Chiñas outside his tent, which stands next to his new house, built with coconut fiber. Chiñas outside his tent, which stands next to his new house, built with coconut fiber.

Another innovation for quake victims’ homes

Mexico City firm's design uses coconut fiber mixed with clay, lime and cement

The landscape of Asunción Ixtaltepec, Oaxaca, will never be the same after September’s earthquakes levelled many homes, but what’s being built to replace them — and the materials being used — will bring about even more change.


Materials from traditional adobe to PVC and other recycled products are being employed in efforts to quickly replace damaged homes. The latest on the list is coconut fiber.

Retired Zapotec farmer Benito Chiñas Ordaz, 84, had operated a small store in the house he built but the 8.2-magnitude earthquake on September 7 changed everything.

“I lost it all, my two-story home, my store, all that I built . . . . What can I do at this age? I’m an old man of 84, sick and with no energy, nothing. God took everything away and left me under the sun,” he told the newspaper El Universal.

Chiñas lived under a tarp for four days after the quake until he received a donation of a tent, where he has been living for the last two months.

But his luck took a positive turn about a month ago when the Mexico-City based kitchen supply company Delher offered to build him a home out of a material called biocrete, as in bio-concrete.

Chiñas accepted the offer without a second thought and two weeks ago a team of eight people began building him a new home.


The material in question is composed of coconut fiber which is pulverized and then mixed with clay, lime and cement.

The resulting mix is poured into wooden forms, creating 32-centimeter-thick walls.

The original design calls for bamboo roofing but Chiñas’ home will have a sheetmetal roof treated to prevent rust, and a layer of insulation.

A Delher representative told El Universal that the firm’s design is ecological and low-cost, as most of the construction materials are locally sourced.

Alfonso Salazar Aguirre said that in the case of Chiñas’ home, the fiber was obtained from shells discarded by coconut water vendors in Juchitán and Ixtepec, and the house cost less than 100,000 pesos (US $5,300) to build.

A grateful Chiñas remarked, “If it weren’t for these people that are giving me a home, I would have lived on the streets until the end of my days.”

His is the only house built with the biocrete method so far. Delher has yet to determine how many it will donate.

It has also collaborated with three other organizations to build a house using a material it calls “super adobe.” Both techniques, Salazar said in an interview in October, can resist 9-magnitude earthquakes or more, high winds and high humidity.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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  • j_b_spence

    Wonderful! Mexicans are resourceful and creative. Viven!

  • Pogo

    God bless you, old man. God bless those donators and builders.