Earthquake victim's new home in Oaxaca. Earthquake victim's new home in Oaxaca.

It may look funny but woman now has home

House in Oaxaca likened to igloos and beehives but earthquake victim is happy

“It looks funny, but it’s mine,” was how Teresa Guzmán Antonio described her new home in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.


Guzmán lost her previous house in Asunción Ixtaltepec in the 8.2-magnitude, September 7 earthquake, which devastated parts of southern Mexico.

But now, thanks to an initiative of Mexicans who live abroad, she once again has a place of her own and can start to rebuild her life.

The design of her home is striking and has been compared to four igloos standing side by side or the domes of a mosque. But more commonly, local residents say it looks like a series of beehives.

The civil engineer who supervised the project told the newspaper El Universal that the peculiar design of the dwelling is due to the fact that it was built using the earthquake-resistant technique known as superadobe, a form of earthbag construction developed by Iranian architect Nader Khalilli.

As the home has no corners, it is far less susceptible to seismic waves, Filiberto Lara explained.

Another benefit of superadobe construction is that it is low-cost. Earth from the local area can be used if it has a clay content of between 10% and 30%, the engineer said. The earth is reinforced with lime and after two months the mixture will turn to rock, he added.


However, for Guzmán’s home, nine truckloads of adobe had to be brought in at a cost of 8,100 pesos (US $435).

The house has a central five-meter-diameter dome that is used both as a dining and living room, two 3.5-meter domes that function as the home’s kitchen and bathroom and a four-meter dome bedroom.

The walls are made up of 40 to 50-centimeter-thick sacks that are filled with the earth and lime mixture.

Even though the materials required are cheap, Lara explained, workers from Veracruz had to be brought in to complete the project and its cost subsequently swelled to around 150,000 pesos (US $8,000).

However, most of the expenses were covered by a project called Recuperando MX917, an initiative of the organization Red Global MX (Mexico Global Network) that is backed by Mexicans who live in the United States and other foreign countries.

September’s two large earthquakes triggered a mini-boom in innovative and sustainable alternative housing projects.

Materials that have been used to build new homes and temporary shelters for victims include bamboo, PET plastic bottles, PVC tubing and aluminum.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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  • Güerito

    Mexicans who fled to the US for their economic and human dignity, doing the job the Mexican government won’t do.

    There you go. Don’t expect the Mexican Government to provide any assistance, let alone initiative, for these types of projects.

    • charles


  • WestCoastHwy

    Imagine Mexico with public zoning rules or covenants, it would be a miracle; not like the miracle like blood coming from the eyes of Guadalupe, that happens everyday!

  • Garry Montgomery

    what holds each bag and each layer to the next?

    • kallen

      Barbed wire.

      • Garry Montgomery

        and that’d be of use in an earthquake? A wire weave might make more sense . . .

        • kallen

          Between each layer of moist, earth filled bags are two strands of 4-point barbed-wire that are separated but parallel. The points dig into the moist bags but as the bags harden they add incredible tensile strength; its efficient and cheap. The technique is approved in CA. Additionally, you can pound 3′ rebar stakes down through the bags every 6′ or so – if they’re still moist – once they harden up its almost impossible.

  • kallen

    I have an earthbag home in BCS Baja. The huge thermal mass keeps the building cool even during the hottest months. Sad that most gringos still build the same old block and foam crap. The outside can be stuccoed to look just like any other building. Additionally, they don’t have to be beehive shaped – more traditional forms are possible but require extra work and planning. Earthbag construction is also approved in CA and is considered ideal in earthquake prone areas.