Step 17: Conclusion

Domes are the strongest form in nature and easily support enormous forces. We added about 20 truck loads of soil on the dome without it moving one bit. I’m confident another 100 truck loads could be put directly on top and it wouldn’t make any difference, because the dome is all in compression, and tamped earth (road base in our case) can support very high loads. So if you want to build underground, domes are a good way to go – that or roundhouses. Both gain their strength from the circle: forces (loads) are transferred directly to the ground. There are no components to fail as in post and beam or wood frame walls.

Domes have lots of other advantages. They create the most floor space for a given length of wall. There are no wasted corners. The feeling inside is magical. Those who live in domes (and roundhouses) most likely never live in boxes again. Wind flows around domes and does not build up pressure against them. You can build domes without wood. You can build domes with minimal tools and materials – no nails, no wood, no plywood, no shingles. This makes domes a good candidate for those who lack carpentry skills and for emergency shelters for disaster areas and war refugees. Give people some rice or grain bags and a little training, and soon they can build their own sturdy, safe shelters.

But no building system is perfect for all climates and situations. For instance, domes are not culturally accepted in some areas. Domes evolved in desert regions where wood was scarce, and are not the best choice in rainy climates. They’re exposed to the elements and vulnerable to leaks. It’s difficult to get a perfect plaster job that doesn’t leak. A leak could soften the soil and cause the dome to collapse, so the fill soil has to be stabilized, which adds to the labor and expense. For this reason we typically advise against domes in rainy climates, but this is not to say it can’t be done. There’s a dome in Koh Phangan, Thailand where it rains almost constantly for months at a time, and it hasn’t leaked yet. It was built by Phangan Earthworks with expert plasterer’s. However, few people can match this skill level, even those who do plaster work for a living. Plastered domes are particularly risky where there are freeze/thaw cycles. Water will get into every little crack (plaster always has small cracks) and burst the plaster when it freezes. That’s how nature turns mountains of stone into sand and gravel…

So the choice is yours. Domes are enormously popular among earthbag builders. If you live in a rainy climate, you could build a dome with a living roof like we did. We’ve had no leaks so far. Another good option is to build a roofed dome like the Kentucky Dome Home .

Photos: Meemee Kanyarath
<p>I would love to build this for my young son, but I would have to do it on my own. Hard work doesn't frighten me, I'm enthusiastic and have a fair bit of common sense and logic. The only thing I'm short on is strength (the muscular kind - all the others' in have an abundance). Would i manage? </p>
<p>needs a window</p>
It's a tool shed. A window would be a security risk, so I added a small peep hole in the door.
<p>dome need a window</p>
<p>Not if it's a tool shed.</p>
<p>tools have feelings too!</p>
Its a hobbit hole!
<p>I know right!!! That's what I was thinking when I first saw the picture! </p>
<p>Do you have an interior picture, floor to ceiling? Just curious how you finished it.</p>
No because the dome is so small and it would be hard to photograph. There are similar photos on the Internet if you search Google Images for earthbag domes.
No because the dome is so small and it would be hard to photograph. There are similar photos on the Internet if you search Google Images for earthbag domes.
awesome! i love it!
<p>... we were thinking building our house with the earthbags (or at least two rooms, where the base is strong enough to carry all this weight)... but we are having doubts because of all this plastic. i found a bag which was left outside one year ago - and all this tiny plastic threads where all over the place. doesn t seem to be very ecological to me... what s your opinion about that?? and have you tried or heard about the possibility of using bags of jute for example? ... we love this method and would be happy to use it with good conciousness... greetings from tenerife.</p>
<p>It's more than likely PLA/PHA plastic which is made from cornstarch and is biodegradable and food safe.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic" rel="nofollow">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic</a></p><p>It doesn't mean they degrade quickly or even over a lifetime, but they do degrade eventually and can be broken down beyond traditional petroleum based plastics. It's the safest form of plastic, however, it's still plastic. These forms can still cause ecological problems and to be broken down fully, depending on the chemistry, may require special conditions or equipment. </p>
What I want is the cheapest,safest shelter to withstand an f5 tornado. At times we can have heavy rain. A small enough for 5 small pets in cratesand maybe 4 people. Comfortable size if 2 of us and the pets sleep in it overnight. How would you build this shelter? So many feet underground? What size dome? Plastic sheeting with many layers of earth? What about the door? How would we construct a cheap yet sturdy safe door? Should we build 4 or 5 car lengths from the house and away from big, heavy trees? Last thing is cost estimate and how many bags should be bought? I know this is a lot. ?
<p>if I make this I will decorate the inside and live in it</p>
<p>You kind of remind me of Gandalf or Dumbledore.</p>
<p>Are you a Hobbit?</p>
<p>So AWESOME! Love this Instructables!</p>
<p>aiy yu qwee owen. we are in the middle of building an earthbag house (training with united earthbuilderwe live in california on the yurok reservation, right on the river, lots of trees,etc. my friend leslie hunt said she spoke to you recently, she lives on the next reservation over, hoopa. i am wanting to add a mud room with walls made out of large food cans but havent found anything on line to see if it works. we are trying to build out of what we have close, and there are lots of these large food cans on the next reservation in hoopa. have you ever done this or seen this done?</p><p>ive been wanting to build our own home since i watched your film years ago, thank you for your inspiration. we plan to help others here on the reservations build, we have high unemployment of course, people live in shacks, no electricity on half of the reservation, we declined the poles ourselves. so we need to make them as cheaply as possible. all of your information was very helpful to us, thank you.</p><p>wohklow, </p><p>monique sonoquie</p>
<p>Developing a new building system takes a lot of time and effort. Better to stick with what's well proven. Look for recycled bags from locals farmers and start experimenting with small structures like outhouses and tool sheds. Good luck.</p>
<p>OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!</p><p>:D!!!!</p>
You could plaster the dome with hemp plaster or a layer of hemp cement and then add soil directly onto that!
<p>I'd like to see it from the inside!</p>
<p>Can we see the inside? How does it stack after a few years for keeping the inside free of insects that burrow through soil?</p>
<p>Like I've said several times, it's tiny inside and hard to photograph. You can find similar photos on the Internet of other earthbag domes. (Really cool looking.)</p><p>No insects can tunnel through all that soil and through multiple layers of plastic sheeting. BUT some plant roots (vetiver grass?) managed to puncture a hole in one place. We peeled back the sod, added some more plastic sheeting and put the sod back. Total repair time = 5 minutes. No damage to the earthbags because I caught it quickly. Use a more durable roof for homes: rubber bituthene instead of plastic sheeting.</p>
<p>Extremely cool.</p><p>I may never build a house like this, but I'm glad to know you did.</p><p>I'll bet it's also cool inside when it's hot outside. </p><p>Thanks for the Instructable.</p>
<p>Yes, it's always cool inside -- the same temperature as the earth. The door is facing away from the afternoon sun so it never gets hot inside.</p>
<p>How hard would it have been to include windows?<br>How would you do that?<br>And yes, we'd like to see photos of the inside of THIS structure.<br>Thank you again?</p>
<p>Most domes have windows. This however is just a tiny tool shed. Search the Internet for images of earthbag domes. Most have arched windows. There are various ways of making windows. I like to include ferrocement 'eyebrows' over windows to block sun and moisture.</p>
<p>Owen. <br>That is one hell of a lot of work for &quot;a tiny tool shed.&quot; Actually, kind of insane. But the Hobbitliness of it is amazing, the beauty of it is endearing, and your raw determination to do something wonderful is inspiring. <br>Thank you from all of us out here in &quot;2x4 studs on 16-inch centers&quot; land. Keep doing what you're doing and keep us posted every step of the way. Like I said above, I may never build like this, but it is wonderful to know that you are doing so with enthusiasm and success. <br>Please, please, send us updates and Instructables on a regular basis. This is among my very favorite all-time Instructables. <br>And I know that I am not alone.<br>Best, Rich</p>
<p>For those interested in ongoing projects, please follow our Natural Building Blog. <a href="http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/" rel="nofollow"> http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/</a></p><p>We have over 2,000 blog posts on every topic you can think of, and it's all free.<br></p>
I LOVE this. What do you think is the largest dome you could build this way?
<p>Somewhere around 20' interior diameter is about the limit. That would be 23' exterior diameter.</p>
<p>Somewhere around 20' interior diameter is about the limit. That would be 23' exterior diameter.</p>
Thank you Owen for all your wonderful information! <br>You have inspired my son and I to build a semi subterranean earthbag dome. <br>We have been hard at it for 2 months now and are finally getting close to the top. <br>It has been a learning experience to say the least! <br>Wanted to ask your opinion about waterproofing material. <br>Our plan is to have a living roof when we are done. <br>I am looking at the different materials available and it is all kinda confusing. <br>You suggested using 6 mil sheeting. Could we use recycled 5 mil tarps as we have no budget. Also what do you think of a light weight roof underlayment? <br>The material is a little pricier but would it offer any better protection from leaks? <br>We want it to last forever. Thank in advance! <br> <br> http://www.lowes.com/pd_283849-711-5008030_0__?productId=3151833&amp;Ntt=roofing+underlayment&amp;pl=1&amp;currentURL=%3FNtt%3Droofing%2Bunderlayment&amp;facetInfo= <br> <br>
<p>Last forever, ha! Tarps should last for quite a while. Eventually though insects, rodents and roots will puncture through.</p><p>The most durable roofing for this purpose is rubber bituthene, but it's super expensive.</p>
<p>My dreamhouse! I wonder how it could resist in a northem climate</p>
<p>Add waterproof insulation on the exterior for cold climates. Search for my article and blog posts about Insulated Earthbag Houses.</p>
Build a life size model of Bag End. Challenge Accepted.
<p>on a related note, would giving this a circular door have any effect on stability?</p>
<p>Sure, you could do that. </p>
<p>i wonder about the inside how does it look?</p><p>is there any possibility to take a picture of it</p>
<p>It's really tiny and hard to photograph the inside. Search earthbag dome images on the Internet and you'll see lots of similar photos of larger domes.</p>
<p>i look at this instructable every 6 months since it came out just because it's so boss.</p>
<p>Whoa, thanks.</p>
<p>excellent...no words for it.</p>
<p>Could you live in this???</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: Owen Geiger is the former director of Builders Without Borders, a Mother Earth News Green Home Adviser, The Last Straw Journal Correspondent and the director ... More »
More by Owen Geiger:Earthbag Water Tanks Insulated Bamboo Walls Insulated Earthbag Foundations for Yurts 
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