We have recently returned from working on a pioneering rice husk build in Northern Thailand.
Our friend and colleague Maggi McKerron has lived in Thailand all her adult life. She has some land in Chiang Dao where she is planning to construct several rice husk domes, to rent out and live in herself. The walls are being constructed using woven polypropylene (WPP) bags filled with rice husks. The 1st dome is well under way..
A concrete foundation and floor was poured to prevent termites from penetrating up into the structure. On top of this 2 courses of bags filled with gravel, then sand respectively, were laid. These act as a basic damp proof course to stop water tracking up the walls. They also add protection for the walls should the site become flooded. On the 3rd course we started the WPP bags filled with rice husks, which come from the rice factory ready-filled.
A bamboo framework was woven using strips of split bamboo, and bags have been attached to interior face of this with hemp string. Bamboo stakes have then been driven down through the wall to add to its strength and stability. The wall will be earth plastered on both sides.
Six reinforced concrete posts have been set into the concrete base to take the weight of the roof, which Maggi plans to be mosaic. The rice husk bags are not load-bearing but are performing as wall infill between the concrete posts. The dome shape is constructed from re-bar, covered in a bamboo framework to which rice husk bags are attached. They’ll provide insulation from the heat.
There’s no power on site – the tool of preference and necessity is the machete which the Thai workers, currently 2 men and a woman, are very skilled with. Scaffold framework and towers are constructed from bamboo. The Thais have been supplemented by a flow of volunteers who are either; old friends; have met Maggi on natural building workshops like myself; or who have come across the build on the internet.
Volunteers are always welcome. Chiang Dao is a stunning part of Thailand which I’d urge you to visit if you’re travelling in South East Asia.
We’ll post updates of the progress with Maggis project, and also direct those who are interested to the wider issues that the project raises.
We are planning to initiate some research on what is happening to moisture levels, etc inside the walls after construction. If anyone is interested in getting involved in the research then please let me know.
You can follow Maggi’s blog on the build by subscribing to: http://maggimck.wordpress.com
Do get in touch with us here at EcoRefab if you’re interested in participating in any way with the build.
In December this year Paulina Wowciechowska from Earth Hands and Houses – http://www.earthhandsandhouses.org/ – is running an earthbag building workshop on the site, constructing a meditation dome.
EcoRefab will be running a clay oven build around the same time. We hope to add a basic building with bamboo course too.