Monday, July 9, 2007

Fire in the Hole

What if I told you that for $800 I could build you a 400 sq. ft. home that is completely fireproof, requires no air-conditioning to stay cool in the summer, is stronger and more earthquake resistant than your current home, requires no wood, and it could be all done in a week by a team of 5-8 people?

Before reporting me to your friendly neighborhood Psychiatrist, check out the Cal-Earth Institute and American Sudanese Partnerships. World renowned architect Nader Khalili has developed a dome-construction method that uses a building material which is basically 90% earth and 10% cement. Using the design as time-tested as the Roman aqueducts, the Cal-Earth Institute has developed structures that engineers nearly broke their equipment on while trying to test the structural integrity. It is amazing! If you are anywhere near Hesperia, California, go check out their model village.
We have been given the great privilege of participating in a partnership to build entire sustainable villages in Darfur, Sudan using the Cal-Earth method. Who are we? We are the La Sierra University chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE): a powerful student movement armed with the energy, passion and enthusiasm to change the world.

Our team was asked by American-Sudanese Partnerships to work primarily on the economic development plan for the villages. After learning about the construction method, and visiting the incredible Cal-Earth model village, we realized how important it is for people to see and feel the concept. We needed something tangible. So we are now building our own model village on our campus at La Sierra University. We call our village "Fire in the Hole" because it represents something incredible that is about to happen that could spark a change in the entire world. If we can work together to build sustainable villages in Darfur, imagine how we can use that to launch efforts around the world! We are looking at areas which have nothing remaining but earth. Most people might look at that and think there is nothing. Well earth is 90% of what we need to build whole villages.
We build on strengths, that's how our team operates. Check out some of our other projects at or some of our videos on YouTube LSUSIFE. This blog, however, will be about Fire in the Hole and what we have come to call the Build-a-Village project.

We started building our on-campus village at La Sierra University in Riverside, California in March 2007. Our original goal had been just to get a plot of land approved by the university for us to build a single dome, but instead they gave us a piece of land larger than that of all our dorms on campus combined. By May, we aimed to have enough of the village completed so we could use it as a demonstration site for educational and fundraising purposes. We have exceeded that goal. What we didn't originally anticipate was that this village would become a symbol of our team in the community and a representation of what students can do in the world around them.

Our plan for the rest of this summer is to complete the top of our main dome, build three rapid-construction emergency shelters (also developed by the Cal-Earth Institute), and develop an outdoor amphitheater in the area you can see in the picture above (shot from the top layer of our first dome). We are also working with other universities to further develop our agricultural experiment site next to our model village.

Once we started construction, it was a little slow since we were doing it in our spare time between classes, but now that its summer, we are working hard to finish all of our plans. Once we finish the main dome, the three shelters, and amphitheatre, we may construct a full home called an eco-dome, complete with all the conveniences of a modern home. It takes dedication and hard work for a project like this, but with the support we have from those in our local community and around the world, the model village on our campus, and the villages in Darfur will stand as proof of the potential we all have to make a difference in the world around us. Feel free to respond to us with any questions, comments, or ideas. We'll probably have multiple people blogging on here eventually, but for now, this is John wishing you a happy Monday...

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