Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer grew up with a fondness for nature and have been a part of the construction industry for more than 20 years. They specialise in affordable, low-impact building methods that are as natural as possible. They met while they were performing in a theatre play due to their interests in entertainment and realised their shared interest in sustainability. They developed the ‘Flexible Form Rammed Earth Technique’ after being introduced to sandbag construction. 

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Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet1
Earthbag Building_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Due to their interest in alternative architecture, they built their first arch and never looked back. They fell in love with building domes and arches out of the earth and this love led them to share their knowledge with other people through this book. They want to inspire and encourage people to adopt this method of construction.

Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet2
Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer_©alchetron.com

Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques is a book that gives an in-depth knowledge of the tools, tricks and techniques for building with earthbags. It is not a boring book with information but one with honest knowledge and a good sense of humour which keeps the reader hooked! 

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The information given has been written in such a way that a layman too would be able to follow through. The pictures of their actual work and the creative single-line sketches add more to the book as it helps the reader get a better idea of a technique that might be foreign to them. Earthbag Building was first written as a self-help book. 

Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet3
Earthbag Building_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques
Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet4
Earthbag Building_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Earthbag Building is a medium through which Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer have shared their years of work of trial and error and learning from various mediums so that this information can be used for proper construction after training contractors. The main aim of this book is to inspire and educate individuals to adopt earthbag construction. 

Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet5
Earthbag Building_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

The book teaches the reader about the positive aspects of earthbag construction. The simplicity of this method of construction, its cost-effectiveness, fluidity in construction, sustainability, ability to empower the community, etc.

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are not just mentioned in passing but explained with proper examples which makes one think instead of blindly following. 

The book follows through each step carefully and diligently. The materials that are needed for this type of construction, the ideal ratio for mixing the materials for construction are explained clearly along with visual representation making it easier to grasp. Along with what to do, what not to do or what to keep an eye out for is also explained.

This book goes through the step-by-step process of earthbag construction not only in writing but in practice too. It talks about the various tools, tricks, terminologies as well as goes into further details like foundations and structural designing for the walls. It also gives an in-depth explanation for plumbing and electrical. It talks about how it’s necessary to adapt to the surroundings you’re in as this method of construction does not agree with the one size fits all concept.

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Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet6
Earthbag Building_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

The authors have displayed their knowledge through this book without holding back any information. They have written about alternatives to various aspects of construction. The installation of a lintel, window and door has been explained in detail without expecting the similarities in other types of construction to be assumed. Various types of roof systems that they think would complement the earthbag building have been explained too.

Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet7
Earthbag Building Sketch Example_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Various concepts have been covered in this book, for example, arches. This book talks about the history of execution in this setting.

Another complicated topic that has been touched upon by the authors is domes. The way they have explained how to construct a dome is very clear and crisp. They have also guided the reader through its construction process and have given options for roofing for a dome. Various other topics that have been covered in the book are plastering both internal and external as well as the flooring.

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Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet8
Earthbag Building Sketch Example_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

The book ends with various key tips for constructing in different types of climates with adequate solutions for construction. Along with such information, there are more practical topics too that are covered such as the codes for construction, time and costs for construction concerning labour and material as well as conversions and other calculations considering different types of readers.

Book in Focus: Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Book by Donald Kiffmeyer and - Sheet9
Example of Sketch Detail_©Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer is a remarkable book that is educational. The simple language, clear instructions of what to do and what not to do alone with the warnings of what might happen are perfect. The language used and the pictures, as well as remarkable sketches, only ease the reader to understand clearly. It’s so interesting that it inspires one to practice or at least try this method of construction irrespective of the scale one may construct it in. I know I will! 

Reference

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Hunter, K., Kiffmeyer, D. and Mother Earth News (2004). Earthbag Building: the tools, tricks and techniques. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, Nsp.

Author

Mithila’s curiosity is always keeping her on a lookout for new things to learn. She has a penchant for reading and holds interest in landscape, interiors and history. Along with these interests she’s constantly working on a way to inculcate her love for textiles in her practice.

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