Palawan Daily News - - Feature - By Charm Bal­isong

The out­side re­sem­bles those of houses you’ve seen in the movie “The Hob­bit”. But in­side this hob­bit-like dome is a Gre­cian-themed in­te­rior with white walls and crafted arched win­dows. It charms you with a light, airy, and cool am­biance while the land­scape makes sure to con­vey moder­nity and old fash­ion at the same time—-this is the vi­sion of the earth home pro­to­type cur­rently be­ing built in Sta. Lour­des, Puerto Princesa sur­rounded by a lush veg­etable gar­den.

Aside from the unique ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign and im­pos­ing size, what makes this home dif­fer­ent from those of the hob­bits in New Zealand is that this dome is made of mud.

The cost of ma­te­ri­als for build­ing the terra cotta domes is lesser than us­ing steel and con­crete. How­ever, la­bor cost eats up the bud­get when it comes to this type of in­fra­struc­ture as the man­ual process could be so te­dious. Mud houses pos­sess ex­cel­lent in­su­lat­ing prop­er­ties and are con­ve­nient for trop­i­cal ar­eas es­pe­cially in the sum­mer.

This earth dome is one of the pro­to­types be­ing built for the Project SHHH (pro­nounced Sh­h­hhh) that stands for So­lar Self Sus­tain­ing Homes.

Founded by Dr. Shan­non Burns, an Amer­i­can chi­ro­prac­tor, this non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion aims to build a vil­lage with at least 40 homes pow­ered by so­lar en­ergy.

The dome home is be­ing built with bricks made out of mud mixed with sand and ce­ment. These bricks are stacked in a cir­cu­lar form and con­tin­ued to be packed into a mold. This type of build­ing pos­sesses a very strong and sturdy struc­ture com­pared to other houses, and is known to be re­silient to earth­quakes.

Nearly 4 years ago, an earth­quake hit Nepal where en­tire vil­lages were flat­tened as houses and other in­fra­struc­ture were de­stroyed. But in a ru­ral vil­lage in San­ga­chok, ori­en­ta­tion, max­i­miz­ing the area of the lo­ca­tion. Be­cause the method in­volves the use of lit­tle space and pro­duces in an in­door en­vi­ron­ment, it is pop­u­lar for rooftop or other ur­ban ar­eas.

Dr. Burns also men­tioned the pro­posal for wa­ter re­cy­cling. “Where I live, in Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia, if you go to the bath­room, you might as well be able to drink the wa­ter. In the vil­lage [we will build], we would re­cap­ture most of the rain­wa­ter [for pro­cess­ing],” he says. “We can re­use the wa­ter for wash­ing dishes, show­er­ing, and in the bath­room.”

Project SHHH is es­ti­mated to one build­ing re­mained stand­ing--a teach­ing cen­ter made out of rice bags filled with soil, which are laid out like bricks, cov­ered with wire and plas­tered over. This was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the blue­print of the earth dome for the project.

An­other thing that makes the project unique is Ver­ti­cal Farm­ing. It is a farm­ing method where the plants are grown in a ver­ti­cal be a 5 to 7-year project and is in need of sup­port from vol­un­teers. It also needs pieces of land on which to build the project. Cur­rently, they have sub­mit­ted a pro­posal and are in the hopes land will be granted by the of­fice of the Gover­nor Jose Al­varez.

A lawyer, Atty. TJ Marta, has also extended his help and as­sured the team that they will work hand in hand to build the sus­tain­able vil­lage- first, by work­ing on to de­liver at least a hectare of land.

Dr. Burns, with his board mem­bers Er­cilda Apura (a Filipino nurse), John Mooney, Richard Baskerville, and Engr. An­drew Gard­ner, worked hand-in-hand to con­tinue the vi­sion for this project.

“What we are try­ing to do is we’re go­ing to build an en­vi­ron­ment that is dif­fer­ent than ev­ery­thing else is there,” he ex­plained. “I want to [build] a vil­lage where we can lift the peo­ple up… Maybe just a lit­tle bit.”

You may fol­low their progress on Face­book: Homes for Hope Philip­pines. For a tax de­ductible do­na­tion, you may visit their web­site at­forhopeph.wee­

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