Stabilized Earth

This dome is constructed of six-inch (15 cm) thick rigid foam protected with a four-inch (10 cm) thick layer of sculpted cement-stabilized earth by artist/sculptor Robert Chappelle. What is truly remarkable about this home is that it is in central Vermont! (Fig. 13.5).

After much experimentation, Robert mixed the optimum ratio of cement (a hefty 16 percent) into his sandy reject soil, resulting in a plaster that has withstood the ravages of Vermont winters since 1994. His sculptures continue to endure, he says, unchanged since the day he completed them in the early 1990s.

13.4: Low-fired clay tiles set in earthen mortar have been a traditional roof covering on domes in the Middle East for centuries. The mud mortar allows for transpiration, while the tiles inhibit erosion.

13.5: Robert Chappelle's home in Vermont. This is not an earthbag dome!

Foam Render Domes

Keep in mind, however, that his structures are thick rigid foam, not raw earth, and therefore less likely than living earth to be affected by changes in weather (Fig. 13.6).

13.6: What fascinates us is the effectiveness of his stabilized earth mix in such a harsh climate.

Photo credit: Robert Chappelle

13.7: Keep it alive, not stabilized!

13.7: Keep it alive, not stabilized!

Robert started out doing a four-inch (10 cm) thick single coat application, but recommends doing several thin one-inch (2.5 cm) thick coats instead. Thin multiple coats have proven to remain crack free and water resistant. His success inspires us to experiment with trying lime stabilized soil (instead of cement) as a protective covering over earthbag domes, as lime is more compatible with the vagaries of raw earth.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Greener Homes for You

Greener Homes for You

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Living Green. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Great Tips on Buying, Designing and Building an Eco-friendly Home.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment