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September 2010 Volume IV

Summertime On-Site Renovations

A Note From Dastan Khalili & Sheefteh Khalili



Structure Interior

For the past few months Cal-Earth instructors and apprentices have been working tirelessly to renovate the pre-existing structures on the Cal-Earth site. The two on the northern side of the site have been turned into dormitories for our long-term students, and we are happy to announce that we now have space to house 7 students in our two buildings. These buildings, affectionately called the Happy Living Center and the Harmony House (HLC and HH) were renovated entirely by students and include the creative integration of earth architecture into stick-frame housing. Both houses have poured earthen countertops in the kitchen, earth plastered walls separating the bedrooms, and earthen walls in the showers. The HLC also includes beautiful earth tiles all throughout the living room and kitchen. By upgrading these existing structures, we were able to create new spaces for apprentices to live in a short amount of time. It is our hope to someday have an entire Superadobe vaulted housing facility for apprentices on-site, but for now we can house 7 new long-term apprentices starting next month, and every room is already reserved! For those interested in studying long-term, the next session will begin in February.

Structure Photos

Additionally, the house on the south side of Cal-Earth has had a facelift and now includes a permanent bookstore and Welcome Center, full of amazing posters and photographs as well as seating areas to enjoy the literature and a cup of coffee during Open House and Tours. We plan to renovate the rest of the house by upgrading the kitchen and bathroom used by workshop participants, and re-do the back porch to protect it from the extreme temperatures in the high desert. Although we are committed to building earth architecture, we also don't believe in destroying perfectly good structures. We are using the pre-existing structures to help the institute expand and grow and it also provides a wonderful opportunity for our long-term apprentices to learn basic construction skill, which are helpful in any setting. Thank you to the following people who were indispensable to the completion of these projects: Joseph Burton, Courtney Jones, J Roberts, Patrick Kane, Nicholas Jouin, Andre Pierre, Jonathan Shmulevitch, Ian Lodge, Mark Harmon, Bridget Butler and Melisa Prins, along with countless others who lent a hand when they dropped by for a visit. Cal-Earth is so grateful for people like these who volunteer their time to help the institute grow and progress. Nader Khalili would be immensely proud of the work you have done.

Sheefteh Khalili, Chief Financial Officer
Dastan Khalili, President

On-Site Research and Development

Waterproofing SuperadobeSuperadobe WaterproofingThe superadobe technique as we know it today did not start out this way. There has been a slow and steady evolution of this work over the last twenty years. Nader's apprentices will recall his words as follows: "If someone has a better idea about how to do something then we take that idea and use it". Such was the case when, upon hearing from a group of visiting Fire Fighters, Nader learned that one can simply tuck the end of a filled sandbag under itself without having to stitch it closed or tie it off in some way. As Nader told this story to his apprentices, it was laughable that previous to current practice, there had, in fact, been another rather more laborious process by which the closing of a bag was achieved with stitching. Over the years, there were many such moments wherein a seemingly obvious technique would suddenly show up and radically improve the efficacy and/or efficiency of this work. Once the basic, technical challenges of turning earth into structure were successfully understood, the effort at Cal Earth became one of establishing professional acceptance for this new architecture, through engagement with with engineers and building officers. This resulted in the issuance of permits and represented an extremely important step. In the latter part of Cal Earth's evolution, Nader focused intensely on finishing a 2000 square foot home we call Earth One — and finally getting a certificate of occupancy from the building department.

As most readers know, Nader passed away a little over two years ago and the institute's operations have been taken over by Dastan and Sheefteh Khalili. Since that time it has been critical to first stabilize the place and to create a proper and robust infrastructure to enable continuation and expansion into the future. This need to stabilize, standardize and organize operations has somewhat eclipsed our ability to continue down the path of researching and developing new solutions. Finally then, this autumn, we will see a return to the long-established tradition of research and development. Long-term apprentices who are signed up for this next quarter will be part of a research undertaking directed at finding new, old, and innovative ways to waterproof an earthen structure. The details of the research go beyond the scope of this article though we will be eager to share our findings (if not incorporate them into the teaching program) in a future edition of Elements. From this time onwards Cal Earth Institute will once again have an ongoing research and development program which will include waterproofing, insulation and new stabilization experiments, brand new designs, and integrated alternative and sustainable energy systems. In the tradition of founding architect Nader Khalili, if there are any persons with ideas about waterproofing approaches which could be appropriate for this work then we would like to hear from you at the following email address:

Help Cal-Earth Build a Library


Cal‐Earth has a very small library of reference books for our long‐term apprentices and we’re hoping to expand these resources. If you have books that you would be willing to donate to Cal‐Earth for our apprenticeship program, please mail them to us or drop them off during Open House Days. We are looking to build our library of books on the following subjects: architecture and design, sustainable living practices, renewable energy, water storage practices, greywater systems, solar, wind, and water energy, instructional books on electricity and plumbing, and permaculture. Also, if you have stumbled across any books/magazines/newspaper articles that feature Cal‐Earth, please send those as well! Thank you for your help; please be sure to indicate if you would like a receipt for your tax‐deductible donation.
Books can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 1977, Claremont, CA 91711

2010 Workshop Season

Learn to Build

If you have a vision for building your home, a community, or even helping others to build theirs, stop and consider the hands-on Workshops or Apprenticeship Course at Cal-Earth Institute in California. Give us a few days of your time and we will teach you hands-on how to build your home, your school, your career, or your entire community, without cutting down a single tree; by using the earth under your feet and utilizing the elements of earth, wind, water and fire.

Upcoming Dates Fall 2010

September 20-25 One-Week Workshop
October 18-23 One Week Workshop
November 15-20 One-Week Workshop


Topics Covered:

  • The principle of the arch
  • Superadobe basics
  • Soils practicum and discussion
  • Superadobe & plaster workshop with stabilized earth
  • Learning to read blueprints
  • Elements of design, placing windows and doors
  • Contrasting domes with vaults
  • Vaulted roofing system, dome geometry
  • Site planning, orientation, simple solar passive strategies
  • Compass theory and application

Cal-Earth Workshops

Application and more information available at:

Interested in Studying Long Term?

Cal-Earth Workshops

Cal-Earth Workshops

As you may know, Cal Earth is in a dynamic state of growth and expansion. We have always attributed our successes to our students and apprentices — under the good leadership and inspiration of founding architect Nader Khalili. In terms of what programs of study we offer today, there are two tracks. Track one is a very rapid four-day or six-day intensive workshop which is suitable for those who cannot take too much time away from other things but who would like to know how to build their own home or structure.

This program is geared more to those who might like to make a career out of this or who might like to teach and train others in sustainable or "green building". Those interested in designing or building an eco-village would be advised to sign up for the long-term apprenticeship. Additionally, the program will prepare you to lead a larger and more complex project — perhaps for a client or community.

The long-term apprenticeship ranges from 3 months, to one year — or more, upon agreement with Cal Earth. Clearly, the longer an apprentice is at Cal Earth, the more deeply the subjects will be understood. Furthermore, many other opportunities to learn other building skills like plumbing and electrical can be picked up during the long-term apprenticeship. We have a list of necessary criteria for successful completion of a long-term apprenticeship and the fulfillment of these criteria is followed by an off-site building project which must be professionally executed.

After the program is successfully completed there may be many opportunities for teaching, training, traveling overseas — and all manner of future endeavors. If anyone is interested in the long-term or one-week apprenticeship programs please contact Cal Earth at and we will be happy to give you more information.

Update From Haiti

Green Pathways Out of Disaster and Poverty

Haiti domeGreen Pathways out of Poverty, based out of Rochester, NY, has been working with Cal-Earth for many years to empower local youth to learn to build using Superadobe technology. The organization (guided by Cal-Earth Alumni Sister Marsha Allen and Brother Ron Jurgensen) are along with a group of 7 faith- and community-based partner organizations, have created a 10 year plan committed to rebuilding in Haiti. The group has recently returned from Cabaret, Haiti having completed a 12 foot dome built entirely by Haitian people, and nearly completed the Haiti One prototype designed by Cal-Earth (featured in the June 2010 Newsletter). They plan to train local people and build multiple structures in Cabaret in the coming months, and hope to have an entire community built using earth architecture.

Featured Alumni Project:
Mystee Unwin — Melbourne, Australia

Mystee Unwin

Mystee Unwin

Mystee UnwinMystee attended a workshop at Cal-Earth in March 2010 and spent a few additional weeks working with other alumni on projects in California before returning to Australia. Shortly after she returned, she began building a dome at Mentone Park Primary School in Melbourne. She involved the school children as well as friends, family, and members of the local community, and finished the dome very quickly. The dome is completed through the rough plaster, and the finish plaster will be done in the coming weeks. She is now preparing for a second project to build garden beds at Gen Eira College, and is also assisting Cal-Earth to organize a workshop to be held in Melbourne sometime later this year. More information about Cal-Earth's very first official international workshop will be posted as soon as it is available — it is anticipated that the workshop will take place in Melbourne sometime between November 2010–January 2011. For those who are interested in attending the workshop in Melbourne, please send an email to:

International Sandbag Orders


If you have built a superadobe structure anywhere outside of the United States, and you also bought your bags outside of the U.S., we'd love to get some quick information from you. Can you tell us:

  1. Where you bought your bags?
  2. What was the name of the company (and its location, if known)?
  3. Was there a minimum purchase required (for example, you had to buy no less than 1,000m/yd/ft)?
  4. Did the company have exactly what you needed?

Any other information you have to offer will be very much appreciated. With this information we’d like to be able to provide a list of reliable bag sources in various countries, to be posted on the Cal‐Earth website. Help from any/all of you will make this happen much more quickly and easily. Thanks, everyone!
Please email any information to:
Email Address

How does a spiritual journey become a tangible reality?

Featured Product
Making of a Dream DVD

The works and words of architect Nader Khalili — HOW-TO Apprentice Volume I

Eco-Dome DVD

In "Making of a Dream" award-winning architect and humanitarian Nader Khalili powerfully answers his own question, "Is it really sane to follow one's own ideals and dreams and race alone in today's world?"

"My quests became more meaningful when my goals met with others' needs and goals," says Khalili as his words weave together visionary designs, the universal elements of earth, water, air and fire, timeless earth architecture, and the Persian mystic poet Rumi's stories that have guided him through his journey of quest to create a sustainable solution to human shelter.

To purchase this DVD, please visit our online store:

Children's Field Trips

Children's Field TripsEvery year we host groups of students from all ages for educational Yield trips at Cal-Earth. We offer a basic tour at a cost of $10 per student as well as a 3.5 hour hands-on workshop for $25 per student. If you would like to bring a group to Cal-Earth, please send an email to indicating the name of the school, age of the participants, and dates you are interested in. It is a wonderful experience and we encourage you to join us. We are firm believers that change must begin with the youth, and an eye-opening trip to Cal-Earth is a great way to learn about sustainability!

Open House at Cal-Earth


Rumi Corner

A free event, held the first Saturday of every month (except August and on rainy days), Open House at Cal‐Earth has been a tradition for over a decade. Every year more people come to experience it for themselves and to teach their children how to build a sustainable future. Cal‐Earth associates and apprentices give tours and answer questions throughout the day. Most buildings are wheelchair
accessible. Please no pets.

Open House

Open House Schedule:

10:00 AM — Doors open
11:00 AM — Lecture given by Dastan Khalili & Sheefteh Khalili along with guest speakers
1:00 PM — Potluck lunch. We encourage you to participate by either contributing a dish (for four to five people), or a minimum donation of $7.
3:00 PM — Site Closes

Rumi Dome

whatever may happen
don't be afraid
come what may
since it won't stay
don't be afraid
savor the moment
and leave what is gone
and fear not
for what may come

Rumi Dancing The Flame

this ceramic form
my body
is merely the chalice
of my heart
this wisdom in my thoughts
is the brewing wine
of my heart
all these seeds of knowledge
are nothing but bait
for my heart
and even when i'm
telling you now
is spoken by me
yet it's only a message
from my heart

Poem# 240
Rumi Dancing The Flame
translations by Nader Khalili

Rumi Dome
Elements Newsletter   September 2010, Volume IV

Cal-Earth SymbolAbout Cal-Earth Institute
Cal-Earth (The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture) is a 501 (C)3 non-profit/charitable foundation at the cutting edge of Earth and Ceramic Architecture technologies today. Founded in 1986 by its director, Nader Khalili (1936-2008), its scope spans technical innovations published by NASA for lunar and Martian construction, to housing design and development for the world's homeless for the United Nations.

Continuing in his tradition, Khalili's associates and apprentices are dedicated to research and education of the public in environmentally oriented arts and architecture. Its philosophy is based on the equilibrium of the natural elements of earth, water, air, fire, and their Unity at the service of the arts and humanity.

To donate to Cal-Earth, please visit our website:


Cal-Earth T-shirt

About Elements Newsletter
"Elements" is a publication of Cal-Earth Inc., edited by Sheefteh Khalili. Ian Lodge, Mark Harmon and Melisa Prins, for their help with this issue. Photo credits: Black Ant Photography, Mystee Unwin, Marsha Allen. The first issue of the original "Elements" was published in 1985 by Cal-Earth (formerly Geltaftan Foundation).

Subscribe on our website to receive Elements Newsletter bimonthly by email:

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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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