Charly Carter ’82 has been busy. She continues her important work as CEO with Step Up Maryland, a political training and civic engagement organization that helps organize and rebuild communities to better understand and participate in their local politics, but she’s added a new feather to her cap: Certified Earth Builder.
Charly has always been attracted to sustainable building and has worked with her local community to build Tiny Houses and shipping container homes. This interest introduced her to “natural building”, a concept where you build homes in a more sustainable way using the resources around you. Her interest piqued when she read an article about architect, Nader Khalili, founder of the Cal Earth Institute. He had been awarded a prize from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for his lunar and space habitation work theorizing the use of magma and SuperAdobe, an architecture style using long sandbags, barbed wire, on-site earth and a few tools, to build homes on Mars. After reading the article, she did further research and discovered that she could take a class at the Cal Earth Institute and learn how to build one of these homes.
She said the class was amazing and they built an emergency shelter in California in just two days. She learned that site placement, soil tests (you need sand and silt), and the important dome shape of the building are all parts of a successful SuperAdobe structure. She also learned that adobe is windproof, fireproof, earthquake-proof, and floodproof. She shared a story about a SuperAdobe school built in Nepal where a 7.8 scale earthquake destroyed every building in a town, except the school.
Charly shared it has been amazing to figure out that you can build a home on your own, harnessing local resources, in a short timeframe, as long as you know what you are doing. She says the homes are not pretty, but they are solid. After her experience with Cal Earth in California, she’s now affiliated with a group in Maryland. They’ve created an eco-village with the goal of reconnecting humans with the earth in a sustainable, safe way. The community provides resources about camping, building fires, and teaches about permaculture, an approach that seeks to understand nature and land and how we can use our resources without harm.
Her latest studies involve incorporating a thermal mass heater into the SuperAdobe homes. This would help to heat the entire home and due to the absorption into the structure, would emit a smokeless and odorless gas out of the chimney. The homes are also naturally air conditioned!