top of page
  • Writer's pictureTEG

May 2018 Newsletter

TEG Newsletter

We have news for you!

TEG Social – May 12th 4-7pm

May is a terrific time to gather outdoors for a barbecue with friends and associates from the earth building community. Not too windy, not too rainy, neither too hot nor too chilly—usually—no guarantees though, this is New Mexico we are talking about!

Experience has shown earth builders never lack for things to talk about; topics are as endless and varied as there are opinions on the best way to build, well, anything! The Earthbuilders’ Guild is putting it to the test again for our 2018 Spring Social, on Saturday May 12th at New Mexico Earth Adobes in Albuquerque, 310 El Pueblo Rd. NE. Burgers-both beef and veggie, beer, and good conversation!

Please join us from 4pm to 7pm for what will be an interesting and enjoyable afternoon. RSVP to, or 505-898-1271, no later than Tuesday May 8th. We look forward to seeing everyone!

Helen Levine

Highlights from Earth USA 2017 Conference

Earth USA 2017 was the Ninth International Conference on Architecture and Construction with Earthen Materials initiated by Adobe in Action. The formal conference took place from Friday, September 29 to Sunday, October 1, 2017 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Earth USA 2017 indicated a wider field of interest than previous conferences and includes adobe, rammed earth, compressed earth block (CEB) and monolithic adobe (cob). Any material or method that uses clay as a binder was considered. The 2017 conference was attended by approximately 130 people representing 14 countries. Earth USA was honored to welcome Bruce King as our keynote speaker for the 2017 conference. Bruce’s keynote presentation – The New Carbon Architecture – was open to the general public free of charge. Conference activities included:

  1. three days of podium presentations and poster sessions on topics related to the current state of architecture and construction with earthen materials

  2. a Friday evening Speaker Meet & Greet for all conference attendees sponsored by The Earthbuilders’ Guild

  3. a Monday bus tour to local earthbuilding sites of interest in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico (with stops at Fort Union National Monument, an adobe church restoration project in Mora County, and short stops in the villages of Tres Ritos, Vadito, Peñasco, Chamisal, Trampas, Truchas and Chimayo)

The next conference – Earth USA 2019 – is being planned for October 18 to 20, 2019 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The call for abstracts will be opening in August 2018. More information can be found at

Kurt Gardella

Escondido Adobe Home Tours

While adobe construction is often associated with the inland Southwest areas of New Mexico and Arizona, adobe enthusiasts might be surprised to learn that entire neighborhoods of adobe homes were built in San Diego County, California in the decades after World War II. Every spring for the last seven years, the San Diego Adobe Heritage Association has conducted tours showing the full range of these residences, from 19thcentury ranchos to astonishing (and relatively recent) adobe mansions.

Responding to increased housing demand after the war, entire adobe neighborhoods were built by developer/builders in the areas around Escondido. The most famous and prolific of these adobe builders were the Weir Brothers, whose ranch homes combined traditional rancho elements such as wagon wheels with contemporary contemporary open planning that was becoming popular in Southern California.

This year’s tour featured five houses constructed between 1951 and 1980 when the remarkable two story Muchow adobe was built by George Patterson. Patterson, who held court in the adobe’s sitting room, built some twenty adobes homes, and witnessed both the boom and in adobe construction in California to its decline in the 1980s. And while changing building regulation was responsible for the exit of the industry, it was not seismic issues that were the cause – Patterson remarked that it was actually prescriptive insulation requirements (later reformed) in early versions of California’s energy code that effectively ended adobe construction in the area.

The SDAHA has already begun planning next year’s tour, which will be held on March 24, 2019 and will feature homes in Pauma Valley. See for additional information and details.

Ben Loescher

Earth Blocks Used to Help People in Haiti

Jim has been working to bring SCEB technology to Haiti with Mike Neumann and Partners in Progress of Pittsburgh since 2009. The citizens of Deslandes were presented with options for their new school buildings and the first one was built of Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks in 2009 to 2010. It was constructed with local labor and with local materials. Nearly all building materials in Haiti are imported, making them very expensive in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Training courses were provided. The first class had nine students, the third had 54, and as a result, significant employment has been provided. Three school buildings have been completed and our trained crew is now building houses for those who need them in Deslandes. We are excited to be taking on another classroom building in Savanette Cabral, down from the mountain towards the sea. It has been our goal to provide a traveling crew to go with our donated Ital Mexicana machine (thank you, Francesco!) to other parts of the island. This is the year!

Jim Hallock

Saving the Southwest Vernacular

“Saving the Southwest Vernacular” was the title of TEG member Anne Galer’s presentation to the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation at its annual conference in Tucson in March. The AHLP is an association of architecture and cultural landscape preservation professionals from the US and Canada. Anne’s presentation discussed how the current national and international preservation systems — such as the National Register of Historic Places — exclude everyday vernacular buildings from the protections they provide. She offered examples (some from TEG members) of how local jurisdictions and individuals are working to save old adobe homes, village stores and other parts of our Southwest landscapes.

Ann Galer

Happenings from Colorado Earth

Colorado Earth is a new facility located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado. We launched in May 2018 and haven’t been bored since. We are excited to share our plans for this summer… a couple of scheduled workshops, a 3000 sqft home to build in Castle Rock, and more adobes and earth blocks to make this coming season! Our workshop scheduled in Golden, Colorado will be a unique opportunity to be part of the construction of a small structure from foundation to finish plaster, including a barrel vault for the roof. Come visit Jim and Lisa in action in Golden, we’d love to see you there.

To learn more about Colorado Earth visit

Lisa Schroder

Thinking Outside the Blocks – A Sandia National Labatory Grant and Study on CEBs

I have come to believe that looking for answers to questions such as I faced when I started down this dirty path is not for the faint of heart. Earthen material is both wonderful and, at times, maddeningly elusive in terms of simple solutions. A little too much hydration and you get block extrusion, a bit too long in the hopper and the mix won’t flow correctly, too much round aggregate and you get poor material distribution, too little pressure on the ramming stroke and you get poor edges, and on and on and on. If you think outside the blocks, you can start to answer these questions using available resources that may not be immediately apparent if you stay within your comfort zone. Get in touch with the Small Business Administration (SBA, where we are currently the recipient of a $30K grant to once again get technical assistance from SNL for a potentially game changing mode of block bonding), the MEP, your local Universities, and other organizations whose mission is to help you solve your particular problems. Once you think outside the blocks, you can begin to see the manufacturing world from the very heart of these same blocks!

John Jordan

Spring 2018 Updates from Adobe in Action

Owner Builder Support News

For 2018 Adobe in Action is supporting two different owner builder projects – one in the Silver City, NM area and one in Abiquiu, NM. The Silver City owner builders are putting the finishing touches on their adobe walls and getting ready to install a wooden bond beam. Together we have developed a new adobe wall to bond beam attachment method where geotextile straps are embedded in the mortar joint and wrapped up and over the wooden bond beam and fastened tight. Keep an eye on the owner’s project blog for some photos documenting this technique very soon. For the Abiquiu project we are currently helping the owner with his building plans (via our online project consultation system) and hope to have a permit in place for breaking ground on the foundation in June. Visit our website for more information on getting your own adobe project supported by Adobe in Action.

Education News Our 2018 online course sequence is in full swing. Six students are working their way through the current History & Basics of Adobe Construction course – collecting and testing soils and getting ready to make some first adobe test bricks. The next course in the sequence – Foundations for Adobe Structures – will be starting on May 14th. In other education news, check out our new podcast series called Mud Talks. In the series, Board President Quentin Wilson talks about the power of adobe as a building material and guides you through the process of building your own adobe home. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast here.

Adobe in Action is a New Mexico-based 501c3 non-profit organization. We support owner builders with the planning and construction of their adobe homes. We promote adobe home building and ownership through education and student-based field support.

Kurt Gardella

TEG Tour Highlights in Corrales, NM

In conjunction with our bi-monthly Board Meetings we arrange a tour of a local site. It can be a private home, a historical property, a construction sight….any earthen property of interest to TEG board members, members and guests. The tour on March 24th took us to a private home in Corrales, New Mexico constructed of rammed earth. The architect, Efthimios Maniatis was our host. TEG member, Mike Sims was the rammed earth contractor on the home.

Pat Bellestri-Martinez

The Armijo House

The grand and iconic two-story adobe Nestor Armijo House* in Las Cruces, New Mexico has been undergoing careful stabilization and rehabilitation for several years as a part of a collaborative community process. The original home was built between 1865 and 1867. The project has revealed new information about the history and building chronology of the house. Saving the building has required state of the art adobe stabilization techniques and innovative engineering solutions, along with application of traditional materials.

When preservation efforts began in 2009, the west side of the building was in a state of near structural collapse, presenting very significant structural challenges. The building was suffering from:

  1. Systemic weakening from structural modifications conducted in 1914 and 1980

  2. Longterm water issues from ongoing leaking landscape irrigation

  3. Concrete patches, collars, sidewalks, and cement plaster retaining moisture and driving salts

  4. Extensive and unnecessary interior HVAC trenching undermining interior adobe walls

  5. Inadequate grading

  6. Shallow eaves with ineffective gutters

Preservation contractor and TEG Member, Pat Taylor in consultation with project engineers Fred Webster and Sonya Cooper sought to stabilize and support the structure in place, using established basal wall stabilization best practices and careful adobe wall reconstruction. Concrete was carefully removed from around the building as stabilization progressed, including sidewalks, concrete collars, and concrete patches. Cement plaster and elastomeric coatings were also removed, and were replaced with permeable mud and lime renders. Original materials were used throughout, including unstabilized adobes, mud plaster, and lime plaster.

It is home to the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce. Visitors are welcome during Chamber hours.

Eric Liefeld

TEG Members are welcome to send in articles for our next newsletter. Please contact Pat at for more information.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page