Prior to returning to the UK I lived in Spain where I and my wife bought a Cortijo (farm house) and proceeded to restore and upgrade it following an eco project in Tabernas, Almeria, which had to be abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances. Here follows a pictorial insight into that and other projects.

The above drawing shows the layout of the various structures in the complex we called 'Las Cupulas' meaning The Domes. All the 'walls' of the structures would be from adobe or cob bricks, a totally eco-friendly material which costs NOTHING. Other materials like timber would be sourced locally. The greatest concession would be the concrete and steel used in the foundations.

From the right can be seen the water tower, based on a Moroccan theme. The semi underground water tank is next to it. A circular tank 6 m in diameter and 2.5 m deep, it would hold 60,000 litres of spring water. The water would be pumped up to the 2,000 litre tank inside the tower and by gravity this water would supply the trees and other plants irrigation by drip feed. Also this water would be used for flushing the toilets. Filtered water would be used for showers and cooking.  Aerobic waste water tanks would filter waste water into bamboo groves.

To the right of the tower is a large structure with a vaulted roof. This was destined to be an art and R&D studio.

The main gate to the complex is to the left. A solar powered fountain is in the centre of the courtyard which would help a little to reduce the heat in the summer.

The first structure to the left of the main gate is a 3 m diameter dome which would be the store dome. Linked to it is the kitchen dome which is then linked via a short tunnel to the living dome of 6 m diameter which would incorporate a mezzanine floor and fire-place.

The next dome is the office dome then the bathroom dome and finally the bedroom dome with 2 large walk-in 'wardrobes' (his and hers). This dome would have a private access to a small, hidden garden with access to the water tank. The water tank would have doors in its roof and would be used as a swimming pool in the hot months with a built-in water fall powered by a submersible pump.

All the energy needs would be derived from solar and wind energy.

.Above is a 1:100 scale model. Most of the domes would have a skylight which could be screened off if necessary.

Foundations in place. The curved roof tiles are covering the hoses for the drip system. Over 120 saplings and bushes were planted.

The site office. Old fridges (from the local dump) make good storage for nails and screws ! In the back-ground can be seen the covered car port for our Santana land rover and other storage.

Making plans for the water tower

Tower skeleton from eucalyptus poles under construction

Enjoying the view

Tank installed in tower

     Site overview.

The black plastic sheets to the left are protecting the more than 10,000 adobe bricks. We used a more clay containing earth from our site which was sieved for stones (which were later used as gravel) and then mixed in a concrete mixer with short lengths of straw and water. This mixture was then slammed into moulds. The moulds were then removed and the bricks were allowed to dry in the sun, turning them every day for about a week and then stacked on pallets to harden completely. Between the bricks and the site office is a structure where we had lunch and to chill out, covered in shade net to stop the flies and mosquitos.

The water tank is supplied by a submersible pump in the main water deposit and is feeding the two drip systems which were on timers, coming on after sunset. These micro drip feeders required constant attention as they sometimes got blocked by dust. The entire site has a perimeter fence to stop wildlife (rabbits, snakes, lizards etc).

This was a very challenging project which took about 6 months to plan for initially and to prepare the site and overcoming obstacles was always on-going. We bought and lived in a caravan for 2 years on site, escaping to the cooler mountains of the Sierra Nevada for most week ends.

If the project had continued and was successful it was our intention to publish  and allow other builders and architects to visit and, hopefully, to encourage a greater awareness in eco structures and the use of alternative energy.

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