July 1, 2014

Using earthbags for construction has been recently revived because it is the simplest and most envrionment-friendly construction process. Evolved from historic military bunker construction techniques and temporary flood-control dike building methods, earthbag construction is an inexpensive method to quickly build strong structure.

Now a company called United Earth Builders, based in Joshua Tree, CA, has developed a machine that '3D prints' home with earthbags. Its machine, the Earth Home Builder, is equipped with a compact Bobcat T300 Skid Steer loader for high flow. It fills earth bag tubes of many sizes at a rate as fast as 400 feet per hour. At production speed, a crew by hand could do about 30ft per hour.

The Earth Home Builder prints environmentally friendly home wall systems by using sandbags filled with stabilized soil. It is outfitted with specialized earth home building technology and will lay down the bags layer by layer. Reinforcing bar is added for strength during the process, and the company says that are able to get walls that are 10x stronger than timber, mold, rot, fire, flood and natural disaster resistant.

No cement is used in the wall systems, the bags are filled with Polypropelyne in order to make the building process as efficient as possible, and they can be stacked in a wide variety of shapes.

What is the typical cost per square foot? Although it It depends on your design, material costs and labor, the company says that "$100 per square foot or less is attainable" especially in areas where natural disasters occur or in developing countries.

As to the construction timeline, the United Earth Builders states that "a 2500sqft vaulted building can be built in 3 months (structure and vaults only) with mechanization. With manual labor it would take about 6 months and an average of 15-20 people who are physically fit. Also, a 900 sqft structure would take about 4 months with a team of 15 including plaster, electrical and plumbing."

The company is now looking for non-profits to partner with in order to bring affordable housing to those who need it. The price of the Earth Home Builder is around $12,500.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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Feign wrote at 7/1/2014 6:35:15 PM:

Leave it to California to completely miss the point and call a manually constructed mud hut "printed" because it happens to look like it has (huge, ugly) layers.

Mike Hunt wrote at 7/1/2014 2:27:12 PM:

Old idea. There are lots of alternative building approaches,everything from Hay bales to containers. This is NOT 3d printing. It's simply compact Earth in a bag. Mother Earth news story.

Hendrik wrote at 7/1/2014 9:22:03 AM:

And... in areas where this would be mostly used, you take labor away from people who desperately need it. They have time. 6 Months is not a problem for them. What they do not have is work.

Hendrik wrote at 7/1/2014 9:18:46 AM:

That's ridiculously expensive...

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