From the Hesperia Star
Nader Khalili shows off the inside of one of the dome houses he has built at the Cal-Earth facility in Hesperia. Khalili came to Hesperia a few years ago to teach others his techniques.
Inventor teaches the world to build sturdy houses
No less mystic than the earthen domes he constructs in Hesperia or the Persian poet Rumi who inspired him to shift from designing skyscrapers to building with adobe, Nader Khalili's ideas are gaining international attention.
Imagine building a beautiful home with high, arched ceilings out of little more than water, some barbed wire and the dirt in your own backyard for about $1,500, then finishing it off with tile, ornate windows and a few furnishings, all for a total of $7,000, excluding labor. Single room domes are even less and can be constructed in a matter of days.
"My work is to create the most beautiful structures out of the simplest materials," Khalili said.
Students, artists, architects, environmentalists and writers from all over the world have converged upon Hesperia to rediscover the simple power of earth, air, water, and fire (heat from the sun) - the only ingredients necessary for Khalili's fire-proof, flood and earthquake resistant domes.
Khalili's California Institute of Earth, Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) has even gained the attention of United Nations researchers.
One U.N. official said the ceramic domes are ideal for environmental refugees, disaster-ridden areas and people who live in slum housing because Khalili's superadobe eliminates many of the obstacles aid agencies face when providing assistance.
"The cost is really low," said Nassrine Azimi, chief of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research in New York. "I presume if the technology were perfected it could compete with the cost of a tent, and that is tremendous. We think it has the potential to absolutely change the way many aid agencies work."
Several years ago, five Iraqui refugees built 14 of the domes in six days
Another benefit of Khalili's superadobe is that it can be expanded as conditions grow more stable, Azimi said.
Now, Khalili is currently constructing what he calls, "Earth 1," a typical American home, with three bedrooms, a two-car garage, and a few other advantages.
"It's the standard American dream house," Khalili said. "It's also fireproof, hurricane resistant and earthquake resistant."
Although Hesperia building official Tom Harp was skeptical when Khalili first arrived in town and applied for a permit to construct his domes in 1991, he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the structures' sturdiness.
The buildings, which are constructed out of nearly 1-foot wide walls made out of long sandbags filled with dirt, water, and perhaps a little cement for more permanent structures, withstood the city's wind and earthquake standards.
"Quite frankly, I didn't think he would meet building codes when he first started off on the whole venture," Harp said. "The buildings all stood up to the tests engineered. I would not have guessed that would have happened."
City officials reported receiving inquiries on the Cal-Earth Institute from other countries, including Japan and South Africa.
"There's been a lot of interest with the International Conference of Building Officials," Harp said.
"It is considering developing a section in the building code to address alternative types of construction. There's a big movement for green construction, types of construction that are less damaging to the environment, and you can't get much greener than earthen construction."
Because Khalili's concept requires no trees to be cut down and can be built from materials available everywhere, he hopes his ceramic domes will become the housing for the new millenium, both here on earth and perhaps eventually in lunar and Martian colonies.
"What we are teaching (people) is they can go to any place in this world, dig and build themselves and others in the community a home using earth, sun, wind and the natural elements," Khalili said. "While here, they discover their own creative potential."
His students come from different walks of life, courses of study and even different countries, but many share similar experiences at Cal-Earth.
Frank Mallat of Indio hopes to build his dream house out of superadobe.
"I've been an environmentalist for thirty years, and my wife and I bought 70 acres in Desert Hot Springs. We'll build our own house and well our own water," he said.
Amid the otherworldly appearance of the domes, students create from their own sweat and hands, many find more than what they were looking for when they first arrived.
"It's opened me up to a lot more out there," Elizabeth Muniz, a 3-D art student from Visalia, said. "It's put me more in touch with nature."
Emiko Peterson, an architectural student of Anaheim, said the opportunity to study at Cal-Earth has opened her horizons to things she didn't learn in school.
"I guess they teach more about form-making, like massive sculptures," Peterson said of traditional architectural school. "What I'm learning here has a more spiritual quality and more meaningful form."
Some students come to learn Khalili's technique, but never leave, like painter-turned-superadobe teacher Michael Huskey of Apple Valley and Khalili's associate, Iliona Outram, an architect from London.
Huskey found a more meaningful art medium in the domes, he said. Outram who is also the daughter of a British architect, always wanted to learn earth architecture.
"I met him and one month later I moved to Hesperia. That was nine years ago," Outram said.
"The joy of the work and the inspiration Nader gives are worthwhile for humanity. Instead of just being an architect, I wanted to do something for the environment."
The public may vist Cal-Earth during its open house offered on the first Saturday of every month.
For more information on Cal-Earth or Nader Khalili, visit www.calearth.org, or call 760-956-7533.
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