Rendering our Earthbag dome… first coat (bring on the cow poo)

| Appropriate Technology, Building, Natural Building | 9 comments | Author :

While I have heard from multiple sources that cow poo is a fine and admirable structural component for cob render mix, I never thought we’d try it.

But thanks to Harris, we have finally given the Earthbag dome we started building in February 2011 it’s first complete outer render, featuring mud, sand, silt and cow poo. And it seems to be working!

Raising the walls of the earthbag dome as part of a 7 day workshop in February 2011

The completion of this earthbag structure has been a bit long winded and very experimental. If we build another (which we hope to) we will have the benefit of lots of hard-learned lessons to make the process quicker!

But it is getting there. Shane, the awesome bloke who is (slowly but surely) building our tinyhouse made up some beautiful window and door frames that fit snugly in the bagwork, made from recycled wood. They’re all in place and looking great.

Window hole during construction
Window hole completed and self-supporting with bags
Window frame in place, and ready to take a small rectangular recycled window...
Removing the vaulted door form during construction, anticipating that the bag structure we built around it will be self supporting...

Hurrah! One self-supporting archway made of earthbags...
Shane's hand-made, recycled timber door frame, now in place and ready for a hand-made door...

Since the bag-work was finished on that first 7-day  flurry of energy and enthusiasm, it’s been a bit of a slow road to get the earthbag dome finished… as always, it’s a matter of priorities, and this project, while awesome, just wasn’t up the top of the list.

But slowly we’ve got there. It’s been an experiment and a collaboration with many people pitching in ideas and techniques. Some we’d do again, and some we wouldn’t. But that’s ok. It’s bee a great learning experience in hands-on, radical building for everyone involved!

Earthbag walls finished, in goes the central skylight...
Making a ferrocement 'hat' for the dome to protect the lower bags from weather, with the intention that this would mean we could render the lower part of the dome in earth-based render, thereby avoiding having to render in cement entirely...
Ferrocementing all parts of the dome which will be exposed to rain...
Harris and Sophie mixing up the earth render mix
Sophie doing the final cob render mixing by foot...

Leigh, Harris and Sophie get rendering...
Earthbag dome with it's first coat of outer render finished! Yay...
Next up, Sophie and Adam start on rendering the inside...

Many thanks to everyone who’s helped with our earthbag dome thus far! It’s been quite a learning curve… particular thanks to Neil and Stella that got us going and to Harris for initiating the cow-poo render sequence. And to Leigh Hegg for his photos.

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  • That typo halfway through the post actually fits the post well…”But that’s ok. It’s bee a great learning experience in hands-on, radical building for everyone involved!” Bee hive is my immediate thought when I look at that wonderful structure. With the ferocement hat it looks like a little beehive member of Dad’s Army :). Love the building, love the idea and love that you are trying to use as many natural ingredients as you can and my dogs would like to visit a house with external cow dung…it would be the dog equivalent of the witches house in Hansel and Gretel. Lovely job and very inspirational

  • Reblogged this on Upwey Permaculture Class Notes Feb-Mar 2012 and commented:
    Earthbag Dome – A Super Adobe!
    This is so cool! Pictures shows the details.

  • You people give me hope. Thank you for sharing this amazing experiment with us!

  • This is fantastic. Congrats on building a super adobe and sharing it.

  • Great update thanks! Just wondering if the little rounded bits at the bottom are the same cob render, just you did them earlier and wanted them to look like stones?

    • Hey Lightfoot – the round things are called ‘dinosaur balls’ and are a clay/cement mix that you shape with your hands and build up in high traffic areas (ie the bits of the building that will get kicked and/or wet)

  • Loks like lottsa fun and practical as well!

  • Perhaps they are stones Light Foot? I would like to know, and I am sure the exrtrodinary Kirsten will tell us.