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Earth homes

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
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Pic: Stead-fast Nepal

Pic: Steadfast-Nepal

Just before noon on 25 April 2015, there was an ominous subterranean roar, and the earth started shaking. The stone and mud houses in the village of Rayale, just over the southwestern ride of the Valley in Kavre, didn’t stand a chance. Some 250 homes came down that day, killing three people in Rayale alone.

The rebuilding has been the main priority of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), but for various bureaucratic and political reasons the work has been delayed. Rigid set house designs which were proposed before villagers could get grants, there were impractical suggestions for relocation, and there were big promises of financial help by various prime ministers which did not materialise.

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Amidst this confusion, organisations like Steadfast-Nepal have moved ahead quietly to introduce an innovative technique using polypropylene bags filled with earth, and using them as the building blocks for new construction. The houses would have better climate control, be earthquake resistant, and resemble traditional houses.

Earthbag homes have thick walls that are firmly anchored with steel rods and wires, they are made with local materials and local labour, and preserve the traditional aesthetic and architecture – all completed within a month.2“They are cool during summers and warm in winters. We believe they represent a practical, localised approach to responding to the rural housing crisis after the earthquake,” says Diana Silwal Pradhan of Steadfast-Nepal.

Govinda Pokharel, head of the NRA attended the recent inauguration of 120 of the earthbag homes, and complimented the builders for the speed with which these strong houses were put up. Bhim Neupane, mayor of Panauti Municipality as well as Kavre CDO Shiva Simkhada recommended that at least another 100 houses in Rayale could be built with this technology.

3Earthbag technology has been used in many of earthquake-affected districts for homes and schools by organisations like Small World, Good Earth Nepal, Firststep Himalaya.

Earthbag construction is cheap and can be done in easy steps:
1. Fill gravel in foundation bags and place along in shallow ditch.
2. Strengthen with vertical steel rods, horizontal barbed wire
3. Fill bags 90% with moistened soil for walls and tamp them down
4. Follow design for doors and windows
5. Add concrete ring beam for roof
6. Plaster

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One Response to “Earth homes”

  1. Nathan Hagan on Says:

    If metal mesh is added every meter in height plus corner beams, that supports those wood 2nd floor beams, and that internal wall helps, they could always add diagonal cables when they see fit. Traditional models are good for 1-2 floors if metal added in key locations, as long as the foundation is good, retaining walls above and below house, water runoff control are just as important as the building construction itself.

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