TEG 2012 Honorary Lifetime Member – Joe Tibbets
Joe is a native of Southern California, who came to New Mexico in the late 50’s to attend the University of NM in Albuquerque. He spent summers back in California fighting fires on the Cleveland and Sierra National Forests, on Hot Shot Crews, which provided the means to pay his way through his University years. In those days, everyone had to serve in the military, and Joe was on board ship for most of his Navy service time, except for his attendance at the Illustrator/Drafting School at Port Hueneme, California. He recalls that he owes much of his current drafting abilities to that school which led to his first Earthbuilding job, as a draftsman for the Jim Schull Construction Company in North Albuquerque.
“Working with the Schull crew in 1965 was my first real taste of Adobe work” says Joe. “On that crew everyone tried to learn as many skills as possible, so that if anyone was sick, someone else could step in to keep things rolling”. Because I was in the office, I got stuck doing payroll on Friday afternoons and if someone didn’t make it to work, I’d be out nailing up decking or laying adobes with the rest of the crew. It was great work and very positive work and that helped my drafting, because I could see how the houses were built and then could draft them the way the crew understood them.”
Later in Tucson, Arizona, Joe landed a job with the University of Arizona Press. On the job director’s shelf was a book, still unpublished called “Adobe, Build it Yourself”, by P.G. McHenry. Says Joe, “They didn’t know how to put that book together, and because I was from NM, I talked them into letting me work with McHenry to help put it together”. McHenry’s book sold well and has been republished several times. That experience led the way to Joe starting Adobe News in 1973 and continued with his later magazine publishing on Adobe Codes, Adobe Today and Adobe Builder. The Earthbuilders’ Encyclopedia came along later in 1987 as a print book and became a CD for its second edition a few years later.
In 1994, Honduran architects and Engineers visited Albuquerque to see what all of the new interest was about concerning adobe. They wanted to build Adobe schoolhouses in Honduras, 101 of them to be exact. They had backing from USAID to pursue this task. Honduras has an old and respected adobe tradition. Joe was fortunate to head up a team of educators to ally with the Honduran Ministry of Education under Olga Mendes and with some of the leading architects and engineers in Honduras. The effort led to a series of week-long seminars in Honduras, using both adobe and compressed earth block. Says Joe, “we all learned as much from our Honduran neighbors as they did from us- it was a great time”.
Today, Joe spends most of his time drafting for Earthen construction. “Working up a good set of drawings for an earthen project is a big hurdle for many hopeful builders”, he says. “The need for less expensive drafting for smaller homes is very great right now, and more projects would get done if more plans were available”.