Sand has been the most widely used construction material for the last 10 000 years and even today at least a third of the world’s population live in houses built of sand.
The idea of making walls by stacking bags of sand or earth has been around for at least a century. Sandbags have been used for flood control and military bunkers because they are easy to transport to where they need to be used, fast to assemble, inexpensive and effective in warding off both water and bullets.
Sandbag building fills a unique niche in the quest for sustainable architecture. The bags are filled with local natural materials which lower the embodied energy commonly associated with the manufacture and transportation of building materials.
No damp and no vermin
The fill material is generally of mineral composition and is not subject to decomposition (even when damp) nor attractive to vermin. The fill material is generally completely non-toxic and will not release any noxious fumes into the building structure in the event of a fire.
A common misconception is that a green building has to look radically different from other buildings. In the case of sandbag construction the houses look and feel exactly the same as a plastered brick structure. This eco-friendly method of construction is superior to a conventional brick wall in so many ways; a sandbag home is waterproof, fireproof and thermally highly efficient, meaning you’ll feel warmer in winter and cooler in summer. A sandbag home is acoustically superior to a standard brick wall.
Sandbag construction offers the opportunity to own a home that is healthier to live in, as it is free of mould, damp and spore.
Amazing strength can support any roof
A sandbag structure that has been put together in a unique combination of timber framework and bags has amazing strength. It is able to support any type of roof structure and is also able to support heavy kitchen cupboards mounted on walls.
Any room size of floor to ceiling height can be achieved. This flexibility is just one of the many advantages that make this building system perfect for any project. It is estimated that about 800 diverse structures have been built using this building methodology throughout South Africa, ranging from double storey houses to large commercial structures.
Significantly, the cost is lower than conventional building, and build time is halved. For example, an average three bedroom, 150m² simplex can be completed within a month at a cost of less than R 3 500/m². This includes all finishes, roof, tiling, plumbing, electrical, ceiling and so on.
The system is fully endorsed and supported by the NHBRC.
Healthier, save energy and money
With rising energy costs and an ever growing green consciousness, a new approach to designing and construction has become essential. Sandbag construction is a technology that provides for a more comfortable, quieter and secure home while still being able to save energy, save money and provide a healthier structure to live within.
“The bottom line is that with the sandbag building system, better quality homes can be built for less money, using ecologically sound materials”, says Andy Strydom of Ambidex Projects.
Ambidex Projects recently won the Gaia award for Sand Bag Building at the Big 5 Construction show in Dubai. This is the biggest construction show in the world (outside of North America).