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 (www.calearth.org) 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.”
All 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