In the video above, Andrew Mumford, co-founder of Permaculture South Africa, introduces us to “earthbag” building—a way of constructing strong homes cheaply and quickly. The technique has actually been around for quite a while, having first been developed by German professor Gernot Minke and architect and builder Nader Khalili.
Earthbags are polypropylene (or sometimes canvas) bags filled with sand or dirt, with an added bit of cement and water. The bags are then stacked in concentric circles, forming walls. On top of each layer, builders place two strands of barbed wire to grip the next set of bags. Higher and higher the rings go, closing in gradually until they close at the top.
The method produces thick walls—about three bricks thick—and can be coated with plaster, as we see in the video.
Each earthbag home takes only a few weeks to build. Probably the most intriguing and promising thing about the earthbag approach, though, is that anyone can do it inexpensively and without outside help. People living together in remote areas can create their own housing: “We can actually do it if we work as a community,” Mumford says.