From: Tim Large, Reuters
Published January 6, 2005 12:00 AM

War Zones Yield Cheap Shelter for Tsunami Homeless

LONDON — Sandbags and barbed wire, staples of war zones, could become the stuff of cheap emergency housing for survivors of the Asian tsunami if relief agencies adopt a new building concept developed in quake-prone California.

Originally dreamt up with lunar colonies in mind, the method known as "Superadobe" involves filling empty sacks with dirt and piling them in coils with strands of barbed wire acting like Velcro to provide stability.

Nader Khalili, the Iranian-American architect behind the idea, said the structures could house thousands of people displaced by the giant waves 10 days ago -- particularly in war-torn areas such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia's Aceh province.

"The materials of war -- barbed wire and sand bags, which are available everywhere in the world -- can now be utilised to provide safe and quick shelter in a sustainable way," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Hesperia, California.

"Later, if they want that shelter to become permanent, then they can waterproof and plaster over it."


The beehive-like structures require few skills to build, can be expanded to include several rooms and have passed seismic testing required under California's strict earthquake-zone building codes, Khalili said.

The cost of a single home is about $40, making the building method an attractive option for relief agencies racing to house millions left destitute by the killer tsunamis.

The Californian Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth), a non-profit research institute set up by Khalili, is offering the technology free of charge to any aid organisations involved in the crisis.

The institute said it would provide free training in how to make the structures through hands-on workshops, videos and via the Internet. Any groups interested should contact Cal-Earth at or visit the Cal-Earth website (

Source: Associated Press

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