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  • Writer's pictureTEG

TEG Newsletter – Issue 11

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Codes and Standards Notes

Despite complications from the C19 pandemic which have complicated work for many organizations, we are happy to report that earthen code and standards development continues. A few notes and updates from around the United States: SCEB Mix Design Standard: The Earthen Construction Initiative (ECI) will soon begin development of research to inform standards for the mixes used in Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks (SCEBs). While SCEB construction has enormous promise as a cost-effective, low-carbon building material, design professionals and contractors have lacked scientificly derived guidance on how and where to procure and process materials for optimal mixes. Upon completion, the Standard is expected to streamline fabrication and engineering, allowing wider adoption of SCEB construction in the United States and beyond. ASTM Guide for the Design of Earthen Floors: An ASTM working group including representatives from ECI, EarthEnable, The Development Center for Appropriate Technology continues to develop an ASTM standard for earthen floors. Building on work initiated by EarthEnable to improve housing conditions in Rwanda, once completed the standard is expected to provide guidance on material selection, design criteria, installation, indoor environmental quality and sustainable deployment. The groups work is supported in part by a grant from The Earthbuilders’ Guild. International Code Council Schedule: The International Code Council (ICC) is the organzation that develops and publishes the International Building and Residential Codes, including the national codes that govern adobe and cob construction in most states. The deadline for code change proposals for these sections will be January 10, 2022 so that they can be evaluated over the course of that summer and fall. Please contact TEG if you are interested in joining us as we continue to expand and improve our earthen building codes! Ben Loescher – TEG Board Member


Earth Building UK and Ireland are taking their annual Clayfest ONLINE! This is the very opposite of where Clayfest comes from, a chance to develop conversations with clay or a trowel in hand as well as the skills that pass there are opportunities to network with a big group of likeminded people from near and far. But don’t despair, going online means speakers we couldn’t hope to bring from Africa, America North and South as well as nearer to home Ireland and the UK. And you can join us too, wherever you are! So welcome, we hope this can bring some skills, knowledge and understanding of what is going on in heritage, new build, design, research, standards and training, a full range of skills in building and building skills When you join this Clayfest you can stay ‘in the hall’ right through or dip in and out and listen to the bits you think are most relevant to you, you’ll get a link to the recording after the event too. But the Clayfest spirit is also to bump into things you never expected, learn about topics you thought irrelevant which suddenly take a shape and significance you never expected. Take a look at the speakers below and come and find out what is going on in this and other corners of the earth…

Rowland Keable – Earth Building UK


Large test wall ready for the next steps for the ASTM E119 test procedure. The red points are where fire resistance caulking was applied to chink small through holes.

SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (Cont.)

Large test wall ready for the next steps for the ASTM E119 test procedure. The red points are where fire resistance caulking was applied to chink small through holes. SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (Cont.)

Since my last report in July 2020, we have been busy wrestling with the multiple issues of how to manage a large scale (for testing purposes) wall build in an enclosed test facility that is designed to handle the heat stresses of the ASTM E119 fire resistance testing regimen. What we have found is that perseverance is the bottom line when it comes to driving forward on this level of testing, probably the same conclusion that countless others in similar situations have arrived at, but nonetheless, it is applicable to our little test. As a recap, we, Paverde LLC and four other small businesses located in New Mexico, as a group petitioned for and received $80k in research grant funding from the NM Small Business Administration (NMSBA) to be spent at Sandia National Labs here in Albuquerque to perform an ASTM E119 fire resistance test on our proprietary method of construction using SCEBs and non-cementitious, epoxy based bonding materials. We are nearly at the end of the funding period which runs from January 1st through December 15th, unlike purely US Government organizations which have the standard October 1st through September 30th funding cycles. This is important since it definitely affected the availability of the Sandia engineers and scientists.

As we have progressed in this test, perhaps the most vexing issue has been the fact that as a grantee, we, Paverde,, have no leverage in when, how, or why the Sandia engineers work on our project, primarily due to the fact that any of these folks that help us do so on a voluntary basis. Not to say that they work for free, but rather they peel out time from their regularly assigned tasks and devote some amount of time to our project which they are able to charge time against. While this approach is the very heart of the NMSBA grant program, it is also a two-edged sword in that as a grantee we cannot dictate the specifics of the assistance that the Sandia folks provide. We ran afoul of that when the COVID issues caused a ripple effect with the folks who are helping us. They had to juggle several things at once regarding their time availability which caused them to have to devote more than anticipated time to their formal projects while putting our project on the backburner. It was not a project killer, but it did set us back tremendously for the timelines that we had projected at the beginning of the year for milestone activity completion.

At this time, the middle of November, we are awaiting the small-scale testing of a 2x2x1 wall segment that we had hoped to have done by the end of September so that initial results would guide us in overcoming any construction or methodology issues before construction of the large (11’ wide x 9’ tall x 1’ thick) wall. At this point, because we are running out of time, we went ahead and built the large wall, and we hope that any discovered issues when we test the small wall are manageable. We anticipate the small wall fire test to happen around the week of Thanksgiving. The large wall test is scheduled for the week of December 7th. With fingers crossed, this should just give us enough time to coalesce the results into a definitive report.

The construction of the small wall (see image) gave some indication of how well the large wall could be constructed. One of the most challenging aspects of our construction method is the operational speed that must be maintained due to set times of the bonding materials we are pioneering. In the construction of the small wall, we had the luxury of being able to reach any area of the structure just by moving a bit, but once we commenced construction of the large wall it took on the same challenges as any large build, needing scaffolding and staging of materials as well as the complete attention of the workers. I enlisted the assistance of Mr. Matteo Pacheco, of MRP Design and Construction, a current member of TEG, to lead and provide experience with construction methods to help with the construction of the large wall. With his help and insight, we were able to accomplish the large wall build (see image) while also figuring out some of the operational challenges and making decisions about how best to manage the operational part of this approach in the real world. It was a voyage of discovery indeed!

The next installment of this series should be the last. We hope to have some solid answers regarding our construction approach, but we also hope to have the knowledge that SCEBs are a valid option for rapid earthen construction. See you soon!

Left: Matteo Pacheco and John Jordan celebrating the finished large test wall completion. Right: Small test wall ready for transport to the Sandia Labs test facility. Wooden structures are for stability during moving and for lifting once on site.


Testing different clays for floor finish coats.

An Update on Fall 2020 Adobe in Action Activities

Twelve students are currently working their way through Adobe in Action’s final online class of 2020 – Floors for Adobe Structures. The students are getting ready to complete their midterm projects – making a small test floor box out of wood which will be used in a later week of the course to test various earthen floor types and finishes. Adobe in Action will be celebrating its 10th year of offering online classes in 2021. The spring 2021 class schedule is now online and can be found at In addition to our online classes, we continue to offer project support to four owner builders who have all completed our online adobe certificate and have begun working on their home builds. Finally, check out our latest Mud Talks podcast episode at

Kurt Gardella – TEG Board Member


An Update on Earthbuilding Activities in Germany

My colleagues over at the Dachverband Lehm (German Earthbuilding Association) asked me to pass the following message on through the TEG Newsletter:

Dear Colleagues,

On the occasion of the LEHM 2020 – 8th International Conference on Building with Earth, we are pleased to present the entire conference programme online in German and English.

While the LEHM 2020 has been cancelled due to the rapidly developing coronavirus situation, the knowledge and expertise of the presenters and contributors can still be made available for the benefit of the earth building community.

The online conference contains each of the presentations available to download as PDF files in German and English. The topics range from modern earth building, current norms and research and innovative product developments to sustainability and conservation in earth building:

All the conference papers and posters are also available collected together in a bilingual digital conference proceedings. The USB-Stick also contains the entire conference proceedings form the preceding LEHM conferences in 2004, 2008, 20012, and 2016. Full details in the DVL shop:

published by: section of public relations Dachverband Lehm e.V.

Kurt Gardella – TEG Board Member


Two more Certifications Issued – TEG’s Adobe Proficiency Exam

Congratulations to Ernest Aragon of Albuquerque, and Rob Taylor of Alto, New Mexico, on completing the Earthbuilders’ Guild Adobe Proficiency Certification. The exams were held in Albuquerque, at New Mexico Earth Adobes, on a beautiful September day – we were very fortunate in the weather! Quentin Wilson acted as proctor.

TEG upheld the NM Dept of Health requirements re Covid-19 in multiple ways: Fewer than 5 people in attendance, both the written exam and the practicum were held outdoors, and participants were masked. Although this was awkward at times the steps were worth taking to protect all present, and will be kept in place for future exams until no longer needed.

The next exams will be in the Spring, once again in Albuquerque — visit TEG’s website for further information.

Helen Levine TEG Board Member – Certification Committee


Is it time to renew your membership? Won’t you consider joining and supporting our efforts!

TEG has acted as a bridge between different regions and earthen specialties, building a community around our common interests in knowledge-sharing and the growth of the earthen construction market. TEG’s accomplishments include extensive work with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division on codes pertaining to earthen construction. This includes a comprehensive adobe code as well as the first rammed earth and compressed earth block codes in the United States, and ongoing work with the New Mexico Historic Earthen Building Materials Code. With Cornerstones Community Partnerships and Adobe in Action, TEG developed a curriculum and proficiency certification program for adobe construction, the first of its kind in the United States. To provide consumers, contractors, suppliers and designers clear standards for appropriate practice, TEG established a Code of Ethics for those working within the earthen construction industry. To increase the profile of earthen construction, TEG has conducted dozens of public tours of earthen buildings. TEG has provided reoccurring financial support for Earth USA, the premier earthen design and preservation conference in the United States. TEG has funded research and development programs to advance our understanding of earthen building performance. Grants have included monies to the Cob Research Institute, and a Colorado Earth initiative, both with the intention of better understanding energy performance and fire resistance of earthen wall systems. Provided peer review and testified in support of the Cob Research Institute’s Monolithic Adobe (Cob) appendix to the International Residential Code. Authored and obtained approval for new International Building Code provisions that now permit the use of clay plaster, lime plaster, and cement lime plaster, as well as introducing minimum finish permeability standards for wall finishes. Created and maintained an extensive website with Earthen resources, contacts and news. Held meetings every two months with an eight-member Board of Directors who represent a broad spectrum of individuals connected to the earthen industry whose commitment ranges from 11years to 3 years on the Board. We are now meeting via Zoom. Collaborated with Vista Grande High School in Taos, New Mexico to educate and certify students in Basic Adobe Proficiency. Facilitated communications between earth-associated nonprofit organizations that includes Adobe in Action, Mesilla Valley Preservation, Earthen Construction Initiative, and Cornerstones Community Partnerships. Pat Martinez Rutherford – The Earthbuilders’ Guild

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