If you can remember Luke Skywalker's home, you will love taking your kids to see this beautiful site. The brainchild of innovator and architect Nader Khalili, Cal Earth is a non-profit organization dedicated to the future of sustainable building.
Like a ride back to the future, there is something about this place and these homes that speaks to your soul. Somewhere deep inside our genetic memory we can feel this is the way we are meant to live. Mr. Khalili knew this. He walked the the sites of the ancient Persian Empire, worked with the Persian people to use these ancient principles to develop building practices for the poor which could provide them a lifetime of shelter using only available resources such as sand, earth, and wire.
Many years before we saw Luke Skywalker's home, Mr. Khalili came to San Francisco, California and worked himself up from living at the YMCA, to being one the most respected architects and scientists in his field. He was invited to speak to a group of NASA scientists to explain his building principles for future housing on the moon. He lectured at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and passed on his knowledge and technique.
One day, Mr. Khalili realized he needed a site where he could build freely and experiment until his buildings could be found worthy of California building permits which are probably the strictest in the world. In 1991 he settled on 5 acres in Hesperia, California. Which is how I came to know of this project. On a desert hike with my husband, we stumbled upon the site, which is actually visible from our upstairs window, and resembles some type of moon settlement. Hesperia provides the perfect location, as we are subject to flash floods, earthquakes, 120F degree heat, below freezing winters, and winds up to 80 mph. How better to test the homes?
The structures have been tested by local authorities and world experts and found to be earthquake proof, fireproof, and waterproof. In the wake of such devastating natural disasters such as Sandy, should we not be placing greater effort on these building principles?
Blue prints are available for sale as well. Personally, I fell in love with the 2000 square foot home, and have a mindset to replicate the design for our own retirement home.
Mr. Khalili passed away four years ago, but the organization continues to promote his work. Their latest publication is Emergency Sandbag Shelters, and is available for sale through Cal Earth. Workshops fill up quickly with students and people from around the world. However, on the first Saturday of each month the center is open free for a lecture and potluck lunch. Our lecture was facilitated by Ian Lodge, a volunteer and expert, who has taken this building technology to many places around the world. At the end Sheefteh Khalili, the current Chief Financial Officer and daughter of Mr. Khalili also lectures and shares the heartwarming story of her father's work and accomplishments. Bring a dish, enjoy the lecture, and spend some time taking in the beautiful desert surroundings and incredible energy in the eco-dome structures.
Now, the lesson for kids here is evident. Hopefully more schools will plan on visiting this beautiful and inspiring place. In Sheefteh's own words: "We are always willing to coordinate a date for school field trips and arranging workshops as the local community might need or desire."
Using this system of sustainable building, we can build homes that last for thousands of years, we can protect our planet and enjoy all modern conveniences. The lessons for architects and developers are much deeper, and will move you to your core. The challenge is still in standing up to the status quo and doing what is right for our families, our pockets, and the future of our families. Are we up to it?