This is new: young people building a sandbag house. In Malawi, Southeast Africa, houses in the countryside are usually built by first choosing a good sites, then mud bricks are formed and stacked, and baked for 24 hours. A lot of wood is needed to burn the bricks, and a lot of expensive cement to construct the walls of these houses, so my interest was aroused immediately, three years ago, when I heard about an alternative design. A house made of earthbags? Yes, on second thought it is obvious: stacked sandbags are very stable, they are always used to construct dikes. And sandbags have been being used all over the world, for many years, to build houses. The principle is very simple: new or used plastic bags are filled with sand, sewn up and stacked together to form walls. The layers are held together by barbed wired, to prevent them shifting. Space is left for the door and windows. The roof is added, and the house is ready.
I immediately thought of introducing this innovative, economical method in Malawi, and to build a prototype of such a house in Rumphi, together with the Roscher youth development center, because it has plenty of space, a dedicated leader, and interested young people. When I was there in May, we started to build a detached house, with 2 living rooms and 2 toilets.
First we gathered the tools, shovels, barbed wire and used fertilizer and sugar bags, and then we got to work. Under a cloudless sky, the bags were filled, the spirit-level employed, and barbed wire laid, amid discussions, improvements and learning.
Unfortunately I had to come home again before the work was finished, but it is going on without me. A lot of people are now taking an interest in the building. The construction official of the district has approved the construction, and wants to publicize this method of construction if it proves successful.
The first materials have been purchased, but we need more money for this prototype. Our house will cost around €5000, less than half that of a brick house. As a prototype, we need it to be an attractive home, with electricity and a modern toilet. The young people involved will have learned to build a sandbag home, and can do so again, elsewhere, for example in the South of Malawi, where large areas were destroyed by floods in the rainy season at the beginning of the year, and a large proportion of the rural population are now living in temporary camps. New houses could be built quickly and cheaply for these people.
Currently the second sandbag house as a teacher's house is build - with the know-how of the first one. And 3 young guys who helped to bild the first one are now already the foremen. We're getting closer.
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