Earthbag Dome Workshop in Chiang Dao

One of our recent workshops was on making an Earthbag Dome.  This was taught by Paulina Wojciechowska of Earth Hands & Houses (EarthHandsAndHouses.org).  Paulina was one of the first people to bring the techniques of earthbag building to Europe, and in fact she wrote the first book on the topic: Building with Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2001).

I met Paulina in 2011 when I attended one of her Earthbag Dome workshops in a wood in southern England.  I was so impressed and inspired by Paulina and the art and science of earthbag building!  I used many of the skills and ideas from that workshop to create the design of my own rice-husk-bag buildings.

Paulina and I corresponded and met a few times over the next few years, and coming to Thailand to run a workshop was high on our agenda.  Finally, in 2014, everything came together and the workshop happened here in Chiang Dao, at Chiang Dao Roundhouses!

There was a fair bit of preparation to be done.  First we prepared the foundation.  In a non-termite area, one may not need to have a concrete base, but here, we need it!

Preparing the foundations for the Earthbag Dome.

Preparing the foundations for the Earthbag Dome.

A dozen people arrived to take the workshop in February 2014, many from freezing temperatures in Europe.  It was cold in the mornings here too, and at night, which surprised most people, but they enjoyed sitting round an open fire in the garden!  By 10 am. the sun was shining fiercely and the temperature rapidly rising.  Here we are on the first day, enjoying the sun, and putting into place the first filled bag!

The first bag filled with gravel takes its place on the prepared foundation.

The first bag filled with gravel takes its place on the prepared foundation.

For the first layer, the bags are filled with gravel, and the second layer with sand.  This is in case there is any water around, monsoons, floods or burst pipes perhaps.  The water would just pass through and out the other side and the earth bags above would be unaffected.

The third layer is the first of the earth filled bags.  In the next picture you can see the group is up to the fifth layer.  Keeping the wall of bags uniform is a rotating compass made from pipe, hose clamps, and a shelf bracket, which worked extraordinarily well.

Using the compass to keep the walls uniform.

Using the compass to keep the walls uniform.

The earth was brought in on trucks, and had been sitting around for a few weeks.  Due to the heat it was very dry.  Some water had to be mixed in with it, before it went into the bags.

Filling a bag with earth that has been mixed with just a little water.

Filling a bag with earth that has been mixed with just a little water.

The doorway was to be in the shape of a pointed arch.  We made a frame of wood and placed it where the doorway was to go, and then made bags that were wedge shaped to fit around it.

Making wedge shaped bags to go around the arched doorway.

Making wedge shaped bags to go around the arched doorway.

Notice in the picture above that the bags on the unfinished top row are kind of squashy.  Once a row is finished it is tamped to make it flat, and then bamboo stakes are nailed into each bag to fasten it to the one below.

Ajarn (teacher) Paulina giving instruction, as the dome gets higher.

Ajarn (teacher) Paulina giving instruction, as the dome gets higher.

It’s hot work building a dome!  Here’s how we cooled off…

Having fun in our swimming hole!

Having fun in our swimming hole!

And the dome gets higher…  Here you can see tamping in progress.

Tamping a row of earth bags.

Tamping a row of earth bags.

There always has to be someone inside the dome to work the compass.

Compass duty from the inside of the dome.

Compass duty from the inside of the dome.

Although the dome is not complete, it is now time to remove the wood form from the doorway.  Everyone gathers with bated breath – will the earthbag arch collapse??

Removing the wooden form from the doorway.

Removing the wooden form from the doorway.

Amazing!  The arch is perfect and super strong!

Amazing! The arch is perfect and super strong!

Everyone comes into the dome…

Everyone inside the dome!

Everyone inside the dome!

And looking into the dome from above…

Looking in the dome from above.

Looking in the dome from above.

You can see in the picture above the pipes for ventilation.  They are in the bottom of the dome and the top to allow for air circulation and prevent dampness.

And the final bag goes on the top …..

The last bag goes on the top.

The last bag goes on the top.

Ajarn Paulina in front of the beautiful finished dome.

Ajarn Paulina in front of the beautiful finished dome.

Yay!!!

Yay!!!

Thank you all for my wonderful meditation dome!

(And thanks also for your photos!)

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Workshops in Chiang Dao, Thailand 2014

Exciting building experiences for you!  This Blog is to introduce you to the three great workshops that we are planning for January and February, 2014.

Not only will the building be fun and informative, but you will be living in a village in northern Thailand, an experience in itself.  The local population are friendly and helpful, the scenery spectacular, and the pace of life perfect for de-stressing, relaxing and re-energising.

There will be 3 workshops:

Building a Roundhouse with Maggi McKerron (me!)

6th January to 1st February 2014

 

Building an Earth Oven with Sally Francis

5th and 6th February 2014

 

Building an Earthbag Dome with Paulina Wojciehowska

10th to 18th February 2014  

Roundhouse with porch.

Roundhouse with porch.

First Workshop:

A Roundhouse    6th January – 8th February 2014

The first workshop will be to build a roundhouse similar to the photo above, using a mix of local and conventional materials, and incorporating a number of different building techniques.

This is a practical hands-on workshop taught by yours truly, Maggi McKerron, who, as those of you following this blog will know, has been building Roundhouses practically every day since November 2013!

This will be a 4 week workshop, but each week will be separate, from Monday to Saturday.

You can choose which week/s you want to come.  (Excellent discount for those coming for the complete course.)

Week One – Foundations                     6 – 11 January 2014

Using local techniques, you will learn to prepare the foundations for a round building on sloping ground, including installing a French drain, concrete and bamboo base.

Using a tube full of water to find the level for the foundation.

Using a tube full of water to find the level for the foundation.

Week Two – Birdcage                        13 – 18 January 2014

We will build a ‘birdcage’ of bamboo and set in the windows and doors.

Building a ‘birdcage’ on which to attach walls and roof

Building a ‘birdcage’ on which to attach walls and roof

Week Three – Walls and Roof           20 – 25 January 2014

Learn how to make thatch using long thin leaves folded over a thin piece of bamboo.  We will then attach the thatch to the roof.  The walls will be made by attaching bags of rice husks to the “birdcage’.

Preparing bags to make the wall.

Preparing bags to make the wall.

Week Four – Plaster                         27 Jan – 1 Feb 2014

Get muddy!  We will cover the bag walls with a mix of earth and straw.  If there is a delay in drying before a fine plaster can be added, there are other buildings on which we can learn about earth plaster finishes.

Filling gaps between the bags with a mixture of mud and straw.

Filling gaps between the bags with a mixture of mud and straw.

After the workshop:   You will be welcome to stay on and help with the finishing off, and putting in the mosaic floors and decorations.  (Pay for food and accommodation only.)   Bring your imagination to suggest and execute decorations!

Mosaic step by Su Lupasco Washington.

Mosaic step by Su Lupasco Washington.

Warning!  This is a natural building, people-power only (no machines) and things happen – weeks could overlap.  For example, it could rain which could make the foundations take longer.  The ‘birdcage’ might be finished before the end of the Week Two.  BUT we will not start on the thatch until the beginning of Week Three, so that people arriving for that week will be sure to get the experience they expect.  A ‘week’ might be 5 – 7 days.

Cost:

One week workshop £150  (Discount for all 4 weeks £500)

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNTS available – before October 2013!

Price includes excellent food (mostly Thai vegetarian)

BOOK NOW

to ensure your place!

Email Maggi at maggimck@yahoo.com with your preference dates.  I am happy to answer any questions.

 

Second Workshop:

An Earth Oven (Sally Francis)          5th and 6th February 2014

Photoshop2013 copy

Building an earth oven for master bakers Juergen and Mem of Chiang Dao, this hands-on two day workshop will show you all you need to know about building an earth oven at home.

Workshop taught by Sally Francis www.ecorefab.co.uk an experienced natural builder who works professionally with natural products for decoration, refurbishment and building, to ensure good health and benefits for her clients and the environment.

Contact Sally sally@ecorefab.co.uk

Cost:  £70 (including food)

Early Bird (before October 2013)  £60!

 

Third Workshop:

Earthbag Dome (Paulina Wojciehowska)             10th to 18th February 2014

2014

Taught by master natural builder Paulina Wojciehowska  www.earthhandsandhouses.org  Building with Earthbags or Superadobe.  A rare opportunity to build a 4m diameter dome which will be used as a space for contemplation and meditation.  The workshop will include foundations, making the dome and arch, and some clay plastering.  After this workshop there will be an opportunity to stay on as a volunteer and participate in finishing the dome.

For more information email Paulina at info@EarthHandsAndHouses.org or phone UK 01825 713349

Cost:

360 Euros

Other Information:

Accommodation:     

There are good guest houses (mostly about £10 – 20 per day or monthly rates £50 – 120) in walking or bicycle distance.  (Need to be booked in advance as this is the busy holiday season in Thailand.)

If there are enough people who would like to camp on site, this could be arranged (turning existing dome into dormitory) or bring own tents and sleeping bags.  Warning: it is COLD at night!

Chiang Dao:

There are plenty of lovely experiences to enjoy in Chiang Dao – weekly market with people coming down from the mountains to buy and sell local products – hot springs – wonderful walks – 2 day climb up Mount Chiang Dao (2175 meters) – visit an elephant camp.

How to Get to Chiang Dao:

Nearest airport – Chiang Mai.  Many flights daily from Bangkok.

Nearest train station – Chiang Mai, day or night train from Bangkok.

From Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao (Hour and half) – Bus or aircon mini-bus from Chang Puek Bus Station (approx every half hour – last bus about 4.30 pm)

Aircon taxi from Chiang Mai International Airport to site appox. £30

Coach from Bangkok to Chiang Dao.

From Chiang Dao to site (10 minutes) – Yellow ‘song taew’ (converted pick-up truck) to Chiang Dao Roundhouses (or to your guest house).

If you get lost, phone Maggi 0874961571