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TEG Newsletter - Issue #15

Next Board Meeting &

TEG Tour Albuquerque, NM

Our next Board meeting will be an in person meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at 9:00am. Our Tour will be held on Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm. We will be touring an Adobe home construction site. Win DeLapp’s project is a single-story adobe, 3250 sq. ft. of heated space, 3 bd, 3 bath, with an attached guest room w/bath. The project is about halfway completed.

If you are interested in attending send us an email for further information – Please RSVP by November 17th. Pat 575-644-8099 or email at: We will have a no-host lunch at a local restaurant at 11:30 a.m. Let us know if you would like to join us.

Pat Martinez Rutherford - TEG Board Member


TEG Tour October 2, 2021 Albuquerque, New Mexico

Site #1: 1,850 sq ft adobe residence, designed and built by Kenny DeLapp and Esther Fredrickson, Albuquerque Joinery. This modest home, on a quirky dead-end street in the North Valley, is a pueblo style adobe, with a wandering floor plan and many exterior corners. It was designed to be a natural addition to the neighborhood, paying homage to the many historic adobes in the Los Griegos neighborhood while not being overly imitative. Plans for the house were drawn up last winter, and work began in May.

Site #2: Matt Pacheco, builder, MRP “Lizard King” Design & Construction. The house project is a casita addition with a complete remodel, all adobe, 4 phases of construction, all new mechanical, plumbing and about 90% new electrical. House was originally built in the 70’s. The project is now in phase 3 and final phase 4.

Our next tour on Saturday afternoon, November 20th is guaranteed to be another good one. If you are in the area and would like to attend send your request to Pat at or call her at 575-644-8099.

Pat Martinez Rutherford

TEG Board Secretary/Membership



Building a Modern Adobe ~ by Stevie Love

Brick By Brick is a hardbound book, measuring 11½” x 9¼” at 101 pages. It is printed on a quality coated paper that gives good resolution to its many color photos and other graphic details. The cover is bold and well designed. The back cover features color photos and an encouraging summary by essayist Shanna Nys Dambrot, whose dedication of the book appears on pages 7 and 8.

It is encouraging to see this book appear at this critical time for Adobe construction in California. Over recent years, earthbuilding activity has dwindled in the Golden State. The demise of the Hans Sumpf Company, which had supplied high quality adobe to California adoberos for over a half-century, was a shock to the Earthbuilding trade in Southern California, where the major market existed. Cut off from a supply of adobes, the scattered masonry outlets in the Southland could no longer supply local builders. But that wasn't the only tough call that came along: things weren't helped when energy code changes arrived.

Unlike New Mexico, where new energy codes had been largely dealt with in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, both California and Southern Arizona escaped these disruptions- but only for awhile. Cold winter climates were first to see these code changes and milder winter climates came last. When they did arrive, California adobe builders were thrown off base. And If that weren't enough, California had lost its premier seismic engineer. Dr. Fred Webster, an expert on the design of earthen homes in seismic zones, died several years ago. Doctor Fred, as some of us dubbed him, had been the key to permitting a number of large California adobe projects.

However, without a supply to buy from, tenacious builders will make their own adobes. Certainly, Bruce and Stevie Love are among them. It is rare to see an owner-builder couple that has the planning and fortitude to make 14,500 full sized adobes (8x4x16”) and build walls 24” thick. Of course, one must have a crew. But all too often, we see the contractor or architect somewhat glorified and the hard working crew sidelined or forgotten. In Brick by Brick, author Stevie Love credits all of the help, along with photos of the workers and crafts folk who joined in this worthy project. This positive and generous energy flows throughout the book as it did during the building of the home.

What I like most about the book is its approach to getting info to the hopeful builder. Rather than lots of words, with too few pictures, Brick by Brick has lots of pictures with the words serving to clarify what is seen in them. The 17 chapters follow this theme of quality color photos of the important steps with descriptions that explain the pictures.

Another handy aspect are the Resources pages towards the end of the book. This listing will be a help to the owner builder (or contractor) trying to locate supplies or services critical to building an adobe structure in California. Researching where to find a particular item can take days, even with the best search engines. This is the first California adobe book to list help sources.

It is also the first California adobe book giving credit to Passive Solar Design in an adobe structure. Stevie had constructed a scale model of the home and knew how to orient it southward during the different seasons. She and Bruce could check the model to verify that the south side would welcome winter sun at their high desert location- but also to document that needed shade was on that same south side during the hot days of summer in the Mojave.

I would only fault the small lettering or numerals on some of the keys to photos. they are easy to read on the computer screen, but become small on the printed page. In a few cases, the binding manages to hide a few words or parts of photos.

If you want to build your own adobe in California, or anywhere in the desert Southwest, this book should be in your library. Owner-builders are often the least prepared to take on an earth building project. In this case, the Loves were well prepared and offer good advice to the beginning builder. Even with a much smaller project, the steps required will be similar to what the Loves experienced. Brick by Brick is also a good resource for anyone planning an adobe yard in California.

We hope you will be reading this book!

ISBN 978-1-7325519-2-3


where Stevie's shopping cart is located.

Review by Joe Tibbets - TEG Honorary Lifetime Member


An Update on Recent Activities at Adobe in Action

Seventeen students are currently working their way through Adobe in Action's final online class of 2021 - Floors for Adobe Structures. After completing a series of lumber projects (various wooden boxes), the students will be ready to install a series of small earthen test floors as part of their final projects.

Adobe in Action will be celebrating its 11th year of offering online classes in 2022. The full 2022 class schedule can be found at The first online class of 2022 - Passive Solar Adobe Design - will be starting on Monday, January 3rd and still has registration spots available.

In addition to Adobe in Action's online classes, Pat Taylor led an Intro to Adobe Preservation field class for the organization in Mesilla, NM in early October. Adobe in Action is planning to repeat this class again in the spring of 2022. Keep an eye on the AinA website for more information.

Kurt Gardella - TEG Board Member


Santa Fe Community College

Adobe Program Updates

Instructor Ernest Aragon recently led a group of students from the Adobe Wall Construction class on an horno rebuild project at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. The group will return to the site at the end of November to add plaster layers to the reconstructed horno to finish the project. The Spring 2022 SFCC Adobe Construction Program schedule of classes can be found here. The live-instruction portion of the spring Finish Practices class will be led by natural plaster specialist Issac Logsdon.

Kurt Gardella - TEG Board Member


SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (cont.)

In my last installment (July 2021), I mentioned that there would probably be test results to share by the time of this newsletter. I hope not to disappoint but, as always, some things are beyond my control and so with that, I will relate to you the current situation.

As of this newsletter, both the thermal testing (ASTM E119 Fire Resistance Test) and the structural shear testing have been carried out. I will discuss these separately and what the next steps are for each.

The thermal testing went forward on October 7th , with a fairly well re-engineered burn box. The Sandia engineers ramped up the number of burners (from the 2020 fire test) from 3 to 16! The number of burners putting heat into the burn box seemed to satisfy their calculations regarding the thermal load that was needed to get up to the prescribed temperature for the test, which is 1000°C (1800°F). If you recall, in 2020 the small number of burners provided just enough thermal energy to get the temperature up to approximately 650°C, and therefore the test was a failure. So, we built another 100 f² test wall using our same epoxy bonding method in early August and waited for the go-ahead from the engineers that they were ready for the test. The test day came and I showed up to a set of glum faces on the engineers and techs at the Sandia burn site. The temperature was not only too low, it wasn’t even up to the temperature from 2020! The Sandia folks were chagrined to see that the temperature started out around 600°C and then steadily decreased over the 4 hours test down to around 450°C. Another complete failure! The Sandia folks definitely understood why this was happening, but once again, the funding had run out and there was no option to re-jigger the burn box to get the correct temperature, so the results were final. The New Mexico SBA folks were appraised of this situation and said that there was no further funding available on this particular project so that was that. The short and sweet explanation was that there were too many burners going at once, so that lowered the gas pressure feeding the burners (= lower thermal output), and the drawdown rate of the propane tank was lowering the temperature of the liquid propane leading to lower pressure in the tank (= lower thermal output) and there was too large of an opening for all those burners allowing too much fresh air into the burn box (= lower thermal buildup), and then chimney opening at the top of the burn box had no damper so that the hot gasses could not be controlled within the burn box (= lower thermal buildup). In other words, most of their re-jiggering had introduced new problems that made the situation worse.

The outer side of the burn box showing the 16 burners that have been fitted. Notice the small gas supply lines (blue) that are actually split from one main supply line of the same size for all 16 burners.


The inner side of the burn box showing the 16 burners that have been fitted. Notice the large opening where the burners enter the burn box plenum. Also, while somewhat hard to make out, is the large opening at the top of the burn box with no control to dampen it.


This is an image of the wall post testing, including the water spraying that is a mandatory part of the test. There is literally no damage visible on the wall, although we did not expect that there would be given the lower than required temperature. The reflection at the bottom of the image is the standing water left over from the water spray.


So, to recap, the test failed for several reasons, and it appeared that there was no option to try to fix these problems within the budget for the project.

Not so fast. Once we all, myself and my partners, the Sandia engineers, and the NM SBA folks, put our heads together we came up with Plan B. The wall is being left in place until sometime around February of next year. In the meantime, another company of ours, Paverde LLC, has requested a single round of funding to “Request consultation on burner system design and operation for ASTM E119 Testing. Deliverables will include system design in report and slide format as well as demonstration of performance for burner system”, which will be executed between now and the end of the year. At the beginning of next year, the company we are currently doing this test under, EarthTek LLC, will request another round of funding to complete the fire test. So, we are still hopeful that we will get a fully realized, fully completed ASTM E119 Fire Resistance Test. Third time’s a charm as they say!

And now a brief description of the structural testing. We know that we need to understand just what kind of forces our system can withstand, specifically so that we can embark on construction using this method with safety and surety. Our company, NeoTerra LLC, is the one leading this testing with Sandia Labs. Jim Moore, principal of NeoTerra, using his mechanical engineering background, designed a test apparatus that, in theory, should allow us to test a small, 2’x2’x1’ wall piece for shear strength. Dan Powell of EarthTek fabricated the design, and I built the wall pieces (we made two so that we could run two tests to determine consistency) that would be tested. All went well up to the point where we were loading the second test piece onto a trailer. There was a problem with the hydraulics on the tractor that we were using to lift the article and the piece dropped to the ground from a height of about 5 feet. The damage could no be repaired, but we carried on with the single piece. The Sandia geomechanical engineers ran the test successfully and sent us some pictures along with some preliminary data.


Test wall piece with the testing apparatus being affixed to it. The shear test was designed to exert force vertically in the wall piece exactly as it is shown here, from corner to corner, top to bottom. This should, theoretically, provide a valid shear value based on the size and form of the wall.


Test wall piece that was accidentally dropped from a 5 foot height. The test apparatus was intact but the metal edges that were attached to the wall were shocked loose and the block wall itself, weighing approx. 500 lbs, suffered pretty serious damage, although it did hold together pretty well all things considered! Oops!


The Sandia testing apparatus. This is a million pound press, with the capability of detecting a 1 pound difference in force! The upper ram pushes down and the test will be stopped as soon as the sensors detect failure, since the goal is to determine the absolute value of the shear strength and not the residual strength of the broken wall.


Success! As you can see, the wall broke along the projected lines of shear force, basically parallel to the line, just to the left of the crack, we drew on the blocks indicating where we thought it might break. We will be forthcoming with the actual values of the shear forces once we are sure of the results.So, we have proposed to the Sandia engineer on the project that we quickly put together two more test wall pieces, reuse the metal test device, deliver the two pieces to the lab and run two more tests before the end of the year. They are on board, as are the NM SBA folks, and so we will have further news about this testing in my next report. Ever onward!

John Jordan - TEG Board Member


Earthen Legends

TEG has begun a project of compiling bios/stories of those people who have contributed to our industry over the years. We are interested in receiving bios from anyone who can add to our library of knowledge in a salute to those who make up the history of earthen construction. Send your submissions to

Criteria for submissions to Earthen Legends:

  1. One whose profession was in the field of earthen construction – building homes, commercial buildings, adobe making, rammed earth, compressed earth blocks, scebs and manufacturing of materials and products used in earthen construction.

  2. In the field of education – teaching earthen construction

  3. Authors on the subject of earthen buildings/materials/architecture.

  4. Architects, engineers, and designers of earthen construction.


TEG Board of Directors Position Open

The Board has an opening available for a seat on the Board of Directors. We meet 6 times a year at varying locations in New Mexico - primarily Albuquerque. Over the last year we have been meeting via Zoom. The position provides for many opportunities to network, keep informed, visit earth building sites, and work with committed industry professionals. Please submit your qualifications and a letter of interest to

If you have any questions, please ask. We would welcome your participation. For your perusal, minutes from our meetings are posted on TEG’s website:

Request for Photos

TEG is in the process of revamping our website. We are seeking photos to use on the website. If you have photos representing your work, earthen construction, or earthen buildings we would welcome them. Please include a description and credit the photographer if available.

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