What do you need to build a house? Most people might say wood, steel, cement, excavation equipment, and power tools. These things can make building a traditional home easier, but they certainly aren’t necessary. Just ask the designers at GA Collaborative, which recently built a three-bedroom home in Rwanda using nothing but dirt and a battery-powered hand drill.
Instead of the usual timber and insulation, the Masoro Village project utilized earthbag construction–an inexpensive method that replaces traditional materials with, you guessed it, bags of dirt. The simplicity of the method allows for eco-friendly construction with only local materials and unskilled labor.
The home is meant to be a prototype for a series of homes that GA Collaborative hopes to build for members of the women’s cooperative l’Association Dushyigikirane. With limited material availability and a tight budget, a complicated design was out of the question.
One thing the build site had in abundance, however, was dirt. Since pretty much anyone is instantly capable of filling a bag with dirt and stacking the filled bags like bricks, earthbag construction became the obvious choice.
“Assisting the designers on site were four students from the nascent architecture department at the Kigali Institute of Science & Technology (KIST), who also designed for the project a mutable piece of furniture (turning from a bed into a chair, then into a table),” reports Arch Daily.
“To counteract earthbag construction’s tendency to create insular, bunker-like compartments, the designers opened up the front of the house with a long public/private veranda that serves as a covered, open-air entry and circulation space among rooms,” continues the article. It was completed with a steel roofing structure, but for future projects with more lenient timelines, the group hopes to utilize cheaper timber building materials.
Learn more about this style of green building at www.EarthbagBuilding.com.