Earth Bag Pool Construction

This easy-to-learn natural building technique can produce a budget-friendly pool for your whole family—and community—to enjoy.


pool 
Photo by Morgan Caraway

An astonishing variety of things can be built from bags filled with earth, also known as “earthbags.” One of the most versatile forms of natural building, earthbags can be used in many applications that would be too wet for most conventional and natural building methods. Earthbag pools are a perfect demonstration of this.

Before I describe two pool projects I’ve been involved in, let’s discuss some of the advantages of earthbag building.

From the Ground Up

Earthbag structures are strong, which is why they’ve traditionally been used for military fortifications and flood control projects. The “superadobe” technique produces structures from an unbroken spiraling polypropylene tube with barbed wire between the layers. Other builders prefer “hyperadobe,” or long polyester tubes made of open netting, which allows the fill to blend between the layers, thereby holding them together. To build our earthbag pool, we filled and stacked 14-by-26-inch polypropylene bags stabilized with rebar. These rectangular bags produce uniform walls 10 to 11 inches thick — about 1-foot-thick after they’ve been coated with protective plaster.

filling-bags
The building crew fills bags with inorganic material, and carefully places the pool liner after ensuring no sharp rocks threaten its integrity.
Photo by Morgan Caraway

Almost any kind of inorganic fill dirt can fill the bags we use. The polypropylene bags offer mechanical support, so the mix inside doesn’t need to be a specific ratio of sand and clay, unlike with superadobe and hyperadobe. Traditional cob and straw bale construction covers a lot of straw in wet mud. If the mix isn’t allowed plenty of time to dry, or if it absorbs too much humidity from the air, the straw could rot and mold. This poses a threat to the air quality and health of those living within the structure. With a standard earthbag, no such danger exists, because there’s no organic material. Walls can be built as fast as a team can construct them; a large group can put up an entire earthbag structure in one day.



My wife and I built our first earthbag house in 2009. We’ve worked on many earthen structures since then, including our own earthship-inspired house and an earthbag tiny house, and we now operate the Sustainable Life School to teach natural building methods to others.

lining-the-pool
Photo by Morgan Caraway

Spring-Fed Pool

For years, I had an ambition to build a pool below the natural spring on our property. I knew that filling the pool would be easy, because gravity would move the water. (I try to take advantage of natural forces in everything I build. My tiny house also has gravity-fed water, as well as geothermal refrigeration.) My dream finally came true in 2018. Here are the steps my wife, Mary Jane, and I took to build our spring-fed pool.



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