The Eco-Beam Sandbag System was developed in South Africa as a low-cost housing solution. Today, Eco-Beam sandbag homes have found their way into many suburbs across South Africa and the world. We have completed projects across South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique over the past 3 years.
The method consists of three elements:
- A framework of Eco-Beams (timber and metal beams that form the framework for the sandbag walls).
- Specially formulated geo-fabric bags, filled with sand and stacked between the beams; and, finally.
- Cladding of the beams with wire mesh and either plaster, timber or plasterboard.
The completed structure is waterproof (sand does not have the intrinsic capillary action found in cement), fire resistant and soundproof, and has extremely good thermal properties. (Cool in Summer – Warm in Winter) While standard walls may develop cracks in the plasterwork that can carry through the entire wall, this will not happen with this process, as cracks cannot run through sandbag walls.
Once the framework is in place, filling and stacking sandbags can be undertaken by semi / unskilled labour or by the owners themselves, reducing labour costs and potentially providing job and entrepreneurial opportunities to the local community. Much of the sand required to build the structure can be obtained from the site.
This form of construction is ideal in isolated areas, as the weight and design of the construction material makes it easy to transport. Building using the Eco-Beam Sandbag building system not only dramatically decreases the cost of building but also is extremely environmentally friendly.
Eco-Beam Sandbag homes can be produced and built in a very short period of time, as no actual brickwork needs to be done. Once the beams and bags have been transported to the site, the framework can be erected within a few days.
This construction alternative offers design flexibility, environmental responsibility, energy efficiency, long-term structural integrity, durability and lower home-operation costs.
Benefits of the Eco-Beam Sandbag Building System
The system exhibits tremendous thermal stability. The occupants will be kept cool in summer and warm in winter, due to a high thermal mass. Millions of small air spaces between the grains of sand are responsible for good thermal insulation.
It also has excellent sound-absorbing properties which help to provide a measure of privacy in close-quarter living or within the house between rooms.
Another feature that guarantees a high living comfort and a healthy room climate are the “natural” walls. Due to the enormous weight of sand these structures are wind and water proof. The security and fire protection properties of the walls are also excellent.
Reduced Construction Cost
Due to its flexibility, the system offers several cost saving options, depending on the needs of the builder. The finished building will not only be cheaper to build but ecologically friendlier and of better quality compared to a conventional structure.
The weight of the construction materials makes transporting easier and cheaper while allowing for construction in areas without adequate road infrastructure. (e.g. 1,500 eco bags can fit in the boot of a car; this is the equivalent of 4,500 bricks). Unskilled labour can be used to fill and stack the sandbags, further reducing labour costs.
Reduced Construction Time
The ease of transportation of building material will reduce construction time significantly. The only “wet” trade is plastering and no mechanical tools, equipment, skills or electricity is needed on site.
Most specialized trades like electrical and plumbing can be installed at this stage as well, allowing for some stages to be completed concurrently, further reducing construction time. There is limited construction residue at completion of a construction project.
Reduced environmental impact
The system has a low carbon footprint as very little energy is consumed in the process of designing, manufacturing or building a kit.
The factory can be run without any electricity and on site construction requires no mechanical or electrically operated equipment.
Due to the relative weight of the building materials, an Eco-Beam building kit is easy to transport and can be delivered to inaccessible regions and areas without heavy transport requirements.