The more I learn about earthbag homes the more they seem to be one of the most sustainable and safe ways of building a home. The most recent evidence is a small earthbag home that survived the recent earthquakes in Haiti. I found the story of the Sun House at the Eathbag Building Blog as well as research data that shows how earthquake resistant earthbag homes can be.
Earthbag Building Blog
Adobe brick can also be made as earthquake proof. Here in New Zealand there are building codes available for adobe brick. I’m very interested in building with adobe brick and I am particularly sensitive about its resistance to earthquake because the whole island is a fault line!
Earthquake proofness is accomplished with mainly two tricks – the embedding of wire meshing in every third course of adobe bricks ( the equivalent of the barbed wire in earthbag construction) and no long straight runs of walls without cross bracing (can’t remember the longest segment possible without bracing). Cross bracing basically means that a perpendicular wall or stub must exist at regular intervals. Corners can also overlap for greater strength ( studies in Australia have shown this to be a further improvement)
My little town of Murchison on the S.Island of NZ was the epicenter of an earthquake nearly an order of magnitude greater than the recent one in Haiti. In 1929 a magnitude 7.8 struck this town. The worst damage (to people) was called by falling masonry, so avoid the brick veneer and/or chimneys!
The next biggest issue was land slips and rising rivers due to blockages, so take care WHERE you put your nice earthquake proof house!