Monthly Archives: December 2013

Building an earthship in Cambodia

Why are we doing this?

Cambodia is a very poor country, and it needs innovative methods of creating safe and secure places to live with the minimum amount of external materials and the lowest possible cost.  As we’ve learned, the people of Cambodia are very creative and adaptive to new ideas, and we feel we can inspire change by inviting them to learn with us.

When?

We are starting this project at early- to mid-January 2014, and it should take roughly one month.

What we’re looking for…

We are looking for people interested in new ways of thinking, Earthships, and permaculture, and who are not shy of a hard days work!  The temperature here in January will be between 26° and 34° Celsius, and we’ll be working about 6 hours a day.  The work will be quite hands on.  Please contact or visit us to join in the build!  We will take on about 10 volunteers, and we will prioritise people who can stay for the duration of the build.

What we offer…

We are on a tight budget, as I’m doing this out of my own personal pocket with no other backers.  We will feed and house people and we’ll throw some refreshments around from time to time.  Food will be mostly traditional Cambodian, and accommodation will be simple but comfy (from hammocks to simple dorm style rooms).  We will also offer accommodation, food, and drinks at a reduced price at our guesthouse and bar on the beach 5 minutes away from the site.

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About the Team

Aside from us with our crazy ideas, we will have a team of skilled Cambodian construction workers on site.  Our construction manager is a man called Mr Dang, the father of most of my staff, who has been working construction for approximately 30 years.  We will also hopefully have some people joining us from Earthship Sweden, and Earthship Biotecture, Taos, NM.

What we’re going to do…

We are going to build a three room bungalow-style Earthship model inspired by the Survival Pod design by Earthship Biotecture using the materials commonly used in Earthships, though we may have to do earth bags instead of tires due to a shortage of tyres. We’ll hopefully pound a few tires, work with sand, cement, bottles (no cans, they get recycled), wood, and garbage to make this all work.

We will make adjustments to the traditional model to suit our surroundings better, and still stay as close as we can to the original.

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About Cambodia

Cambodia is the place I call home, and despite its beautiful beaches, incredibly nice people, and smiling faces, there is a lot to be done.  Although the Kingdom of Cambodia is rich in natural resources, decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world’s poorest countries.  The legacy of strife includes far reaching social and economic scars. Many millions of land mines were sown through the countryside, where millions of them still lie, hidden and unexploded. Mines are an enduring menace to the eight out of ten Cambodians who live in rural areas, and they are an obstacle to agricultural development.

Cambodia’s poor people number almost 4.8 million, and 90 percent of them are in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but at least 12 percent of poor people are landless.  Small-scale farmers practice agriculture at the subsistence level, using traditional methods.  Productivity is low.

Two thirds of the country’s 1.6 million rural households face seasonal food shortages each year.  Rice alone accounts for as much as 30 percent of household expenditures.  Rural people are constantly looking for work or other income-generating activities, which are mainly temporary and poorly paid.

Landlessness is one of the causes of a strong trend of internal migration that is also driven by the pressures of rapid population growth and the desire to evade from recurring flood and drought in lowland areas.  People are moving from the more densely populated provinces in the south and west to the more sparsely populated provinces in the north-east, which include some of the country’s poorest districts.

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About Otres…

Otres beach is situated about 8km outside of the port town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.  It’s an easygoing place with and incredible 5 kilometer long beach, dotted on both ends with a series of beach shacks and guesthouses.  With the middle 3km being empty for now, roughly 500 people can stay the night.  The owners are a mix of locals and foreigners working together to make it what it is now, though new development is seen every day as more people find out about this hidden South East Asian gem.

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About Me…

My name is Samuel “Sammy” Salvadores, born of Swedish and Spanish parents.  I have lived in a series of different countries and have spent roughly the last five years in Cambodia.  During my time here, I have had the opportunity to get to know the culture and people better, and I really enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. I worked for or with Apple Inc. for about 10 years before moving to Cambodia, and have also studied eco-building in my spare time.  I had the opportunity to study at the Earthship Academy, class of Spring 2013. In 2009, I founded the company Done Right.

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About Done Right

Done Right was founded in 2009 by Sam and Toby, and to begin with it was a simple beach shack that later got torn down by the government, after which Derek and Nova got into the project. Today its a guesthouse with 54 beds about 26 meters behind the beach. From the beginning, we were using the place as a playground for new buildings, using different parts from different schools of construction, using things like Geodesic domes, bottle and can work, grey water separation, and black water biogas sewage systems along with traditional Cambodian building techniques.

We are mainly a guesthouse and restaurant, and we strive to be net givers in the community as a whole, and run/have run a series of projects aimed towards the poorest people in our vicinity supplying electricity, pure drinking water, sanitary systems and the like. We also support local schools and other local projects working with kids on the beach.

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About Earthships…

An Earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials (such as earth-filled tires), designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, New Mexico. The term is a registered trademark of Michael Reynolds.

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Earthships are primarily designed to work as autonomous buildings using thermal mass construction and natural cross ventilation assisted by thermal draught (stack effect) to regulate indoor temperature.  Earthships are generally off-the-grid homes, minimising their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels.  Earthship’s are built to utilise the available local resources, especially energy from the sun.  For example, windows on sun-facing walls admit light and heat, and the buildings are often horseshoe-shaped to maximise natural light and solar-gain during winter months. The thick, dense outer walls provide thermal mass that naturally regulates the interior temperature during both cold and hot outside temperatures.

Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete and are referred to as “tin can walls.” These walls are usually thickly plastered with adobe. The roof as well as the north, east, and west facing walls of an Earthship are heavily insulated to prevent heat loss.

See Earthship.com for more info.

About the site…

The site is a plot of land located about 1km off the beach, near what is know as “Otres Village.” The site is 20 x 54 meters facing south/south-west. Already on the land is a 6m diameter Geodome (my home) a traditional Khmer house, and four bungalows built with bottle windows and chicken wire and cement walls. We’re going to use a space roughly 14 x 10 meters of that land, and more if necessary.

Hope to see you on the beach!

Sam