Vanuatu Earthbag Update Aug 12, 2013

“Hi Owen, I’ve been sick for the past fortnight but it’s given me a chance to process all the offers and opportunities that have opened up.

I am going to have to work with the government in Vanuatu so I have to be very clear what I can offer to a community and how I can fund it.

The last build taught me a lot about budgeting and site management and what to expect from the weather and the community.

I don’t want to start a charity because that entails a lot of administration costs, something we are trying to side step. It looks like we will register as a not for profit organisation and we raise the build money through a crowd funding site.

I feel that I can build a community centre and a private home for $8,000 per village, that should be achievable through crowd funding.

Two years ago I was a Sydney jeweller but now I’m determined to earthbag the whole pacific. We have been through all the three hundred dollar house designs and I can’t find anything that makes sense for pacific islands the way earthbags do. It’s so beautifully simple and accessible, especially for remote islands with little shipping and high taxes.

I can see it becoming a standard build over there. It may take ten or fifteen years to really take root but I think it will. I feel that building a display home/family residence near every roundhouse [community center] will help to spread the technique. It will show the translation into home use.

We have taken a lot of advice on community norms and aspirations. We have been advised to build the residences for people who are employed and have their children enrolled at school. This will make the house and the technique something people aspire to and prevent it from getting the reputation of “poor people’s housing”. The reality is that they are all poor but no one wants to be seen as that.

I don’t know if you follow the news and Australia appalling treatment of asylum seekers. We are currently intercepting refugee boats and taking the asylum seekers to an island in PNG. They are living in tent cities. I would like to see them housed in earthbag structures that they could build themselves. They may end up being there for five or six years before being processed. At the moment some company has the tent contract but I can’t help thinking that if those people were paid the same money to build their own homes it would change the whole experience and their level of safety and comfort.

But Vanuatu first. There is a huge opportunity to change things there right now with very little if any resistance.

My dear long suffering husband has offered to support me in this Vanuatu venture for the next 2 years as long as I organise the government permits and raise the money for each build through crowd funding. We already have a good relationship with the uni and a few engineering students that want to come over.

I’ll keep you up to date as it goes. I’m just waiting to hear back from the minister of internal affairs regarding my proposal to fund and supervise builds in the islands.

We expect to be up and running and funded as a building venture by January 1st 2014.

I have an idea for the “Vanuatu extended family home” it’s just taking your 300 dollar earthbag house with additions and reproducing it in mirror image with a covered community area between the two structures. I’ll send it to you and if you could let me know if it’s suitable that would be great.

I can’t thank you enough for sharing this method and being so supportive through our first build. I can see my future as an old woman still scrambling over building sites in strange islands. It doesn’t scare me in fact I find the thought quite delightful.”


9 thoughts on “Vanuatu Earthbag Update Aug 12, 2013”

  1. Hi Owen,
    My appreciation for your engagement and these fantastic ideas.
    I have installed large food steamers in Vanuatu at my own cost, which would really make sense on the roof of these buildings. The advantage is that this system is producing steam at low pressure which is safe to use.

    The application is convenient because the solar collector can be placed safely on the roof and the steam can be run in a hose or pipe inside the building where it can be used to steam food.

    As essentially all food in Vanuatu is cooked or steamed there are no cultural hurdles to be overcome to use this technology. And it saves a lot of firewood!

    Drop me an email, if you are interested.

  2. Liz,

    We’re a 501 c3 interested in “solution” technology on all levels in the usa (small letters as we’ve lost our way as a country). Send me an email and brief me on your goals, intention and experience if you like. what you described is the way to go to bring this technology on line. You have to have interested people, funding, and a need to fill. Solutions are kept off line as they don’t keep one on the grid and producing profit for the power elite…


    • Thanks for writing Jim. I just sent Liz your message and email address.

      From the MERC website: (Marine Environmental Research Corporation)
      “We feel that Economic Self-Empowerment of the Nonprofit Sector is Key to Planetary Improvement as a means of providing solutions to problems of mutual concern.”

  3. Hats off to this determined and visionary woman and her supportive husband! They ARE delivering on making the world a better place. For long term community acceptance, using earthbag housing with employed people, thus keeping it from the reputation of being the “poor people’s housing” seems wise. If beautiful dreams do not accommodate the existing political reality, they usually fail. Build from he earth for a better life. Very empowering!

  4. We’re back. We moved to a new server (again). Blah. Publishing this blog post took 5-10 times longer than usual. No service has come close to WordPress servers.

    Another report from Liz coming soon with a photo of their burlapcrete roof.


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