Khalili’s earth bag constructions are incredibly simple to build and within reach of people with even the most limited resources, which was always his aim. All that is necessary is to fill bags full of earth and lay them in a circular plan. According to the Aga Khan Foundation, “these shelters serve as a prototype for temporary housing using extremely inexpensive means to provide safe homes that can be built quickly and have the high insulation values necessary in arid climates.”
Despite being made from earth, air, water, and fire – the elements so crucial to Khalili’s metaphysics – these homes also include aesthetically-pleasing domes and arches and perform well in seismic conditions. Most importantly, a 14 square meter earth bag home costs little more than $4 to construct, the Aga Khan Foundation wrote in 1995. Today they will cost more, but not much.
In addition to writing six books and translating over 300 Rumi poems into English, Khalili found time to initiate the Geltaftan Foundation in 1986 and the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture – CalEarth – in 1991.
He is also responsible for a host of uber-sustainable designs including a futuristic community for 5,000 people in New Cuyama, California, a 20,000 strong community in Isfahan, Iran, and several earth-bag shelters, in addition to well over 100 “normal” commercial and residential projects.