Cal Earth

Emergency Sandbag Shelter


"Natural disasters are human created disasters blamed on nature."

Emergency shelters at a UN Refugee Camp
Emergency shelters at a UN Refugee Camp

After a fire, hurricane, flood, or earthquake we immediately declare that this was a natural disaster, an act of God. Then we ask if we have insurance, or how soon will the goverment or U.N. come to help? And these are repeated and echoed in the media around the globe over and over again. But these are not the right questions. The right question is why did our house burn, fall apart, or get swept away? And when we have the chance to re-build it, why should we build it the same way and in the same place? Ultimately "natural disasters" are human created disasters blamed on nature.

The human impact in nature and its effects: pollution, deforestation, land mismanagement, the green house effect, and more, will undoubtedly accelerate the rate of disasters in the future. Added to that are the man-made disasters: millions of displaced humans, wars and human aggression and act of terrorism with its incalculable damage to human life and property. There is a sense of urgency to educate ourselves and our children to act more in harmony with nature, rather than insisting on dominating and interrupting the environmental process. As well as urgency to awaken to a new set of questions where we, and not nature or God, are to be blamed.

We must also prepare ourselves for the inevitable disasters. One of the best ways to shield against fire, flood, and storm may as well be with earth, water, air and fire. Nature does that itself. The equilibrium of the natural elements are the natural balancing acts among these universal elements.

To build simple emergency and safe structures in our backyards, to give us maximum safety with minimum environmental impact, we must choose natural materials and, like nature itself, build with minimum materials to create maximum space, like a beehive or a sea shell. The strongest structures in nature which work in tune with gravity, friction, minimum exposure and maximum compression, are arches, domes and vault forms. And they can be easily learned and utilize the most available material on earth: Earth." - Nader Khalili

United Nations Visit

In July of 2001, a visit from the United Nations headed by the Director of UNDP Emergency Response Division with his team from New York, participated in a Cal-Earth workshop for these Emergency Shelters; they slept in one to experience their quality. Their very positive response was recorded by Reuters World News Agency.

Cal-Earth Institute is happy to humbly dedicate the following two pages of
"Emergency Sandbag Shelter"
(Arabic | Dutch | French | German | Greek | Spanish)
to the overwhelming requests related to the latest series of disasters in the world.
It may be printed and is meant as a start to providing guidance for human shelter.
(Download the free Acrobat Reader to view it)

The simple sandbag-and-barbed-wire technology, named Superadobe, is described in the book Emergency Sandbag Shelter and Eco-Village: How to Build Your Own With Superadobe/Earth-Bag, and in the DVD/Video series available for purchase and download in our online store.

The technology is designed to:

  • Use the materials of war (sandbags and barbed wire) to create a safe shelter in most regions of the globe as well as in your backyard.
  • Utilize minimum amounts of purchased product and maximum amounts of the free earth under your feet.
  • Participate in a family or community activity by building a shelter, or a sustainable community.
  • Create a shelter with maximum protection against natural and man-made disasters.

The learning tools developed and used during the apprenticeship training program at Cal-Earth Institute are available to the public as educational materials and can be purchased in the online store along with Superadobe rolls of various lengths and widths based on project-need.

These can teach you, step by step, how to build your emergency structure. You must begin with a small practice dome, to understand hands-on all practical aspects of the tools and materials, after which you may have the skills to increase the size of your shelter.

By practicing to build an 8-10 ft. interior diameter dome we hope that you will learn how to shelter yourself in an emergency situation. The students shown building in the DVD/book were participants of Cal-Earth's apprentice courses and had never built in this way before. Niches, storage, plastering, and doors were added as, in the following months, Nader Khalili, his associates and apprentices built many variations of small shelters each 120 sq. ft. or less in floor area which can be visited at Cal-Earth Institute.

Superadobe Technology is designed by Nader Khalili, engineering by P. .J. Vittore, models of which have been constructed and tested for the City of Hesperia, California, Building and Safety Department, in consultation with I.C.B.O. (International Conference of Building Officials), in the forms of arches, vaults, and domes between 1993 and 1996. These successfully passed the California required codes for the models.

Superadobe is a patented system (patent #5,934,027) at the service of humanity. It is offered free to the owner builder. Licensing is required for commercial use.

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Cal-Earth Inc. / Geltaftan Foundation | Hesperia, California

Superadobe technology was designed and developed by architect Nader Khalili and Cal-Earth Institute, and engineered by P.J. Vittore. Superadobe is a patented system (U.S. patent #5,934,027) freely put at the service of humanity and the environment. Licensing is required for commercial use.

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