Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sustainable building in Tulum

Since our arrival in Tulum, we have been pondering what best to build with. Now that our foundation is almost complete, it really is time to make the final decision, taking into consideration our limitations of time and money. 
And of course to consider what makes the most sense ecologically within these constraints.
Both Miguel and I have since awhile been wishing to build an Earthship, but early on it became obvious that the Yucatan peninsula is not the ideal location for such a building. 
There simply is not enough earth to ram the tires with, also the excavation most common in building eathships is impossible here due to the high water level.

A strawbale house was another idea, but straw is not grown here, and perhaps not the most logical structure in a hurricane prone area.

Then we thought we would build with earth-bags, until very recently we had kept coming back to this idea, first we thought we would use the earth that we plan to take out of the cenote. 
Truly it is sediment, built up over years and years of organic debris falling into and settling in the cenote. 
Somehow in our earth-bag research it had escaped our attention that the earth filled into the bags need, for stability and strength reasons, to be completely void of organic matter, 
high in clay and contain sand, and so out went that idea.

Then the other night we got to talking about filling the earth-bags with sascap, 
which is the sandy materiel that we have been using to form the paths, it binds together and hardens naturally, due to it's high lime content, and for a few days we felt certain, 
that besides the immense amount of labour, hence time involved, this was the way to go. Right up until this morning when we realized for certain that in order to get to the sascap,
large areas of jungle are cleared to get to the sascap underneath. 

Today it finally became plainly obvious that the most readily available material to use for building in this area is rock..:):). All this time right under our feet. I wonder why the resistance.

I remember when I first saw pictures of the land back in Venezuela, the amount of rocks seemed overwhelming, and the first thought that came to mind was, well I suppose we will have to build a stone house.
For some reason both Miguel and I resisted the idea, so stuck where we on an earthen structure, that rock just felt to cold and hard. 
Yet having now seen many beautiful houses constructed out of stones as well as the fact that it just makes the most sense we have decided to go with rock.

Today we went with our neighbor Pepe to see some of the projects that he is working on. He specializes in the guts of the structures, as he likes to say. 
His work and his philosophies are very inspiring and I love that he is one of our neighbors. What he says is; sometimes we have to "cut corners" on the building material 
because clients have time restraints and a certain budget. What he really seeks to educate his clients about  then, is  the guts of the building, the way we process our waste. 
He specializes in dry toilets,
grey and black water treatments, as well as cisterns and rain water catchment. He also builds structures out of garbage, such a old wooden pallets and plastic bottles, 
but not everyone is ready to take such steps, and while he does his best to encourage dry toilets, when his clients simply will not hear of it, he will treat their black water through extensive wet land areas. 

I love to see so many cool projects in the area. This is indeed an area where processing and becoming more involved and aware of the waste produced would make a huge difference. 
Garbage seems to be everywhere, and at the same time awareness does seem to be growing in large pockets around. Lovely! exposed

Below are photos of some of the house we saw today. Inspiration of how lovely a stone structure can indeed be, parts of the walls are plastered other left.  
Also the excellent dry toilet system that Pepe specializes in.

 Kitchen area with wood burning oven
 Wet land area to treat grey water
 Just had to add the view from the "tower" The jungle of Tulum!
The children Loved both these houses..
 This is the dry toilet system that Pepe instals. The basket holds the
sawdust, once finished on the toilet you turn the handle to release some sawdust into the container below, this aids in the decomposition, I have seen several now and none of them have any smell!


  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful house. We'll be starting the building process this winter in Peru and I'm desperate for ideas on sustainable structures since this will be a first for both my husband and I. This house is definitely inspiring....thanks for getting my creativity flowing!

  2. Wow, This seems like magic, these houses are so beautiful and organic. I have not seem many naturally built new houses in this kind of climate, Very inspiring as is your blog always!! What beauty it is to build your home consciously and healthily with consideration to each part. The greatest sculpture for you and your family. Thanks x E

  3. Great stuff.. awesome to see that someone is building with the environment in mind!

  4. WOW!!! It is so amazingly beautiful!! just like a fairy tale! congratulation, absolutely great-concious job! <3

  5. Absolutely amazing and inspiring!!! Rock is earthen too, as it is entirely of the earth! This home is beyond creative and innovative, and I look so forward to seeing yours unfold!


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