Indonesia: Yogya quake survivors receive dome homes

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Survivors of the 2006 earthquake in Yogyakarta officially took possession of dome-shaped homes designed to withstand future quakes.

The houses in Prambanan district, Sleman regency, were symbolically handed over on Monday by the chairman of the World Association of Non-Government Organizations (Wango), Chung Hwan Kwak, to Sleman Regent Ibnu Subiyanto and survivors' representative Rubiman.

Built by U.S.-based Domes for the World, with the assistance of Wango and Dubai-based Emaar Properties, the dome houses occupy a new housing complex in Nglepen hamlet, Sumberharjo village.

"Emaar Properties donated US$1 million to build the domes for the earthquake survivors here. We will soon build some 100 other units in scattered places in Bantul," Domes for the World president Rebecca South told The Jakarta Post.

Comprising 71 domes, including six public lavatories, a mosque and a kindergarten, the complex was built on a 2.5 hectare plot of land.

The domes are markedly different from the surrounding traditional Javanese dwellings, but as Regent Ibnu noted they also are much safer in the event of future earthquakes or other natural disasters.

"I believe in the future this (complex) will become a monument to the May 27, 2006, earthquake, an interesting tourist site to visit and a cultural site that will always remind us of the spirit of life, as well as to love and care for others," Ibnu said.

Emaar Properties chairman Mohammed Ali Alabbar said businesspeople were very busy and sometimes needed to be reminded about humanity and caring for others.

"I also would like to participate in similar projects in North Korea, Africa, the Middle East as well as Pakistan," said Alabbar, adding that together with Wango and Domes for the World his company was trying to improve the design of the domes to reduce costs and cut building time.

"I hope in the future this will be a good model for us to copy for many other projects that we will see forward," he said.

Speaking separately to the Post, Domes for the World architect Rick Crandall said that being built as one-piece, monolithic buildings, the domes could last for centuries. He said the round shape is what gives the domes their strength.

"This allows the occupants not to ever worry about rain, wind, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The roof is also permanent and never needs to replacing," said Crandall, adding that the building could stand up to winds as strong as 300 kilometers per hour.

Except for some wood, according to Crandall, the structure is fireproof. It is also bug-proof, he said, being built from concrete.

Crandall said the domes are energy efficient and economical to build. It takes just a day to put up a single dome, plus another three days to finish the interior. This explains how the entire complex could be finished in about five months.

"Perhaps the only thing that is unusual is that it is different in appearance and is not part of the Indonesian culture. But we are very happy to see the Indonesian people have adapted so easily."