Earthbag Daydream

When I first read about Ryo Chijiiwa’s tiny cabin on Tiny House Blog I was fascinated by the adventure this fellow was on. He quit his job at Google, traveled America, and is now working to setup a more comfortable place to live on the remote property that he recently purchased in northern California. You can read about it on his blog, Laptop and a Rifle.

But what I’ve been obsessing over for days is a simple solution that someone like Ryo could theoretically implement for a little money and a lot of sweat equity, an earthbag tiny house. Below is my earthbag daydream for simple sustainable living.  The main room of the house is 12′ by 16′ and the bathroom is just 6′ by 6′.


The shed roof would send rainwater into a collection tank behind the house. It rains quite a bit in California but only for a few months out of the year. For a rain water collection system to work in this kind of climate you’d not only need to conserve water but you’d need to maximize your ability to collect and store whatever rain you could.

I’m imaging the toilet would be a sawdust composting toilet to reduce both water use and cost. Joseph Jenkins’ work in humanure has really paved the way for this ultra-sustainable method of dealing with poo. It sounds a bit gross to compost human waste but Jenkins has shown that it can be safe. The best part of a sawdust toilet is that no septic system or water source is needed, just some compost piles and water to wash out the buckets.

Earthbags are an amazing alternative to adobe, cob, and rammed earth. Basically earthbags are  just sandbags filled with the dirt and sand under your feet. You stack them up like bricks and then mud the walls. That’s an extreme over-simplification but if it sounds interesting you can read about this construction method at great length at

In a situation like Ryo’s it seems like the ideal way to go. Virtually no water is needed during construction and the structure is mostly fireproof. Earthbags also provide tons of thermal mass making it much easier to maintain a comfortable interior temperature year round. I also suspect Ryo would find the bullet (and bear) proof characteristics of dirt walls a nice touch too  😉

Permits? Well… that’s why this is a day dream. I can totally see this being built in remote places where permits are not an issue. The main problem is that non-standard water and sewage systems are often not understood or allowed by planning departments. I’m not trying to deter anyone from working to make a daydream like this a reality… just suggesting that there will need to be some extra research and planning done before you start to fill the bags.




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