Emergency Shelter and Disaster Resistant Housing for the Philippines

We’re starting to get requests for disaster relief in the Philippines. This is where earthbag building really shines. I’ve researched this for years and don’t know of any building method that’s better suited to providing low cost, disaster resistant emergency shelter than earthbags. Earthbag structures can be designed to resist earthquakes, typhoons and anything else nature dishes out. Our websites explain almost everything you need for free.

“Dear Mr. Owen Geiger,

The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) is the duly accredited professional organization of architects in the Philippines. We have an active membership of around 13,000 spread all over the Philippines.

With the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in central Visayas, the organization is looking at possible ways on how to contribute to the reconstruction of some of the devastated areas. We have formed the UAP Emergency Architects Group and currently is preparing plans for temporary mobile facilities using containers and at the same time looking at possible ways to provide permanent facilities. One of this is the provision of permanent disaster-resilient schools which is very much needed in said areas.

We have been pursuing the idea of an earthbag school but we dont know how to do it. I am writing to you to ask for some help on how to go about with the project. We would appreciate any help from your end.”

Thanks and best regards,

Ar. Rey Gabitan
Head, UAP Emergency Architects Group


We have helped a lot of groups all over the world and have assembled the disaster-resistant housing information on one website: Earthbag Shelters.com This site will answer most of your questions.

We have at least one earthbag school and some dormitories that are fully designed and ready to go for free. Other plans are on the drawing boards if you’re interested.

We have several free emergency shelter designs and house plans:

Our main site is Earthbag Building.com where we have lots of project photos, recommended videos, articles, testing reports and so on.

Our Natural Building blog focuses on earthbag building, but also includes many other types of low cost natural building methods.

Step-by-step Instructable

YouTube videos

Let us know how we can help.

Owen Geiger
Cc: Kelly Hart

11 thoughts on “Emergency Shelter and Disaster Resistant Housing for the Philippines”

  1. You also have to consider how poor most people are and the local materials if done right, fit the bill. Many areas would be well served with public shelters built on high ground to with stand typhoons. Spread out to help as many as possible.

  2. Hi Owen

    Thought you might be interested in this, the e-khaya project (means ‘home’ in Zulu). Find it at http://www.e-khaya.com Very narrow walls achieved, less than 150mm, but still insulated and fireproof. Most cost effective and fast method of durable construction that I know of, especially when you include the arched, self supporting insulated roof. Is an adaptation of the Eternally Solar EarthBagBuild system with triple tube bags. Designed to be built by homeowners themselves in informal settlements in South Africa. However, we are currently frustrated by local politicians though! Could possibly be of use in the Philippines and other disaster prone areas. Retail cost of materials here in SA, for one module (14m2 footprint) including insulated roof and insulated floor, door and window, is about 600 USD.

  3. The fact of the matter is that it is impossible for a mere mortal human to look inside a person’s heart to know anyone’s true motivations.

    Most of us have a checkered past. Who among us can say that he/she has never worked for or desired in the past many of the shiny looking buildings that has become standard code approved architecture has become. Is any one of us completely pure throughout our entire lifetime?

    The past is the past, and it cannot be changed.

    What matters is what each of us does today.

    Sometimes it takes a big disaster to wake people up to the inadequacy of the current corrupt system. When someone hits bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.

    I would NEVER hope for a tragedy to happen to anyone, anywhere. However, when a tragedy does come, I hope and pray that the best of humankind is brought out.

    While there may be individuals that will try to take advantage of any situation, there will also be individuals that will have their eyes opened. The crisis of tragedy is not only a disaster for the victims, but it is a test of everyone’s convictions during the recovery. It is the measuring stick where the true character of a person is revealed.

    For all those that have newfound sight, I welcome them with open arms.

    New recruits to help change the world. We need all the help we can get.

  4. Roy
    This is just a thought… Maybe these Architects aren’t the government owned people OR, perhaps they are and are now ready to accept a better building method plus a cheaper method to get it done much faster. They’ve got to do a lot in as little time as they can. Maybe hunh?

  5. Ironic that architect groups like this one are responsible for many of the laws, codes and deceptions that cause most of the problems in the first place. Could this be another money making opportunity by a group based on making profit, excluding untrained, un-licensed builders who don’t follow the rules? Hmmmm

    • I doubt profit motive is their intent here. It would be far easier to make more money using concrete and steel and other high tech products. Their country has just been devastated by a record size typhoon and so I believe they sincerely want to find workable solutions. They seem to have done some preliminary research and feel earthbag has potential. That’s a very good sign. As far as blocking builders, natural building methods by their very nature are inclusive due to their low cost, simplicity and readily available materials.

    • I’m trying to figure out a way to go there and oversee projects. If there’s enough interest and they take the initiative then it could work out.


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