Final Report: New Ngelepen Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (Rebecca South)

The following is the final report regarding the first joint project of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) and the Domes for the World Foundation (DFTW).

We embarked together on this journey to rebuild an entire village, devastated by a major earthquake, using Monolithic EcoShell technology in July of 2006.

Official completion of the village, New Ngelepen, was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony in April 2007.

Generous funding of the project was provided by Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties.

Contents of Report:

- Prologue
- Executive Summary
- The Feasibility Study
- The Ground-Breaking Ceremony
- Construction Summary
- The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
- Dreams Are Realized at New Ngelepen Project
- Closeout Report


From the beginning of this effort it seemed to me the work was blessed. Because of the full faith between WANGO and DFTW (especially Taj Hamad and David South) we were able to accomplish much, much more than we originally outlined in the Feasibility Study completed in August, 2006.

We were consistently guided to the right people at the right times. Cooperation from every level of government

went smoothly and Gadjah Mada University was supportive from the beginning. We were lucky to find Yoss and Rudi— local employees and now life-long friends— to aid our Superintendent, Wes Haws, in construction and reporting. They were indispensable.

The infrastructure, landscaping, drainage and layout of the village turned out more intricate and detailed than initially planned. We built retaining walls to mitigate erosion of the river running along the east and north edges of the property and built a wall around the ancient cemetary (it is not considered pleasant to look at).

The upper loft in the homes were expanded and we tiled the floors. A Mosque, Primary School and Medical Clinic were added to the new village without the need for more funds. Final touches such as the Welcome Arch and hand- painted mural on the primary school really give the community a beautiful feel.

Construction was swift and the project was completed far ahead of schedule.

And something else happened. We ended up using virtually no volunteer labor, but were instead able to pay a multitude of local workers, the effect on the economy was great.

Simple stories like that of our foreman, Sidik, abound. Sidik was hired at the start of construction and because of the work, he was able to buy a motorcycle for transportation and is now getting married! He is eager to help us in our future endeavours.

Executive Summary

In May 2006 there was a devastating earthquake on the Indonesian island of Java. The region most seriously affected by the earthquake is densely populated, with people living in small villages separated by rice fields.


During the earthquake, the homes in Ngelepen were not only rocked by the quake, but many houses were, in effect, swallowed whole by a catastrophic landslide.

Emaar, WANGO and DFTW

Less than three months later, a meeting between Taj Hamad, Secretary-General of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), and Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, resulted in both men agreeing to bring relief to the villagers of Ngelepen through an innovative plan to quickly recreate the village whose destruction had instantly left so many homeless.

Soon after that July meeting, and after the completion of an extensive feasibility study, Domes for the World Foundation (DFTW), a Utah-based non-profit organization, was retained. DFTW was tasked to rebuild the village of Ngelepen by applying its expertise in the construction of environmentally friendly homes that can withstand the severe effects of natural disasters.

With a generous grant of $1 million from Emaar to WANGO, WANGO then contracted DFTW and work began in October of 2006. From the outset, WANGO and DFTW acted cooperatively in determining the design, in securing all the requisite approvals, and in carrying out every facet of the construction. The project has been completed two months ahead of schedule— April, 2007.

New Ngelepen

The new, completed village is comprised of 71 houses, 6 MCKs (laundry, toilet and shower facilities), a mosque, primary school, playground and medical clinic. The homes are clustered in groups of 12 surrounding an MCK and green space. Six new wells have been drilled to supply each cluster with potable water at the source. Six independent septic systems have been installed. Each home is equipped with ample ventilation, light fixtures and power outlets. Clean drinking water flows from every faucet in every kitchen in the village.

The Feasibility Study

The field work for the study included fact finding about: the Javanese people; their customs; family units and how they live; the type of damage done by the May 2006 earthquake; what has been done so far to alleviate housing shortages; how EcoShells would fit into their society; and costs of construction.

The initial study’s aim was to identify a suitable site for construction of a model village—to showcase the use of EcoShells and best practices for reconstruction in these areas.

Mr. Frederick Crandall, Architect and Monolithic Dome Technology Expert was hired by DFTW to complete the Feasibility Study. I accompanied Mr. Crandall to Jogja.

We arrived late in the evening of the July 25th. At that time we had no contacts whatsoever in Indonesia.

Important Contacts

In just four days we met with the UNDP, OCHA, Red Cross, W.H.O., Gadjah Mada University architects, geologists and engineers, Holcim Cement, the Vice President of the Bantul Parliment, the leaders of Ngelepen and Sumber Harjo villages and the Regent and his staff of Sleman.

We spoke with dozens of villagers and their leaders all over Bantul and Sleman as we toured the affected area. We found total devastation everywhere. Ngelepen stood out because it was completely swept off its foundations by a catastrophic landslide.

New Ngelepen

We decided to rebuild Ngelepen. The government had set aside a tract of land for that purpose and everyone was enthusiastic about the domes.

The completed study included: drawings of all structures and a site plan; construction timeline; execution plan and final cost of project.

The Groundbreaking Ceremony

The day of the ground-breaking ceremony started out with a meeting at the Sleman government offices. In attendance from the government was Bupati Sleman (District Leader), the Vice Bupati, the Director of New Construction, The Director of Public Works and more.

We discussed our plans for New Ngelepen and the Sleman officials expressed their support. Taj thanked those in attendance for their hard work and continued focus on the village.

Bupati Sleman thanked Taj, in English, for WANGO’s generosity and caring for the people in his district.

Gus Dur

KH Abdurrahman Wahid, or “Gus Dur”, is a respected Islamic cleric and former President of Indonesia. He is known for many things from his staunch anti-extremism beliefs to his soccer commentary.

Taj phoned Gus Dur and received some surprising and exciting news: One of Gus Dur’s daughters had just had a baby! He was a Grandfather again.

Gus Dur’s other daughter, Yenny, spoke with Taj and they coordinated a plan. As it turned out, Gus Dur was scheduled to speak at the Construction Commencement of a project his social aid organization was funding the very same afternoon.

This was an incredible coincidence! He and Taj had no idea they were both going to be in Jogja, let alone 3 kilometers away from each other doing practically the same thing.

The Ceremony

The program started with Taj and he gave a very moving speech. What really stood out to all of us was when he spoke about the fact that there is no reason in today’s world that some people have many houses and others have none.

When Gus Dur spoke everyone was silent and hung on every word. The hairs on my neck stood up, even though I could not understand what he said.

Next, Bupati Sleman spoke. He was very proud. He gave a wonderful speech and was sure to thank everyone.

After his speech it was time for Gus Dur to leave for the airport. Everyone crowded around the great man and reached to touch his hand. We were able to snap a few photos before he was whisked away again to the airport and back to Jakarta. As he was leaving, the sun began to set and the children from the village started to sing. The children continued to sing.

So unafraid, so practiced and so innocent. They sung all the way through the ritual “driving of the stake”.

Construction Summary

Wes Haws, our construction superintendent, arrived in Indonesia on October 23, 2006. At that point we had had the Ground-breaking Ceremony and workers had been leveling the ground and initiating road construction.

In the beginning there were a few kinks regarding supplies and machinery, but those issues were quickly ironed out by Wes and the team.

Yoss, our indispensable Indonesian foreman, did a heroic job of managing supplies. This was key to keeping the men working at their fast pace.

We are proud to say that our Indonesian employees earned over the average wage for similar work in Indonesia. The men learned the domebuilding trade rapidly.

Half Way There

By January 10, 2007, half of the dome shells in New Ngelepen were complete and it became clear production was way ahead of schedule.

At the height of construction, 370 Indonesian workers were employed at New Ngelepen. Wes divided up the crews into a well-oiled machine by mid- January. Four crews set to work building interior walls; two crews applied interior concrete; three crews continued to build shells; one crew poured the floors for MCKs; and two crews finished doors and windows. There was also a rebar crew, a cleanup crew, a landscaping crew and two more road crews.


In March the crews started to asphalt the roads and more carpenters were added to complete the woodwork. The paint crews were doubled and landscaping work stepped up.

The core dome crews continued to finish a few details on the roads and landscaping while they waited for the Airform for the school and mosque.

The school and mosque were quickly constructed by the now expert crews and an archway was fashioned using one of the EcoShell Airforms to help shape it.

Wes returned to the states after being satisfied Yoss and Rudi had matters under control. Just before leaving he left drawings and plans with a steel worker to build a playground for the school and hired an artist to paint the mural on the exterior of the dome.

Causing a Scene

Visitors to the jobsite were frequent and included officials from the UN, the Indonesian Government, other NGO’s in the area as well as students from Gadjah Mada, other universities and curious citizens.

On my visits to the site it was not uncommon for two or three people from various government posts or curious citizens to approach me to express their thanks for our efforts.

Reaction to the domes was positive— especially after a short explanation of their benefits.

The local and national press watched the progress of construction closely and reported on it regularly.

To Sum Up:

From the beginning, this endeavor progressed smoothly and in many instances, even better than we expected. Wes reported that two weeks after the ribbon-cutting tourists of all walks of life flood the village daily. Four shops selling mementos, water and sundries have opened up. It appears tourism may become a steady income stream for residents!

The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Preparation for the ceremony was a lot of work, but Taj did most of the heavy-lifting. We hired an event planner and Taj was tireless and meticulous in working with them.

He was just as particular with all the details in dealing with the government and planning for Emaar’s chairman, Mohamed Ali Alabbar’s, arrival.

I learned a lot watching him go over every detail, from the order of the ceremony, to the colors of the tent. Nothing was left to chance.

The Ceremony

Taj opened up the program followed by remarks by Bupati Sleman, Ibnu Subiyanto. Bupati’s speech was very heartfelt, he was thankful to Emaar, WANGO and us. He has been a great supporter of ours from the start.

Next, Chung H. Kwak, Chairman of the International Council of WANGO gave a very moving speech about social responsibility and charity, mutual respect and love.

Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties then spoke. He was humble and sincere. I kept thinking how grateful I was to him. I especially enjoyed the remarks made by the Minister of Housing. He was animated and excited about the village.

After the speeches, Taj and Bupati signed documents officially giving the village to the Sleman Regency. A key to the village was given to Bupati and then to the villagers. We all signed marble markers and then they cut the ribbon.

The mood was jubilant! Everyone was smiling and laughing as the villagers presented some presents to Mr. Alabbar, Taj, Wes and I. Then the model homes, an MCK, the medical clinic, mosque and primary school were toured. Mr. Alabbar had to quickly depart, but everyone else milled about for at least an hour.

Reporters mixed with children playing on the playground and officials mingled with villagers. Smiles all around.

Dreams Are Realized at New Ngelepen

New Ngelepen is a great success. In the end, each home was built for about $200 per square meter including all infrastructure. (Infrastructure includes the roads, drainage, MCKs, wells, plumbing, electrical, the mosque, school, medical clinic, archway, playground, etc.)

If you look at Habitat for Humanity’s website you will find that their price per square meter in the Jogja area comes in at $148 per square meter. That does not include the extra buildings, roads, etc. and although we could not ascertain what method of construction they employed, it can be guaranteed the domes are far superior in every way.

Also, we did not use volunteer labor. By employing so many locals, the project was a boon to the local economy. For future projects, where we may not invest so much in infrastructure, our cost per square meter will be much lower than even Habitat’s.

We also achieved our goal to train and coach the men well enough that it is assured at least one independent dome-building company will persist in Jogja.

We were able to stay within budget and add on all the extras which make a group of houses a community. Our plan for areas for the villagers to plant their own gardens was scaled back a bit, (due to the land being a smaller lot than initially reported to us) but it is still valid.

The villagers have completely made the leap from square living to round. The day after the ceremony people started moving in! Residents were busy cleaning and settling in while laughing and playing festive music.

Yoss reports a week after the ceremony this continues to be the case. We will monitor New Ngelepen and strive to make partnerships with other NGOs to ensure the villagers’ success in every way.

Project Closeout Report

Andrew South, VP Domes for the World

On Monday, April 30, 2007, New Ngelepen was officially given to the local people and their governments. The overall project was successful on every count, and additional items have been learned for more efficient development of future projects. This report serves as a post production review of these items, including a schedule review and a basic cost-variance review.

Project Summary

Following a documented feasibility study report in August of 2006, WANGO (the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations) and DFTW (the Domes for the World foundation) agreed through a Memorandum of Understanding to reconstruct a devastated village area in Ngelepen, Indonesia. The village “New Ngelepen” would use EcoShell technology developed by the Monolithic Dome Institute as a model of low cost sustainable housing.

The original feasibility study was adopted as the project scope for ‘Phase I ‘ was to include 72 housing units, 6 MCK’s, 1 storage area, and 1 retail area. ‘Phase II’ was to include a medical clinic and possibly a small school. The project would incorporate new roads, clean deep water wells, sanitary septic/leech systems, and an option for electrical power to each home. The original budget for ‘Phase I’ was $876,355, with WANGO providing the funds through its network of generous individuals, namely Mr. Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties.

As the project unfolded, the elements from ‘Phase II’ were reorganized into those of the original ‘Phase I.’ This included significant scope expansions and upgrades. No additional monies were required, as the original budget proved sufficient for everything. The final project scope was essentially a “turn-key” village. The original project time line was to start construction by September 1st 2006 and conclude by June 2007. The project actually finished at the end of March 2007 with cosmetic details refined until the opening one month later. This lead to a finish date Project Closeout Report Andrew South, VP Domes for the World more than three months ahead of schedule.

While the project had its own obstacles, and many lessons were learned for the future, the project was more successful than most had imagined. Generosity of individuals through WANGO, a solid relationship of trust between DFTW – WANGO, and the fore planning of the project all contributed to this fantastic result.

Lessons Learned

The following list illustrates the most important things we have learned on this project.

1. Land Procurement – One element of the project that proved the greatest source for concern to the villagers was ownership. Previous meetings and signed agreements did not always tell the whole story with this culture. We learned the importance of understanding the multiple levels of government and their responsibilities.

2. Organizational Structure – The production organization was a strong team approach with industry professionals, local subcontractors, and local workers. Thanks to terrific field leadership by Wes Haws, many local employees developed leadership roles of their own. We learned that by creating an organization filled with the local people allowed for great resourcefulness and a sense of mental ownership of the project.

3. Infrastructure – The project’s infrastructure; clean water, power, roads, drainage ways, etc. are well above the traditional standards. We learned from this project, and observation of other local communities, which infrastructure elements are most important, and to what degree. Future projects will likely see a reduction of the infrastructure needs provided to New Ngelepen.

4. Home Design and Interior Construction– The design of the housing units and the level of finish was of a high quality / nature. Given the normal living standard and lifestyle of these people we learned that future projects may be simplified by doing less with the interior home design and actual interior construction. Allowing the future residents to design and construct interiors may better suit their family needs and allow more resources to build additional units for other families. Additionally we learned that basic shelters in the future should be smaller. The basic shelter would serve as a safe “core” home which could be added to as each family needed. A smaller basic shelter would still be very adequate as a stand alone home.

5. Government Coordination – Again, we learned the importance of understanding all levels of the local governments and gaining the help and assistance of the higher levels of the government early on in the project. As a whole we had great cooperation from all levels on this project. 6. Insulation and Cooling – In final days of the project we made some general observations on the EcoShells capacity to keep cool in comparison to the traditional structures. Several of the structures were cooled for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Once cooled they took several days to return to their mean temperature. Even without cooling the EcoShells felt several degrees cooler than the conventional structures. We surmise that white coatings and good ventilation design contributed. We further anticipate that maturing shade trees will help them stay even cooler in the future. DFTW, in conjunction with the Monolithic Dome Institute, is currently experimenting with low cost ways to replicate insulation systems that will give EcoShells the similar untouchable temperature/ energy efficiencies of their big brother – the Monolithic Dome.


The local labor force caught on to the production process quicker than expected. We were also able to find a seemingly endless supply of workers. At peak production we employed over 370 local people. All this, coupled with excellent field leadership, allowed the project to progress and finish ahead of schedule. Total construction time was just under 6 months. At peak efficiency construction teams were building the equivalent of one EcoShell a day. With consideration to the items learned above, this project could be easily replicated with a construction time of 4-5 months. Depending on the level of infrastructure requirements, this project schedule could be cut down even more.


As progress reports came in during the project, it was clear that New Ngelepen would come in under the project budget. The phase II items where therefore approved, and the following list of additional items were included in the original scope and budget.

1. Creation of an elementary school
2. Creation of a new Masjid for religious worship
3. Creation of a medical clinic
4. Construction of a children’s playground
5. Significant upgrades to the site drainage plan
6. Basic Landscaping
7. Upgrades to all roads from concrete paving blocks, to traditional asphalt
8. Finished second floors in all housing units
9. Tile on floors of all Homes and MCK’s
10. Interior paint
11. Village Entry Archway
12. Sculptures and other architectural features

Future projects should likely focus the shelter “core” size around 42m2 (452 sf), and often a little smaller, depending on culture, family size, etc. Using our effective shelter cost per square meter this would yield costs just under $5,000 per basic shelter unit in this area of Indonesia.

Local Economy

One of the truly amazing elements of this production model is the boost to local economies. The vast majority of funds required to make this project a reality were poured into the local workers, vendors, service provides, etc.

Over $625,000 paid wages, fed families, and built local businesses well beyond the geographic boundaries of the village New Ngelepen. Furthermore, new skills were taught to local tradesmen and foremen.

Finally, the village itself has become a ‘point of interest,’ bringing tourists to the new modern village and making each home a storefront for retail shops (as seen in the few weeks following the ribbon cutting).

Thank you

We are grateful for those who participated in this effort with the spirit of cooperation and giving. We know some additional funds and in-kind donations were given by participants. Thanks to all for your interest and support in the people of Indonesia, and in the vision of Domes for the World!

Finishing Touches

Many things can be done to make EcoShells look unique from one another. Painting is the obvious choice.

Most people choose to leave the tops of their EcoShells white- – especially those in equatorial climates. This helps keep the interiors cool. It makes a huge difference.

We will encourage residents of New Ngelepen to paint patterns and bright colors around their homes to make them their own. Also porches, awnings and landscaping make every building more attractive.

Many times people have brought up using thatched roofs to make the EcoShells blend in with their environment. This is a perfectly good idea, and the thatching can provide more insulation and shade. However, use caution when adding extra things onto the EcoShell. Whatever is added will most likely be flammable and attract insects or rot.

We will be encouraging the villagers to make their EcoShells their own without taking away from its inherent benefits.

“Technology has thankfully shrunken our world to the extent that we can no longer ignore the plight of our neighbors and has given us the means by which we can take care of each other better. We must do that. There is really no other option.

“While building New Ngelepen, we will have the opportunity to find more sites for reconstruction and formalize methods of building new homes on existing foundations where people are still living amongst rubble.

“We will own the tools and have local crews ready to build all over the Jogja area. This is when building houses gets cheap and reconstruction efforts en masse can start.

“We will also provide newly trained crews with assistance in starting their own dome building companies."

— David B. South, Inventor of the Monolithic Dome and the Monolithic EcoShell Dome.