RSP Group is dedicated to providing the best commercial and residential remodeling and renovation services. We stay updated with the latest building methods in the construction industry to ensure your property stands the test of time. There’s nothing more important to our team than your safety and comfort.
We’re happy to announce we have earned our certification in earthbags, also known as Superadobe. Earthbag houses are made entirely of sustainable, natural materials that bring new meaning to the phrase “dirt cheap.” Keep reading to learn more about earthbags and superadobe architecture and how RSP Group can apply these building materials to make lasting improvements to your commercial property or home.
Earthbag homes are comprised of bags filled with natural materials stacked to form a building. Superadobe is an earthbag building method developed by architect Nader Khalil in the 1970s. It combines sandbag fabric, soil fill material, and coils to create low-cost housing for those who need it. This type of housing eliminates the need for excessive amounts of more limited building materials. If adopted at a larger scale, earthbag building could eliminate 95% of all lumber used to create a traditional wood frame structure.
While you can technically build an earthbag house using the natural materials in your backyard, that doesn’t make Superadobe structurally unsound. Under Khalili and the International Conference of Building Officials, earthbag construction met the 1991 Uniform Building Code’s requirements by 200 percent, meaning the natural buildings can withstand severe seismic and snow pressures. Since its introduction in the 1970s, Superadobe has been published by NASA and endorsed by the United Nations.
Earthbag construction can also absorb, store, and transfer heat adequately. The building materials have a high level of thermal mass, absorbing heat during the hottest time of the day and retaining it until the structure starts to cool after nightfall. Earthbag homes offer significant benefits to people who live in areas where daytime and nighttime temperatures vary drastically.
When a construction manager carries out a Superadobe project, laborers stack layers of long or short burlap or polypropylene bags on top of each other. Laborers fill the bags with moist earth and use barbed wire as mortar to reinforce the layers of bags. If the wire isn’t enough, laborers can apply cement, asphalt emulsion, or lime.
Earthbag builders fill the bags with soil. While most types of soil can be used, the mix matters. Striking the right balance of gravel, silt, sand, and clay can impact the sustainability of your earthbag construction. For example, gravel is a jagged material that works best at a foundational level. However, favoring clay and sand provides greater stability due to clay’s glue-like nature and sand’s bulkiness. Most builders recommend a 7:3 clay to sand ratio.
Polypropylene, burlap, and superadobe tubes are the most common earthbag construction materials. Burlap is a natural material with greater sustainability but less durability than polypropylene. If you choose weak fill material for your earthbag home, using a strong bag prevents the soil from losing its effectiveness.
Other essential materials for a successful earthbag building include:
- Galvanized barbed wire
Building an earthbag home is a simple and effective process. Superadobe has been tested many times over the years, and the techniques used to create an earthbag home are the result of decades of study and optimization. RSP Group uses modern engineering concepts to guarantee your construction project stays standing.
Base isolation is a widely accepted seismic protection system for use in places where earthquakes are common. Base isolation protects earthbag houses from seismic damage by distancing the structure from dangerous ground motions. The technique increases energy dissipation, allowing the structure to respond more flexibly to earthquakes. Very little, if any, force is transferred to the building.
Earthbags offer excellent flood control, fire-proofing, and insulation. Pair that with the compression and tensile strength of the barbed wire, and you have a formidable structure that offers excellent value for dirt cheap.
Earthbag walls tend to have an arch or dome shape because it’s the strongest shape in architecture and has been used in construction for thousands of years. Superadobe is naturally suited to vault and arch construction and can be built up to 22 feet in diameter. Earthbag homes need to be relatively small to retain their structural soundness. Construction experts like RSP Group create larger earthbag houses by connecting multiple domes or expanding underground.
Earthbag construction can only last so long without a good finish. Plaster projects the natural building from erosion and beautifies the structure with its smooth texture. A typical treatment involves an 85% earth and 15% cement plaster mixture called reptile that boasts high endurance. Another option is living grass—a building material that covers the entire earthbag home in a vibrant green shade.
As a construction service provider certified in earthbag building techniques, RSP Group is ready to breathe life into your commercial or residential project. We create a collaborative and inclusive environment for our clients and support communities of every race, creed, and identity. Our founder, Paula June Bakjajian, is there with you from concept to completion, streamlining the construction process and ensuring you’re involved.
We understand that earthbag construction can feel new and overwhelming. We’re there for you if you need a step-by-step guide through the experience. Ready to make your earthbag construction dream come true? Reach out today.
RSP Group is an inclusive, creative, and collaborative construction service provider in the San Francisco Bay Area. We help you realize your ambitions with unique solutions tailored to your needs.