Our inspiration in Brazil – Ecocentro IPEC

by | Apr 23, 2019 | Ecocentro Ipec, Natural Building, Permaculture, Sustainable Living | 5 comments

Ecocentro IPEC is an ecological centre that is snuggled in the valley of Mar de Guerra in Pirenopolis, Goais, the savannah of Brazil. It’s one of a kind. A giant dome of more than 200 unfired bricks will greet you. And if you’re lucky enough to spend the night, a thousand stars will light your way.

In the beginning…

Ecocentro IPEC (Instituto de Permacultura e Ecovilas do Cerrado) was loving founded by Lucia Legan and Andre Soares. And walking with them the whole way was Laila Helena, only a small kid at the time.  In the beginning the task looked a little daunting, as the vision was huge, trying to create a permaculture reference centre that would inspire people to tread lightly on this planet.

It was a simple beginning. The small shack housed around 300 bats and quite a few rats. First things first, take them back to the forest.

When we started Ecocentro IPEC people imagined that we would be living a forest or a coastal plot. I mean you are in Brazil, right?! But Andre ignored his temptation to settle into a natural forest and followed his gut feeling by purchasing a piece of land that was degraded, cow trodden and strangely silent. Not many birds or animals in the area apart from barking dogs. Andre wanted to demonstrate that in fact, humans could have a positive footprint.

Ecocentro IPEC in 1999, then a mere ten years later – 2009.

Lucy put her love of planting into action. With a stream of volunteers and in a relatively short time the area was reforested. This positively affected the area and people were drawn to reforest their own parcel of land. The “wow” effect continued when people walked through the centre.

Natural Buildings

Building with soil is a continual passion of Andre’s. In 2001, Andre introduced the concept of natural building in the form of a course called Bioconstruindo. Now don’t get me wrong, Brazil has a long history of building a type of wattle and daub house. Yet this was seen as an inferior form of housing. So, Andre and the Ecocentro team decided to change this concept by showing people how houses made of soil could be superior to concrete structures in form, comfort and style.

dome 1

This dome is made from over 200,000 unfired bricks. It sits about 150 people comfortably. 

As a group, we understood the need for permaculture design to be both functional, culturally relevant and artistic. We have taken inspiration from great designers such as Gaudi, Hassan Fathy, Frank Lloyd Wright and the historical wonders of settlement design like the Incas, the Persians and the Sub Saharan tribes. And most of all, from nature.

art struc 1

Fusing art with functionality – Ecocentro IPEC. 

Ecocentro IPEC now demonstrates various natural building techniques and models that are low cost, energy efficient, use local materials and are beautiful. We have more than 8500 sq. metres of ecological buildings, composting toilets, biological waste water treatment, ecological gardens, food forests and many replicable technologies developed with the interaction of communities that represent solutions for social transformation. Some of the building techniques that you will see at Ecocentro include:

• Superabode, also known as earth bag building and adobe which is among the earliest building techniques, and is used throughout the world.

• Rammed earth exists historically in nearly every country in the world;

• Cob building and light clay building.

In community

With the support of P.A.L and Ali Sharif, our living and learning community were able to  train people in permaculture design, organic agriculture and natural building from the USA, Australia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, all regions of Brazil and other countries of Latin America. Our program Escola Sustentável has gone to schools throughout Brazil. Watch the interview with Ali Sharif, a permacultute pioneer with Wesley Roe here.

If you would like to see more photos, follow our instagram: Ecocentroipec

Thanks to the amazing gmestro who really understood our vibe.


  1. Maggie

    Your work is magnificent.Can you give me some ideas on how to start a project like that in Haiti.

    • Lucy Legan

      Hi Maggie, I think that the hardess part was finding the right land. We then pitched our ideas and started to receive small fund from the USA. Once people saw the small acheivements we started looking for larger funds. We actually had a group from Haiti do some training at the Ecocentro many years back 🙂



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  2. Want to get more for less? Design with Principles – Planet Schooling - […] 2004, at Ecocentro Ipec, we decided to use concrete manholes instead of wooden frames in the superadobe building.  We…
  3. Can children create a permaculture design? – Planet Schooling - […] of course!  Teachers from various public schools in Pirenopolis, Goais invited the NGO – Ecocentro IPEC, in which I am…
  4. Free resources for permaculture living and Homeschooling during these challenging times – Planet Schooling - […] are a compilation of our 30 years of permaculture experience. Our team has experience working in Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, USA, Haiti, China…
  5. Welcome – Planet Schooling - […] vision is now demonstrated by the widely successful experience at Ecocentro IPEC. Many people from 5 years old to 80…
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