I don’t know how to survive a tsunami. I have never been anywhere near one. But I read the news about the Japanese Tsunami this month and have been stressed about how to help. I know that I should do something, but frozen in fear and not being able to see the way, I have simply lived in a state of alternate hopes and fears. How can we can build to go through the waves and come out unhurt? Yet the answers are all right here, it is just us who are limited in vision. Then yesterday I listened to Shaykh Taner Ansari’s sohbet and it hit me, there is another way.
My husband used to say that he had developed Ceramic Houses and then Superadobe, but if anyone were to come up with a better way, then he would follow that.
So in the spirit of Ansari Sustainable Living’s mandate (www.ansarisustainable living.com) to disseminate ideas (ones that others have come up with, but that we believe are important) for helping humanity in these times I am writing about how to survive a Tsunami in a dome. These are not my ideas, I cannot lay claim to anything except a continuing desire to help and not to just sit selfishly. If one cannot find the way oneself, one can follow those who do.
Human instinct is always to reach for higher ground – being in a boat out at sea, or climbing up a hill or high rise building.
A seashell is the natural structure that goes through high speed waves without a scratch. Its beautiful aerodynamic/waterdynamic shell sheds the water smoothly, yet it is made by sea creatures from sea water! Architect Nader Khalili spoke often about the sea creature making its shell from water, that could resist any disaster of flood or storms, yet does not even call itself “in the image of God” as humans even call themselves.
How does this sea creature live inside its shell? It puts a thick “foot” of its own body between the inner core and the water and there is its home deep under the waves. Surely we humans can build safe domes in Tsunami zones in which there is enough air trapped inside with us to survive for enough time to allow the water to ride over and come back.
After the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, my husband Nader Khalili and I were working together building stabilized earth domes from sandbags and barbed wire, a system called Superadobe. (www.calearth.org) Sandbags are materials renowned for stopping floods and holding back sea waters. There was much interest in using these domes to rebuild in the damaged areas and we received many calls and proposals. While we did not manage to convince the relevant authorities to invest in a building program for the Superadobe domes, we did learn that the new regulations required all building foundations to be at least three meters into the earth.
Domes that use a deep foundation, along with a concrete type of mixture inside the sandbag and barbed wire construction could pass through the waves like a seashell. If the water rises instantly to above the door or window line, and natural water membrane will trap a giant bubble of air in the enclosed upper dome, a safe area could be created in the upper part of the dome that a human being could “tumble” into during a crashing of the tsunami wave. Much like a capsized boat contains air. Four years after that great Tsunami of 2004 that image settled itself in my mind with notes, sketches and excitement for the concepts involved. But it was never worked on through small scale or full scale prototypes. Had I spoken earlier perhaps the research would already be done to make such a model. However, here it is only possible to present the concept, to invite you the reader to invest your time in making it tangible, and to once again vow to try to do better at conquering fear and focus on doing such purposeful work.
Khalili designed colonies for the moon and Mars using domes and vaults built from lunar or Martian soil (called “regolith” on the moon) in which the interior chambers contained the oxygenated atmosphere humans need to survive. This atmosphere was to be contained within a balloon of high-tech material which conforms to the dome contour.
Working with Nader Khalili, there were no secrets hidden from the public as commercial companies would do. And the work at Ansari Sustainable Living continues in the same spirit since we believe that the public needs to know the information which can help humanity to survive.
During conversations with Shaykh Taner and his wife on how to design a waterproof roof for their Sufi center, he showed me how fiberglass can become the most waterproof roof and explained that he used to build boats of fiberglass. Thus, a dome of this strong building material could help a person to ride through a Tsunami more like a capsized boat. Safe domes of fiberglass could be anchored down to avoid floating back out to sea when the wave recedes. (Some types of diving equipment could also be researched for surviving a tsunami.) One can imagine a fiberglass dome smooth and waterproof as mother of pearl, would have the capacity to hold enough air, yet be a protective shell for the delicate human form during Tsunami’s crushing force.
Acknowledgements and thanks to: Architect Nader Khalili, Shaykh Taner Ansari for inspiration, provocation, challenges and guidance. Most especially thanks for representing what is true and unbiased in this life.