23 January 2009
Sandbags can counter the costly burden of home construction, says Joachim Claes, a successful Belgian architect who specializes in environmentally-sound building practices. Having completed several sandbag homes, he says it is an inexpensive and easy approach to 'green' building that anyone can do.
While serving as director of a 50,000 hectare organic agriculture operation in Ukraine, Mr Claes needed to build facilities quickly, including homes for employees. The buildings were designed according to the principles of Maharishi Vedic Architecture, or Vastu—architecture in accord with Natural Law. Considering construction methods, he was introduced to the sandbag system which was invented in South Africa about 10 years ago.
Eighteen months ago, Mr Claes asked the inventor to come to Ukraine to assist with the prototype. 'At first everyone was very skeptical, especially those with building experience,' he said. However, the results of the prototype, a two-family home, convinced them of the benefits, and five dwellings have now been constructed.
The framework is similar to post and beam construction, but the walls are filled with sand in small, breathable plastic bags. In response to a question about the use of plastic in an eco-building, Mr Claes said he was looking into durable, natural materials, but that it 'doesn't feel like a plastic house'.
On 19 January, Mr Claes, Stefan Kracht, and a panel of master builders and experts in Maharishi Vedic Architecture in MERU, Holland, discussed the method and its potential to fulfil the growing demand for Vastu buildings around the world. (read more)