CalEarth’s Prototype for Haiti

The current newsletter from CalEarth describes how they have been designing an earthbag shelter/home prototype for use in Haiti.  This structure, consisting of a 10 ft. main dome surrounded by 3 apses (a 7 ft. sleeping apse, a 5 ft. fire cooking apse with storage below, and a 5 ft. apse that can be used for storage or as a sleeping area for small children) was designed to house six people comfortably.

From laying the footprint to applying the plaster, a crew of 9 people worked a total of 15 days to create this prototype. The cost of this structure, including earthbag tubing, barbed wire, cement, waterproofing materials, basic building tools, windows, and a door with a lock, came to under $3,000. According to the newsletter, “Although the cost may seem high, it is important to note that we made it a point to create a permanent shelter thus stabilizing with cement. After visiting Haiti and meeting with government officials, it became very apparent that for those families living in the tent camps, any relocation would be permanent, even if stated otherwise. So we built this structure with that in mind, and included all the amenities needed to live in this shelter for a long period of time. If we were to design a temporary emergency shelter, the costs would be significantly lower.”

How  this dome will be waterproofed is still unknown.  They are planning to experiment with using an elastomeric  roofing compound.  They have already tried using tar compounds, but are hoping that  an  elastomeric paint  may be the simplest way of creating a reliable and serviceable waterproof membrane.

You can read their entire newsletter that describes all of this more fully on their website.

2 thoughts on “CalEarth’s Prototype for Haiti”

  1. I looked at your design with great interest and would like to make some comments that I hope does not dampen your enthusiasm for building shelters in Haiti.

    How much do you know about the culture and the size of the average family unit? I believe if you could expand the size of the dome to 15 or 20 foot it would be more suitable for a family.

    Also one of the things that excited me about earth bag building is that the average family could afford to build them theirselves if we could somehow come up with bulding materials that the average haitian family could afford to buy or scrounge from the garbage dump or surrounding countryside.

    One of the first problems we had with building a structure for a family that consisted of older women and children is that there was no place to obtain dirt to fill the bags!
    We had to purchase dirt and pay for transportation.

    The way for earthbag building to become successful will if the Haitian people can embrace it and incorporate it into their lifestyle.

    It is nothing for 10 – 20 people to be living in a single 300 square foot dwelling that they use only for sleeping. They need shelter from the sun and rain for the rest of the time.

    Sorry to sound so negative but I hope this gives you some food for thought, like how can we incorporate a cooking shack outside the home and a veranda for people to sit and interact as is their custom.


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