Nader Khalili: Designing a dream house

Full Frame

Nader Khalili The late architect Nader Khalili

Nader Khalili created the Superadobe building system, a technique that builds structures using only sandbags, barbed wire and earth. The buildings not only provide low-cost shelter, but they are also fire, earthquake, tornado and hurricane-proof.

While Nader passed away seven years ago at the age of 72, his son Dastan and daughter Sheefteh work to continue his quest to empower the world’s poor, by teaching them how to build homes using inexpensive resources.

“He began studying the traditional architecture of Iran, which is where he was from,” explains Sheefteh. “He really fell in love with the Earth-architecture concept and so spent the rest of his life evolving and developing different ways of building with the Earth.”

Nader Khalili: Designing a Dream House

Nader Khalili: Designing a Dream House

Full Frame takes a look at the life-saving building technique of the late architect Nader Khalili.


Nader was founder and director of the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, known as Cal-Earth, where his building technique was developed and continues to be taught to others.

“It’s truly amazing because it’s not that we’re coming in saying ‘here, we’re going to build this for you,” says Sheefteh. “‘No, we’re just going to teach you to do it and then we’re going to leave so that you can continue and continue to build in your own community.’”

With the increased rate of natural disasters around the world, the Cal-Earth structures have proven to be more resistant to catastrophes. After the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Nepal earlier this year, an orphanage in the Kathmandu valley, which was built from Cal-Earth’s designs, remained intact.

And, more than 40 Cal-Earth domes that were built in 2006 in Nepal withstood the disaster – saving the lives of more than 90 children and their caretakers.

On this week’s Close Up, Full Frame takes a look at the life-saving building technology of Nader Khalili.

Follow Cal-Earth on Twitter: @Cal-Earth