Our Earthbag Earthship
Earthbag earthship, phase one done!

Building Our Earthship-Inspired Earthbag House

In 2014 our small intentional community purchased twelve acres of prime land in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the next year and a half, we helped our community members build infrastructure and their earthbag house. In the spring of 2016, we began work on our own earthship-inspired earthbag house.
 
The first earthbag house we built was roughly 300 (round) sq ft. The new one was around 1000 sq ft, over three times bigger! As I write this in 2020, we still haven’t completely finished it, this is one reason I often advise people to start with a small project before trying to tackle a big one. Now my personal specialty is earthbag tiny houses, you can read more about the one we built here.
earthbag earthship construction
The front wall in 2016.

In May of 2016, we had our first official earthbag building workshop as Sustainable Life School. By the end of the year, we had the back and front walls built and the roof on. Getting the roof on an earthbag structure in a timely manner is a good idea. Putting a roof on really ties it all together and gives it structural stability from the ground up. It’s also very important to properly brace your end posts and make sure that curved walls don’t have long, straight-ish runs–these are places where the wall wouldn’t be as self-supporting.

Getting Er Done(ish)

That first Winter and into the next spring, the structure was mostly open. This was helpful to let everything dry out. When first built, earthbag homes are a moist place. In wet environments, it probably takes a couple of years for the walls to dry completely. Allowing it to at least mostly dry before closing it in can be a good idea. I would assume that in desert areas the drying time is much shorter.

By the end of 2017 we were able to move out of the converted school bus that we had been living in during the build and into the house. This was the second time that we had lived in something small while building our houses–the first time we stayed in the easy yurt that we had designed and built. It feels good to go from something quite cramped to something more spacious. Even a tiny house can feel pretty big in comparison!

Earthbag Earthship
A pic from early 2018 - getting there slowly but surely!

Over the following years we got more and more done inside the house. We added hardwood floors, tongue-in-groove ceilings, a metal roof (our original one was an attempt at a living roof–that’s a story in itself!), and more. This year we finally got around to building a bottle wall we’ve been planing from the beginning and it has come out beautifully! Mary Jane is our bottle wall star and it’s a technique we love for it’s beauty and simplicity. 

A house is kind of a living, breathing thing. It grows and changes with the needs and desires of it’s inhabitants. Overall, I’m very happy with our progress and have found it to be an extremely comfortable place to live. Thanks for reading!

 

earthbag earthship inside view
State of the inside, 2019.

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