A couple of weeks ago I posted about Sandbag Shelters. With the recent devestation in so many parts of Asia, this type of housing has been brought to my mind again.
Sandbag homes are a variation of basic mudbrick homes that have been built in many parts of the world for thousands of years. Air-dried bricks are used to build domed structures which are very strong. Sandbag homes use the same principle, but instead of air-dried mudbricks, sandbags are used. The bags are filled with a mixture of dirt from the building site and a bit of concrete. The bags are then used to form the domes with barbed wire between the layers to increase the stability. The result is a structure that is adequate for the earthquake codes in southern California.
Nader Khalili developed these sandbag shelters about 10 years ago and has been trying to get
the idea put into use since, but hasn't had much luck. For example, he tried to get the UN to rebuild Bam, Iran with these sandbag stuctures. There were numberous advantages to using this system. It would have been significantly less expensive. The residents of Bam could have been taught how to build the homes, then used resources around them to actually do it. The homes are earthquake proof, at least for earthquakes that Iran has. They take little time to build. It also would have been more in line with the traditional character of Bam.
Instead, the UN went with the traditional rebuilding system of using pre-fab concrete boxes. I can only imagine how awful Bam looks now. It was an interesting and historical city before. The people have had no end of trouble getting their homes rebuilt. If only they could have built their own safe homes quickly. The UN still would have needed to supply lots of things, like toilets, food, water, and other basic supplies, but the major problem of housing could have been alleviated in much less time. This article has more details on Khalili's efforts in Bam.
My husband and I are hoping to be able to learn how to construct emergency sandbag shelters. If we had some skills like this, we could be useful in natural disasters, especially if they were in an Arabic-speaking country. We hope that he could train some of his students, many of whom have international experience and most who have extensive building experience, to build these shelters too. Then maybe, just maybe, there would be more we could do in a natural disaster.