Superadobe/Earthbag Orphanage Withstands Nepal Earthquake

Cal-Earth Low-cost Sustainable Earthen Housing Solutions Proved Effective and Safe in Earthquakes

Hesperia, Calif., May 5, 2015 — Cal-Earth Institute today announced they received confirmation that the Superadobe/Earthbag orphanage project built for the Pegasus Children’s Project in the northern Khathmandu valley in Nepal survived the 7.6 magnitude earthquake on 25 April 2015, and the structures are all still standing.

The Superadobe (sandbags/barbed wire) building system developed at Cal-Earth (U.S. Patent #5,934,027) integrates traditional earth architecture with contemporary global safety requirements, and passes severe earthquake code tests in California. The technology has been published by NASA, endorsed by the United Nations, featured in countless world media outlets, and awarded the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.

A UK organization, Small Earth, built over 40 domes in 2006 for the Pegasus Children’s Project in Nepal, which is home to over 90 children and their caretakers, all of who are confirmed safe after the earthquake. Trained by a Cal-Earth alumni in 2005, Small Earth’s founder, Julian Faulkner, shared the news: “The domes have come through relatively unscathed with just surface cracking to the plasterwork… in the village below the site 15 houses have collapsed and many others are badly damaged with all the villagers now sleeping under tarpaulins in the fields.”

Faulkner stated the superficial damage to the buildings is a “testament to the quality of training we received that has enabled us to further develop the technology for use in climates as diverse as the temperate UK, the monsoon-drenched Himalayas and the African savannah.” Pegasus is raising funds to rebuild a brick structure that was destroyed during the quake, but feel validated in their choice to build earthbag domes to withstand the extreme conditions.

The Cal-Earth organization is dedicated to addressing the pressing needs of all the Earth’s homeless population and displaced people. The global housing shortage currently includes some 20-40 million refugees and displaced persons, and hundreds of millions more who live in substandard or slum housing. With compounding environmental challenges and the acceleration of natural and man-made disasters, this shortage will only become more severe in the coming decades. Cal-Earth believes the time to act is now, in order to ensure that everyone has a safe and sustainable place to live.

Cal-Earth is responding to the growing need to educate people in the face of compounding environmental challenges and the acceleration of natural and man-made disasters. On May 11, 2015, Cal-Earth will launch its first online class for download and streaming: Introduction to Superadobe. Cal-Earth is working toward raising addition funding to create more online content so that anyone, from anywhere, will be able to learn sustainable earth architecture in person or online. More

About Cal-Earth

Cal-Earth, the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to providing solutions to the human need for shelter through research, development, and education in earth architecture. Cal-Earth envisions a world in which every person is empowered to build a safe and sustainable home with their own hands, using the earth under their feet. Currently, Cal-Earth reaches over 1.5 million through worldwide outreach and social media, in addition to more than 1,500 visitors who come to the Hesperia site annually for workshops and tours.

Media Contact:

Sheefteh Khalili





A Decade Of Great Earthquakes

It’s been almost 10 years since the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman-Aceh great earthquake produced a tsunami that devastated the area around the Indian Ocean.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center put together this brief video showing the progression of Earthquakes over the last decade, including both pretty small ones and large ones. Awesome to see how completely they’re controlled by plate tectonics and how the occasional rare “great earthquake” does pop up.

The last decade actually has seen more great earthquakes than typically occur during a decade, but that’s what happens with extremely rare events. Sometimes you go a couple decades with none, sometimes you have a decade with 2 or 3 in a fairly short succession. More



A Traditional Future

Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari uses local building techniques to rebuild villages in the flood-stricken Sindh region.

Yasmeen Lari - Architect

Yasmeen Lari is Pakistan’s first female architect and one of the most successful providers of disaster relief shelters in the world. She has built over 36,000 houses for victims of floods and earthquakes in Pakistan since 2010.

Shunning the structurally weak, mass-produced houses offered by international organisations, Lari uses vernacular techniques and local materials such as lime and bamboo. Her houses have a tiny carbon footprint and are simple enough for people to build themselves. With this, she hopes to demonstrate the role that architecture can play in humanitarian aid.

“I often tell my colleagues, let us not treat disaster-affected households as destitute, needing handouts … but with dignity,” she says.

Lari once built giant concrete and steel buildings for clients like the Pakistani State Oil company. But when disaster struck in 2005, she turned to traditional techniques to design flood and earthquake proof buildings for people in remote regions.

She returns to the Sindh region to see how her homes survived the 2013 floods and helps villagers in Awaran after the 2013 Balochistan earthquake.

Filmmaker’s view

By Faiza Ahmad Khan

Just a week before I left for Pakistan to film this documentary, the chief minister of my home state Rajasthan in India (which, incidentally, borders Sindh, the part of Pakistan that I was about to visit), pledged that within the next two years, there would be not a single mud house left standing in the state.

For many years the central government in India has already had a programme in place, which gives those in rural areas a sum of money to replace their traditional mud houses with brick and cement structures. Traditional is seen as poor and inferior and the fast track to “development” cannot, God forbid, be lined with mud and thatch houses.

While filming in Pakistan, I shared our chief minister’s announcement with an artisan who works with Yasmeen Lari at the Heritage Foundation in a village called Moak Sharif in Sindh.

“Thank God we’re decades behind India in this development business,” he said.

On one of my travels in Orissa in India, to a village called Govindpur that is resisting land acquisition for the mega steel company, POSCO, I met a woman who was rebuilding her kachcha house (made of natural materials, such as mud, bamboo and leave) despite being able to access government funding for a concrete house.

“We depend on this land for everything, we take what we know can be replenished. People in cities have no connection with the land so they don’t think twice about cutting down trees, mining the earth hollow. You think you’re separate from nature but you’re not. If this goes, you go,” she said.

What I am constantly being reminded of, as this country builds the capitalist dream, is that we stand to lose the wealth of traditional knowledge that pivots around this belief – ways to farm, heal, learn and live.

At the Heritage Foundation centre in Moak Sharif, Yasmeen Lari has been working to preserve traditional ways of building. The centre was set up by Yasmeen and her team in 2005 and has evolved to include a women’s centre, a small learning centre for children and a clinic to provide health care for the residents of the village.

Yasmeen believes that her role as an architect should not be restricted to designing houses and buildings. Instead, things should grow in an integrated way.

While I was there, they managed to get the government school, once barely functioning, in working order. Women from the village had organised themselves into a ‘mothers committee’ to oversee the school’s daily operations. And after I returned to India, every once in a while, Yasmeen would call and explain, with great delight, something new they were experimenting with – organic farming, bio fertilizers and natural soaps.

Through the making of this film I realised that building the “earth-way” means fluidity, not concreteness. It means working with the community, integrating it with structures of support and togetherness. Building homes, for Yasmeen, is about situating them. She guides her team to create this kind of space. Traditional, yes, but by no means can this approach be deemed irrelevant. More