Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Imagine a place where the sun blazes relentlessly, water is scarce, and the landscape is a canvas of endless sand and silt. This is the Mojave Desert, a place that seems inhospitable for human settlement.

Yet, nestled within this arid expanse, a revolution in sustainable living is taking shape.

The Mojave Center, an education hub focusing on natural building and water harvesting, has embarked on an extraordinary journey to construct Earthbag Domes.

These domes are not just eco-friendly. They are also affordable, earthquake-resistant, and fireproof.


The Earthbag Domes are constructed using the very soil that lies beneath the Mojave’s sun-baked surface. The absence of clay in the soil is not a hindrance.

Instead, the domes are built using sandbags filled with a mixture of silt, sand, and a small percentage of cement.

This makes the construction process not only sustainable but also incredibly cost-effective. The domes serve as student dwellings, offering hands-on experience to those eager to learn the art of natural building.

The construction process is a marvel of simple yet effective engineering.

A center compass is used to maintain the dome’s circular shape, while a height compass ensures the structural integrity of the dome as it rises.

Each layer of sandbags is separated by barbed wire, adding tensile strength and making the structure earthquake-resistant. The result is a building that shows human ingenuity and a commitment to sustainability.


But the innovation doesn’t stop at the construction phase. Once the basic structure is complete, the focus shifts to plastering.

The initial layer is a rough clay plaster, designed to protect the polypropylene bags from degradation.

This is followed by a more refined lime and cement plaster, which adds durability and prepares the dome for its final finish.

The interiors of the domes are as captivating as their exteriors. One of the largest domes serves as a living space, complete with a kitchenette and bedroom.

The walls are smoothed out with clay plaster, transforming the once rugged bags into a warm and inviting habitat.

The design also incorporates passive cooling features, such as wind scoops, to make the space comfortable in the desert heat.


Natural light plays a significant role in making the domes habitable.

Skylights are strategically placed to illuminate the interiors, preventing the domes from becoming dark caves.

These skylights also serve as vents, allowing hot air to escape and cooling down the building in the evenings.

The final touch to these architectural wonders is elastomeric paint, a low-VOC option that seals the dome and protects the plaster.

This layer ensures that the structure can withstand even the harshest of climates, making it a versatile option for various geographical locations.

Beyond the domes, the Mojave Center is also a pioneer in regenerative water harvesting.


Their shower dome, a magical space with a rain shower, recycles water to nourish plants in desert rain basins.

This is part of a broader effort to bring greenery back to the desert, making the center a holistic model for sustainable living.

The Mojave Center is not just a collection of innovative buildings — it’s a vision for the future.

Through its workshops and educational programs, the center is sowing the seeds of a sustainable revolution, one Earthbag Dome at a time.

As we face the challenges of climate change and resource scarcity, projects like these offer a glimmer of hope, proving that even in the harshest of environments, humanity can thrive sustainably.

Check out the full tour of the Mojave Center in the video below!

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