Posts Tagged ‘earthbag’


Let Yourself Trust – Volunteer Trip February 2016

Monday, February 29th, 2016

This past week our dear friends Marytn & Justine, of Let Yourself Trust returned to Project Somos one year later, from their visit in January 2015. This time, they came with 22 volunteers who have raised money for, and to build, our music/art/culture dome! This will be our second building in our Learning Campus at Project Somos! All week the volunteers worked incredibly hard on the music/art/culture dome, but also digging a 100 meter trench for a water line, helping in the preschool & afternoon programming with the kids, painting two buildings, sanding and cleaning bamboo, and countless other things!

Seeing the foundation for the music arts dome for the first time.

Seeing the foundation of the dome for the first time.

Martyn working hard with our foreman Antolin

Martyn working hard with our foreman, Antolin

Volunteers haul the dirt buckets to fill the earth bag

Volunteers haul the dirt buckets to fill the earth-bag

Laying the barbwire between levels of earth bag

Laying the barbwire between levels of earth-bag

Digging the 100 meter trench for a water line, 2 feet deep!

Digging the 100 meter trench for a water-line, 2 feet deep!

Cleaning, sanding, and washing of bamboo. Eight meters in length!

Cleaning, sanding, and washing of bamboo. Eight meters in length!

The hard-working crew of Guatemalan workers and volunteers!

The hard-working crew of Guatemalan workers and volunteers!

Martyn playing a concert for our mamas, kids, workers, and the volunteers.

Martyn playing a concert for our mamas, kids, workers, and the volunteers.

Antje Duvekot, singer from Boston, was part of the volunteer trip, a hard worker and a gifted musician!

Antje Duvekot, singer-songwriter from Boston, was part of the volunteer trip, a hard worker and a gifted musician!

Presenting gifts on the last morning of musical instruments, including flutes, keyboards, ukuleles, shakers, and more!

Presenting gifts on the last morning of musical instruments, including flutes, keyboards, ukuleles, shakers, and more!

Thank you so much to Let Yourself Trust and everyone that came down to Guatemala, your hard work and support means so much to the families and staff here at Somos.

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

What Kind of Strange Construction Was That?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The first earthbag family home in the Children’s Village

If you watched the first episode of The Project – Guatemala, perhaps you wondered, “what kind of strange construction technique are those guys doing?”  When Project Somos first began in 2007, we researched many innovative construction techniques, but earthbag or superadobe was the most eco-sustainable, inexpensive and earthquake resistant that we found.  When architect Nader Khalili ( traveled the Middle East looking to the buildings that stood the test of time, he found the oldest ones had two things in common; they were made of earth and they had curved walls.  He came up with the super adobe technique and quotes the poet Rumi, saying, “earth turns to gold in the hands of the wise.”

IMG_4534All of the buildings of Project Somos are designed with curved walls and constructed using earth-bags. Long tubular polypropylene bags are filled with a mixture of earth, sand, a bit of cement and then compacted. Two rows of barbed wire are laid between each bag to stop any lateral shifting. Chicken wire is secured to the bags and the walls are then plastered with a mud and lime mixture made from the soil of the land.  The earth-bag method has been approved and actually exceeds the stringent California building code.

The internal walls of each home are framed with, locally sourced bamboo and filled using eco-bricks, (empty plastic pop bottles filled with soft clean plastic garbage) and are then plastered. There are over 8000 local school children participate with Project Somos in the filling of the eco-bricks. Each house uses 7000 and Project Somos has already used 19,000 eco-bricks, removing over 8 tons of plastic garbage from the streets, rivers and canyons in the Tecpan area.

-Greg Kemp, Project Manager




Building Faith in Innovative Construction

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

When Project Somos initiated its first earthbag construction in Guatemala, our workers were not convinced it was a reliable construction technique.  As much as our research and studies showed, it was more than viable, it was superb, but no amount of words would ever ever convince our young crew that it would be better than the shaky block construction widely used here.

Maco and Antolin witnessing the first Roman Arch!

Maco and Antolin witnessing the first Roman Arch!

As the first building’s foundation was laid and the earthbag walls rose from the ground, the crew became warmer to the solidity of what they were building. The walls surrounded the window forms and we arrived at the Roman Arches.  The workers filled the individual bags for the arches and the walls then covered them.  The moment came to remove the wooden forms from the arches.  None of the workers wanted to watch, as they did not believe these arches could bear the weight of the walls above them.  But…. they did and the mood turned festive, as if a miracle had taken place.

Currently we are working on earthbag domes.  Again, when our fearless workers saw the design and the walls began to rise, they were not convinced it was a design with structural integrity.  Initially, the first 3 meters of wall is fairly vertical, but after that the curved inclination is more pronounces and after four meters it really becomes the dome.  From the outside, it looks reasonable, from the inside, it looks somewhat intimidating with all the earth-filled bags hanging over one’s head.

The first dome

The first dome

One of the domes is now complete with the upper window installed and the exterior stucco applied.  Our workers are now staunch supporters of earthbag dome construction, having filled the last bags at the top.  They experienced the stability even at the most horizontal part at the last level.

Earthbag Dome in the Project Somos Children's Village

Earthbag Dome in the Project Somos Children’s Village

Our Somos crew have become experts at this type of construction and have witnessed the “miracle” of applied physics.  Whatever perspective one might have, it is definitely an impressive building technique that has a spectrum of benefits.  We all are learning as we go and everyone is continually amazed at the progress and the innovation.  Simplicity is awesome!


Our First Earthbag Dome!

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

As per our timeline, the next phase of our development is constructing the first staff house on site. We have built two family homes using earthbag construction. Those houses have steel roofing. This next building will be built using earthbag construction as well, but will be two domes joined by a hallway.

Thanks to SpencerCreo Foundation for the generous donation, allowing us to make this a reality! All of us are SO excited about earthbag!


The foundation is laid in the first dome

Each level of the earthbags is tamped

Follow along here to watch as “earth turns to gold” (Rumi)

To learn more about earthbag construction, visit Cal-Earth’s website.

The earthbags begin to rise up!

Annual Time Lapse of Sorts

Monday, November 5th, 2012

When we were back in Canada giving presentations, we shared the following three images, taken each Autumn in 2010, 2011 and 2012. I thought you might enjoy seeing them too!

-Heather Alicia

A blank slate-the perfect spot for a Children's Village!

Look at those lovely earth-bag structures!

2012 -It is starting to look like a Children's Village!


Where Are We At?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We are twenty days into 2012 and thanks to our wonderful workers and enthusiastic volunteers, we’ve been making great progress.

Time for beautiful features!

Plastering of the internal walls of the first house are nearly completed. We took the opportunity to use the wet plaster to add some colourful glass beads.

The final coat of the outside walls is ready to go and a coloured tint has been chosen. We are so excited to see colour being incorporated into the homes. From the white of the earth bags, to grey of the plaster to a reddish terra-cotta colour!

Preparing the house for plastering





The second house is ready to go with plaster thanks to the El Camino Volunteers who helped hang the necessary chicken-wire.

The truth behind the plaster!

This week, the children headed back to school after a three month break. For us, this means we can return to collecting more of the much needed eco-bricks from the various local schools.. These are the empty plastic bottles stuffed full of plastic bags that we use for the internal walls of the house. Check out our “truth” window which we are keeping to showcase how these walls are erected.

The Gathering Place

We are getting close to completing Gathering Place and look forward to having our first official fire here soon!

Darryl is back! We hired Darryl last Spring to excavate for the first two homes. He’s back clearing the spot for a garden and making the new road which will surround the perimeter wall of the Children’s Village.

Stay tuned for lots more progress!

-Heather Alicia

Nice niche!

Construction that Lasts

Friday, September 30th, 2011

If we survey the archeological remains of cities from past millennium, we see their solid footprints clearly. The use of natural materials, particularly stone and earth were the historic norm and these materials did not degrade and had a structural longevity that endured centuries and even millennium. This is contrary to our modern day construction techniques and materials that would disintegrate within 100 years.

My past professional life in Vancouver, renovating 100 year-old houses, taught me to think about building techniques and materials that would withstand the test of time. * In the temperate rain forest we experienced the “leaky condo crisis”, caused by ridiculous cost saving designs that in turn cost the home-owners millions of dollars in repairs. Even after the retrofit repairs, these condos will not last another 50 years.

I now live in Guatemala where there are many footprints of the past Mayan civilizations with marvelous buildings designed to last. Some of the architecture dates back to 2000 BC. It is dramatic and beautiful in design and resilient in structure. Nature’s vegetation had reclaimed the majority of the abandoned ancient sites, but archeologists, mystified by such a complex and advanced civilization, have reclaimed some.

Although no human-made structure could withstand a cataclysmic earthquake, it is quite possible to design and construct structures that have a resistance to earthquakes and still have an ascetic beauty and functionality. I believe we overestimate our triangular steel reinforcements, often retrofitted on older buildings and have a false sense of security in “modern” buildings. An 8 point something earthquake that has a duration of more than a minute will bring most recent constructions down.

Considering all of the above it is only logical that we use construction techniques and materials that will stand the test of time. Putting natural geological catastrophes aside, it would assist those who design and engineer our buildings and homes to consider their longevity when deciding how to construct them. Are the materials going to endure at least 100 years? Will the design withstand the normal elemental factors in a given location?

We are building Project Somos Children’s Village with several factors in mind:

The design will be ascetically beautiful to harmonize with its incredible natural setting.

The construction technique and materials are intentionally chosen to last at least 100 years. (earthbag/superadobe construction – see FB for lots of photos)

It will functionally serve the families who live there.

It is a simple and economical method that can be replicated locally.

Stayed tuned for the progress on the first two houses. We anticipate completion of both of them at the close of 2011.

All the Best,


*Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use


Earth Bag Construction and Bamboo Trusses

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Looking through to the Patio-photo by Daniel Morton

We’re making great progress here. Once our workers got the hang of building with earth bag construction, the second house came together better and faster than the first. We’re finding the same with the bamboo roof trusses. They’re quickly being put into place and we’re getting excited to move onto the next phase of construction: putting the corrugated sheet metal roofing into place!

For the last few days we’ve been fortunate to have the very talented photographer, Daniel Morton here taking photographs for us. I knew Daniel when he was just a boy and I was homeschooling my daughter, Meg. Daniel and his brother Brian were also homelearners and the kids would often go on homelearning field trips and participate in other activities together. How nice it would be to have such talent with us every day?!!

-Heather Alicia

Peeking into the second house

The first two houses this week

Bamboo Shadows Photo by Daniel Morton

Construction Begins!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Layout of the First Family Home

It was a pretty moving experience arriving at the land the other day to see the design of the first family home “drawn” out with a powdered calcium on the recently excavated soil. Suddenly all the work prior to that day was looking like a reality!

The Foundation Trenches all in Place

After we got back from our fabulous four day family vacation, we were excited to get back to the land to see the progress that had happened during our absence. With the guidance of Cecilia and our fabulous foreman, Antolin, all the foundation trenches had been dug!

The First Earth-Bag is Filled and Laid!

Yesterday the first earth-bag was filled and laid along the exterior wall. Israel Lopez, Professor or Architecture at the University of San Carlos and our newest Advisory Member was there to instruct the workers in the finer techniques of constructing with earth-bag. We are so appreciative of his enthusiastic support of our Project!

We can expect lots of visible progress over the coming days and weeks. Once the technique is mastered, earth-bag construction is fast.

Israel teaching the workers how to fill the bags