The driving factor behind this project is the belief that simple design is high design, particularly when working in the developing world.
For the Love of Earthbags (F.L.O.E.) is an interactive design project that aims to prove that it’s possible to approach high-design in a manner that is tasteful, modern, and groundbreaking by using only the most basic materials, such as the dirt beneath our feet.
This project is an initiative led by architect Travis Hughbanks and supported by Edge of Seven (www.edgeofseven.org) and Architecture for Humanity Denver in partnership with the local community of Basa, Nepal. The final product will be a higher secondary school in the village of Basa, Nepal. The school is one of VERY few high schools in the region and will allow students to achieve a higher secondary education in a safe, environmentally friendly building close to home!
Edge of Seven is a nonprofit organization that generates awareness and volunteer support for projects that invest in education, health and economic opportunity for girls in developing countries. According to the World Bank, 30 percent of Nepalis live in poverty and this population is most concentrated in rural areas where people survive off of agriculture and subsistence farming. For Edge of Seven, earthbags offered an opportunity to improve rural educational infrastructure and combat poverty in the most low-cost, efficient and sustainable way possible.
How will the funding be spent? The money raised through this campaign will be used for supplies to create the earthbag school, educational tools, and the production of the graphic materials.
F.L.O.E.’s end goal is to elevate the practice of earthbag construction by producing several engaging and creative educational materials that will be used both to promote earthbag construction and teach local residents how to build with this method. The materials to be produced are an animated video and a graphic print manual.
These resources will be heavy on simple, culturally-neutral, step-by-step graphics so that they can be easily understood by anyone and easily translated into different languages. After production, they will be made available to the public for free on the web under Creative Commons licensing.
To gather content for the production of the F.L.O.E. materials, we will build a prototype earthbag building in rural Nepal that will be turned over to the local community upon completion for use as a higher secondary school. In addition to the educational materials we will produce for mass distribution, we will also inlay a plaque containing graphics that outline step-by-step instructions for earthbag construction in to one of the building’s walls so the structure itself will act as an educational resource.
What is earthbag construction?
Boiled down to its basics, earthbag construction uses readily-available polypropolene rice or cement bags filled with dirt as the primary building block. The bags are laid in courses, stacked like bricks, and a strip of barbed wire is used as the mortar between each course. When the walls are constructed, a layer of chicken wire is attached to the outside so that plaster can be applied.
While most people aren’t familiar with earthbag construction, those who are will probably conjure images of a “yurt-like” structure at its mention. The “yurt-like” structure may in fact be consistent with many past examples of earthbag construction, but the truth is that earthbags can be used to build sleek and modern buildings, too.
Why build with earthbags? What are the benefits?
The benefits to building with earthbags are:
● It’s environmentally-friendly, sustainable, and draws on locally-available materials: For most earthbag buildings, it’s possible to use the dirt and stone excavated from the building site as the filler for the earthbags. What you dig out of the earth, you put back into the building. Low-waste. Simple.
● It’s cheaper than traditional methods: The main building materials used in earthbag construction are polypropolene bags and dirt, both of which are extremely affordable. Using locally-harvested stone and dirt reduces material transportation costs. Because the building method is so simple, it requires practically no skilled labor. Anyone with minimal training can build with earthbags.
● It’s sturdy and earthquake-resistant: Just picture how a building made of 16-inch-wide bags filled with loose dirt would react during an earthquake in comparison to one built of stone and mortar. Where the latter would easily break apart during a tremor, earthbags have more flexibility and less rigidity and are better able to absorb shock.
We chose the Solukhumbu Region of Nepal for the prototype build, because it is a country with a need for better earthquake-resistant buildings. The Himalayas were rocked by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in September 2011, which destroyed many community buildings and homes in the Everest Region of Nepal, highlighting the inadequacies in the country’s infrastructure. Nepal is a place that stands to benefit greatly from not only gaining knowledge of more disaster-proof building techniques, but also from gaining knowledge of cheaper building techniques.
About Edge of Seven
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