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Check out this video Ross and Aaron made giving a glimpse into a typical day at the construction site:

formwork going up

With the Center Bodega’s bond beam and girder complete the roof is starting to take shape. First long pieces of rebar were bent to create the arched shape, and then held in place with rebar going in the opposite direction. This rebar grid was then covered with long pieces of chicken wire (sedazo) to create a light frame work. A final layer of chicken wire was then fastened to the inside.

mix begins to cover mesh

A (3:1) mix of sand and cement  was then applied by hand to cover the outside of the mesh. Fiberglass shards were also added to increase the mix’s strenth. Once this layer dries it will serve as a rigid formwork for the the subsequent concrete layer.

final roof profile

At the left you can see that the center bodega roof is taller than the workshop roofs. This is because there will be a second strory loft used for storage. You will only be able to enter this space from the back of the building.  Building a second story and using a different formworks system for the roof has allowed the construction team to experiment with new techniques and methods that complement the methods already used.


san marcos build

LWH is excited to have collaborated with Earthship Biotecture on a project in San Marcos and looking forward to a future collaboration here in San Juan Comalapa.  In April a crew of LWH staff, volunteers, and fulltime Guatemalan workers traveled to Lago Atitlan to work with and learn from a four person Earthship crew. In building a small office together the two teams were able to share their different expertises.

romeo and others hard at work

Some of the work included excavation, hauling materials, tire packing, can walls, bottle walls, forming for roofs, framing for doors and windows and pouring a roof.  It was definitely an important milestone for our Guatemalan coworkers since it was one of the first times they were sharing their knowledge of alternative construction.  As the vocational school gets under way they will be some of the first instructors leading teams of students on small build projects.

the Candelaria family in their home

There are also plans in the works for another collaborative project here in Comalapa.  Assuming fundraising goals are met Earthship will design and build a recycled and sustainable home for single Mayan mother of 5.  This would be the first “offspring” of the Tecnico Maya School, bringing our alternative construction methods into the town and refining them for a more domestic scale. You can read more about both projects here.

shiny new latrine

Basin, walls, roof . . . and the composting toilet is in use! (For now, just one of four stalls).  The new toilet house looks great and everyone is enjoying our latest “luxury” : proper toilet seat, locking door, less odors, and soon fertilizer for the school’s gardens. Plus, stay tuned for a new mural coming to this blank white space.

erecting roof

In March the corrugated roof panels were attached to the bamboo trusses.  The roof is also set up to collect rain water and store it in the large cistern. Here you can see how well the toilet house is integrated into the steeply sloping site and the adjecent garden terraces.

yves and rapello

Volunteer Yves applying interior finishes to cover trash bottle walls. Yes, we always have this much fun. LWH also cast their own concrete toilet seat to separate dry and liquid wastes, that then gets covered with a standard plastc seat with cover.

can urinal

And so no one feels left out an aluminum can and cement mortar urinal, built by Danny. This stall is not open for use yet, but soon.  All the urine that is diverted from the dry basin is collected separately and also makes good fertilizer for the gardens whin diluted with water.

future home of gardens

Just beyond the new toilet house the garden terraces are really taking shape. Our new crew, along with lots of volunteers, have been transforming this formerly untamed area into spacious growing areas, similar to the garden at Parque Chimiya. The tire retaining walls, or muros de contencion, also serve to control surface water and aid in drainage and overall water management. Pretty soon we’ll be getting the first seeds in the ground, aided by our organic homemade fertilizer.

finished bottle wall

The Center Bodega is the last remaining room to be built in the Vocational School, aka Vo-Tech 1 and Vo-Tech 2. The Center Bodega is a storage room shared by two of the workshops and is the middle anchor point for the two mirrored sides of the building.  Earlier this year the South and North tire walls were built and recently the glass bottle wall was completed, seen above.  Eventually there will be two pilas (sinks) on either side of the stacked tires that Bryan and Adam are standing on.

can buttress

This butress supports the back tire wall and now ties into a rafter above.  It was one of LWH’s first experiments with aluminum cans. Next the crew began forming the bond beam and rafter that will tie the walls to the roof.

formwork for concrete

That formwork for the concrete is seen here, with pieces of steel left to later tie into the roof. The roof is  going to be a vaulted shape like the other workshops but slightly taller to allow us to fit a storage loft underneath.

Over the last two months the 4-stall composting toilet house has really taken shape. The rest of the concrete bason was poured and the eco-brick  (trash bottle) partitions are up and roofed.  The majority of the framing employs bamboo, which comes from the Guatemalan coastal region.  Bamboo is cheaper than dimensional lumber but requires intricate joining work, seen above.  This type of wall system will also be used at the school’s library, likely with a beefier framing system.  Members of the Comalapa community as well as LWH volunteers created these trash-filled bottles.

This corner of the site is now completely transformed. Once the toilet house is finished it will serve all staff, volunteers and groups over the next year until the primary school toilets are built. When the vocational workshops open this will be dedicated toilet house for the lower level of the school.

Not only is this toilet house and functional and ecological, its beautiful. The team built an original concrete and glass bottle spiraling column that demonstrates how gorgeous reused materials can look – it also supports the toilet roof.

The bamboo roof framing is seen going up here, and now from a distance there is clearly a new building at the Escuela Técnico Maya!

tying the rebar

2011 begins, and the Escuela Técnico Maya has been under construction for a year and half!  The next year is sure to bring lots of great activity and progress at the school.  In January 2012 the school will open to a small group of students and teachers while construction of the remaining buildings continues. In the first few weeks of this year much work was done on the composting toilet – slab poured and retaining wall advanced.  Next up will be the walls!

jordan of GW


Students from GW and U.Illinois worked hard in January to move lots of different projects forward.  Not only did they completely clean and organize all of the site they cobbed, excavated, tamped, packed tires, packed trash bottles, waterproofed grates, dismantledd form work, poured a concrete slab and washed dogs! Thank you again for all your hard work.

beginnings of a room

The Center Bodega will be a storage room for two workshops and is underway.  Two curved rammed-earth walls span between the existing workshop walls. Once the center bodega’s roof is poured the entire envelope of the Vocational school will be complete.

awning = pestaña

The recently poured roofs are have been cleaned and prepped for a layer of plaster and waterproofing paint – that’s the green color.  Awnings have also been added to protect the tire walls from rain and direct the heavy rains into the water tank.

prepping for slab

Work continues on the dry-composting toilet . . .  we’ve been busily prepping for the concrete slab that will be the bathroom’s hallway and floor.


After the bottom slab was poured the interior and exterior finishes were applied.

form work



The form work is almost complete  and when its ready we’ll  pour the concrete slab. Once the slab has cured we’ll erect the bamboo framing and lay the trash bottles . . .