellness while respecting nature’s bio-diversity.   Instead of wasting energy in the production of materials such as cement, iron, ceramics, etc. and the pollution generated in the transportation of these materials, bio-construction uses un-processed materials local to the region for building to preserve the natural eco-system.  The aim is wherever possible to use entirely natural materials – such as the earth, sand, rocks, plants – in their natural state and un-processed (meaning to not change chemically by heating or the addition of industrial products or poisons) to maintain the natural integrity and quality of the resources and land. In the end, we generate a house alive and healthy which promotes joy, harmony and well-being for all those living in it and around it.

The various methods of bio-construction are affordable, practical and environmentally sustainable.

composting toilet

 

In January, volunteers from Fordham University and Virginia Tech got the pleasure of creating the first structure on the land – the dry-composting toilet.

Composting and dry toilets use natural processes to turn human excreta into a valuable soil amendment. This is ecological sanitation, taking care of our human sanitation needs in a way that is helpful, rather than harmful, to the environment. They are in use in many of the roadside facilities in Sweden and in national parks in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

The human excrement is normally mixed with sawdust, coconut coir or peat moss to support aerobic processing, absorb liquids, and to reduce the odor. The decomposition process is generally faster than the anaerobic decomposition used in wet sewage treatment systems such as septic tanks. Watch videos and learn more about the local composting toilets we’ve previously built here >

Composting toilets typically use no water, or very little water in commercial scale applications and are a great alternative solution to problems of water shortage, water pollution and reliance on chemical fertilizers. Read more about composting toilets and the failures of conventional Sewage Systems and composting toilets on Grey Water Action’s website.

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Weather is not climate

It’s both global warming and climate chaos.  It’s lots of hotter hots, and a few colder colds.  Floods and droughts.  Too many extremes.

Why are we reticent to accept the simple fact that maybe, just maybe, we need to keep our home(planet) healthier?

Heal our home.  Si, se puede!

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