We’ve seen some great examples of emergency and disaster-resistant architecture before, from Architecture For Humanity’s Biloxi Model Homes to monolithic domes, and considering the likelihood that we will be continually faced with more and more natural disasters in our lives, we think it is hugely important to redirect some architectural attention towards disaster-resistant housing design. The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (i.e. CalEarth) is an interesting company in this regard. Their monolithic domes are great for disaster resistance, and are now proving to be applicable in even more far-reaching contexts (we’re talking outer space here). Not only are their dome-like clay houses earthquake resistant and eco-friendly – but, thanks to some attention from NASA, there’s a possibility that they may have us calling the moon “home” sometime in the future.
Founded in 1986 by internationally known architect Nader Khalili, CalEarth’s research and educational programs focus on social innovation in architecture, creating lunar-based construction for NASA, as well as designing and developing housing solutions for homeless throughout the world with support from the United Nations. The ceramic CalEarth shelters shown above are made from four natural elements (earth, water, air, and fire) using just three simple steps explained by Khaili: “We dig up the ground. The earth is placed into sacks. We pile them up and fix them in place.” In other words, once the blocks of sacked earth are in place, the interior of each space is kiln-fired creating a thick and durable crust of terra-cotta.
Khalili bases the success of his domes on significant structures found throughout architectural history, including the basic form of the arch and materials used in ancient cultures built from the ground-up (literally). The simplest designs of CalEarth’s kiln-fired homes come in “dirt cheap” around $3200 for the design. If you are fancying something a little more elaborate, all you need is land in a dry arid climate, a week of time, and roughly $90,000. The earthquake-resistant walls provide passive heating much like a trombe wall, and natural air-conditioning through a series of strategically placed windows and doors.
Why are these “super-adobe” homes so feasible for a moon structure? Consider the amount of materials it takes to build one home, then ask yourself how we can get the same materials to the moon. The feasibility of one of CalEarth’s structures seems that much more practical, and has been acknowledged by NASA scientists. Which only leaves us with one question, “When can we move in?”