Ecological Construction

For thousands of years, people have been building their homes out of the dirt beneath their feet.

Natural and vernacular building techniques have roots in every culture around the world, but share the distinction of using local materials, being energy efficient, and having a low ecological footprint. Only during the past century have natural building methods been replaced by the construction industry which is characterized by an unsustainable sourcing of non-renewable resources, energy inefficient design, and a huge carbon footprint.

Natural building techniques allows individuals to use their hands and feet to form earth mixed with sand and straw, a sensory and aesthetic experience similar to sculpting with clay. Natural building is easy to learn, inexpensive to build, and lends itself to organic shapes such as curved walls, arches and niches. Earth homes are cool in summer and warm in winter and maximize the capture of natural sources of energy. Natural building methods don´t contribute to deforestation, pollution or mining nor depend on manufactured materials or power tools. In this age of environmental degradation, dwindling natural resources, and chemical toxins hidden in our homes, doesn’t it make sense to return to nature’s most abundant, cheap and healthy building material?

The Importance of Ecological Conservation at Lake Atitlan

As man increases his presence at Lake Atitlan and as modern culture increasingly imposes its influence here, the balance of the Lake ecosystem becomes increasingly prone to destabilization.

The challenge to find ways to adjust the demands of our communities so that they fit into the greater balance of the Lake ecosystem is exacerbated by unique demographic factors as well as the attractiveness of the Lake as a tourist destination.
The profit sector of modern mass culture has loaded the Lake environment with products to promote material progress without considering the serious side effects. The indigenous communities that inhabit the Lake, and the outsiders who increasingly call it home, are just beginning to appreciate the consequences.
With the alarm having sounded, today there are many organizational actors which play active roles in preserving the Lake as a healthy, living entity. These include international, national and local environmentally-focused groups directly engaged in the dynamics of protecting the Lake ecosystem. Still, there is a good deal of “catching up” to do, and the Utz’ K’aslimaal Collective is one of these actors joining the effort to design ecological forms of livelihood that respect the natural limitations and boundaries of the land itself.

The Infrastructure
You are Helping to Build

On a pragmatic level, the Utz´ K´aslimaal Collective seeks to demonstrate a tangible example of sustainable living, ecological land design, and natural construction.

All of the structures built on the land are made from locally available, natural materials. In the long term, we hope to build a center to launch a diverse array of educational programs that allow Western people to learn from indigenous people, engage in exchanges of mutual solidarity, and offer a new standard of tourism that involves and values the local community, culture, and environment.

Community Involvement

As an organization that seeks to belong to and participate in the life of the community that has accepted us, our workshops also create spaces for local Tz’utujil youth to learn about natural construction techniques.

The migration of young people to North American is a huge issue affecting the local community. Many young people choose to migrate in order to raise money to build a modern home of their own which can be prohibitively expensive. Through helping young people to discover the vernacular, beautiful and natural methods of construction, we also hope to add a small contribution towards helping young Tz´utujil people stay in their communities.

Additional Cultural and Recreational Activities

In addition to learning about natural building methods, our workshops afford participants the opportunity to share in numerous activities that engage the rich local Tz’utujil culture and that invite you to experience the recreational possibilities of the surrounding environment.

These activities range from hearing from and dining with local ancestral leaders and spiritual authorities, to spending a day touring the Lake by boat and visiting different towns to see magnificent examples of the very natural building methods you have been learning about and putting into practice. Of course, if you would rather just relax and enjoy your pleasant lodging accommodations, or meander around Santiago Atitlan and enjoy a cup of coffee or beer, you are more than welcome to do so. Nevertheless, we from the Utz’ K’aslimaal Collective, want to make sure that you have every opportunity to enjoy the immense natural and cultural beauty of Lake Atitlan.