Vanuatu Project 2016, Women’s Community Earthship. Step 1. Gathering materials and workers

It's now the 18th November and we are back from a very uplifting experience on the Island of Tanna in Vanuatu working with Fruit of The Pacific - a NZ based charity run by Kylie Della Barca Steele.

There was a group of us there, Myself - an academy student, Mark - an great architect, Zane - a plasterer who previously worked in Fiji,  and Paea - who manages the very same workers when they are deployed in New Zealand for fruit picking.

It takes quite a bit of planning to do something like this. Kylie DellaBarca Steele from Fruit of the Pacific was running this project. Amazing woman, here is one of her recent TED talks.

We taught the locals how to build a community centre and the time lapse '2 & a 1/2 weeks in 2 & a 1/2 minutes is right here...

So Why an Earthship?


Tanna (the island) weather is subject to strong winds and droughts. The villages struggle badly with water shortages. In fact upon some mountains the locals have to walk down to the bottom to pick up water, if no rain water is collected then it's as dry as can be despite having good rainfall in wet season. We took up some water up in the truck one day which is a regular occurrence.

water shortage

Pretty scary thought when you realise the roads aren't always accessible.


It is a good idea to install water catchment for the entire Island as people are then in a better position to support each other when in need. Cyclone Pam had destroyed many buildings. The schools in the area were still practicing from UNICEF tents due to Government money being corrupted. We noticed other builds made from concrete blocks and locals work towards building stronger BUT we didn't see enough re bars or structural integrity which is a disaster waiting to happen.

unicef tents

Tyres are also much cheaper than concrete blocks.


All in all there were around 30-40 people from the community and other villages who came along to build it. We advertised in the local shop window and with a big sign on the road right by the build. Word of mouth from the locals too, word spread fast!! - very strong community spirit.


The timber was local wood felled by cyclone Pam -look at that colour!


The coral for the first 2 courses of tyres and for the inside floor was from the beach....we just shoveled it in.


We asked the locals to collect as much as possible as we came across transport being the main issue or cost. As with any Earthship build the materials are supposed to be almost free so you will need to factor in costs of getting it to the site. There were Chinese aid workers building roads on Tanna. We asked them to drop excess earth material and clay before we got there, unfortunately we only got dirt but that certainly was used. Bottles are for later on once they have had the windows fitted.


Cement is a well used material as it's everywhere, cheap and fairly easy to use. It's not the most eco-friendly but until something as easy, affordable and accessible comes along this will be the best option. We used it for the rain water catchment on the roof and for inside plastering due to the lack of clay we could get our hands on.


And local bamboo was used for the first layer of the roof. Easy to harvest and prepare...


The cost of the whole project was around $8,000 and the materials used were mainly tires (400 of them) We had architect plans and so there was literally 1 left, we used everything.

It was incredible to have the NiVans 'hands on' and doing the build themselves, very empowering and also enabled us to spend time in designing the other build way up in the mountains.



So we have the team, the materials, the locals, some good weather and good spirits.We were ready to get going!



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