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TEG Newsletter - Issue #16

TEG Newsletter - Issue #16

We have news for you!

TEG Tours Report - January 15, 2022

As with every Tour TEG offers, this one particularly highlighted, as participant, Tracey Enright, Executive Director of Cornerstones, put it “a wonderful compare and contrast of passions for earthbuilding – preservation of an important part of a community’s heritage and realizing the nearly life-long dream with a newly built structure.”

Our first stop was Old Corrales Schoolhouse. This is thought to have been the first schoolhouse in Sandoval County, in use from 1870 to 1925. It has gone through many iterations, most recently as a private residence, before John Perea embarked on his restoration project. “We tear down and modify to the point where you can hardly recognize a place. We are doing the reverse; we are taking it back,” says John. His plan is to make it a living museum, and a meeting place for community groups. We look forward to watching the progress of this building by TEG member, Rick Catanach and his crew. Someday we hope to hold our Board meeting there!

The 2nd Stop on TEG Tour was the newly completed adobe home built by Danny Martinez and his family. The retirement dream home for the Burns family is 2,700 sq. ft interior space and 3,700 sq ft. on the exterior (due to 14” thick adobe exterior walls, plus 4” rigid insulation panels). Some interior walls are 14” thick adobe, some are frame/wallboard, all are fully real plastered. Wood floors (Red Oak slats) over crawl space grace the home. All interior floors are radiantly heated. Floors are insulated with 12” batting. All windows are Pella triple paned except the very largest due to weight limitations. 10Kw of solar PV is on roof of garage with upgrades of battery storage coming. A Trombe wall on the south side of the home contributes to the energy efficiency of the home. The details in finish work shine throughout the home as seen in these photos.

TEG Tours are open to the public and are usually held every two months on the same day as our Board Meeting. Watch for announcements on our website or sign up to receive our email notices. We guarantee you will be exposed to hidden earthen treasurers around the state of New Mexico!

Pat Martinez Rutherford - TEG Board Member


After many months of work, we are just about to reveal TEG’s new website! (It may be up as you read this, or within a few days of being live!) We created our website ten years ago. An update was certainly due. We invite you to visit and give us your feedback. What would you like to see added? What did you find hard to find? Any and all critique is welcome. If you have not spent time looking through the website, we invite you to do so. The resources that this one website holds are impressive. With that said we realize there is much that can be added and improved on. We ask your patience in doing that. The Board of Directors of TEG is an all-volunteer group of people dedicated to the advancement and betterment of earthen construction. We work at the pace that we are able to. But no doubt this group is dedicated and committed.

With the new website comes a new Membership Joining/Renewal system. You will be receiving a letter from me when it is time for your renewal. You will be directed to go to the website and sign in with your email. From there it will look like you are joining for the first time. But do not fear, the record of when you initially joined is preserved in our records. If you have any issues, please contact me and I will work through it with you in anyway necessary. Zoom with screen sharing works great.

For those of you who are not a member, now is the time to join. Your support through your membership is important - it shows that earthen construction is important.

Reach out to us with your ideas, questions, resources, and information. Tell us who you are, what your connection to earthen construction is and use your membership to promote what you do.

Pat Martinez Rutherford

TEG Board Member, Secretary, Membership & Website Admin


Natural Building Proposals Being Considered

for National Building Codes

Building Code proposals for the 2024 International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) will be considered at two hearings this March and September. Of particular note to earthen building practitioners will be proposals being advanced by the Cob Research Institute (CRI) and US Hemp Building Association (USHBA). CRI has submitted proposals to improve language and gain recognition for fire resistance for cob materials within Monolithic Adobe/Cob Appendix AU. USHBA is seeking recognition for hemp-lime (aka "hempcrete") insulation systems which have been used successfully in Europe and which hold great promise as a fire resistant, carbon negative exterior insulation system for earthen mass walls.

Full public proposals will be available for review on February 24th on CDPAccess. TEG will provide additional updates and analysis of the code proposals in our next newsletter.

Ben Loescher - TEG Board President


An Update on Recent Activities

at Adobe in Action

Sixteen students are currently working their way through Adobe in Action's first online class of 2022 - Passive Solar Adobe Design. After completing their midterm projects - drawing a preliminary floor plan - the students are now sizing their passive solar system glazing and getting ready to run heat gain and heat loss calculations to tweak performance. Adobe in Action is celebrating its 11th year of offering a full online adobe certificate. The full 2022 class schedule can be found at In addition to the online program, Adobe in Action is offering two live-instruction workshops this spring: Intro to Adobe Preservation Format: Live-Instruction Workshop in and around Mesilla, NM Dates: April 9 & 10, 2022 Workload: 8 hours per day (9am to 5pm) Instructor: Pat Taylor Owner Builder Support - Natural Plastering Format: Live-Instruction Workshop in Santa Fe, NM Dates: May 21 & 22, 2022 Workload: 8 hours per day (9am to 5pm) Instructor: Issac Logsdon Visit the Adobe in Action website for more info on these two workshops. In other news, Adobe in Action has begun a special eight-part podcast miniseries dedicated to the topic of preserving earthen architecture. In the first episode of the miniseries (Episode 15-1) we speak to historical architect Randy Skeirik and Jake Barrow from Cornerstones Community Partnerships about the use of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties in connection with earthen structures. Listen to the first episode of the miniseries at Kurt Gardella - TEG Board Member


Santa Fe Community College

Adobe Program Updates

The fall 2021 semester closed out with students led by instructor Ernest Aragon returning to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden to complete their work on reconstructing two hornos. This phase of the project focused on adding plaster layers to the hornos. A full summary of the project can be found at:

The spring 2022 semester is up and running with a first online course - Roof Design and Construction. Two more courses will be offered starting in mid-March. The Finish Practices class will include two weekends of live instruction led by natural plaster specialist Issac Logsdon. The full SFCC Adobe Construction Program schedule of classes can be found at:

Kurt Gardella - TEG Board Member



The Earthbuilders’ Guild is offering the next certification exam on Saturday May 14th, 2022. The written portion will be held in the morning, followed by the practicum in the afternoon of the same day.

The exam is currently planned for Albuquerque, NM, although it may be relocated depending on participants who enroll for the exam.

Exam objectives:
to encourage the development of adobe construction professionals.
to recognize adobe builders’ competency at the basic professional level and create incentives for these individuals to continue their professional development.
to provide the public and those in government with a means to identify adobe builders who demonstrate, through a professionally developed exam and education program, that they have a thorough knowledge of safe, code-compliant adobe construction.
Certification affords the public and those in government the opportunity to make an informed selection of services based on the knowledge that is represented by the certification designation.
Certification builds an individual’s self-image. By studying for and passing the exam, individuals reaffirm to themselves and their peers a thorough knowledge of and dedication to adobe building.
The process of becoming TEG-certified provides incentives for adobe builders to continue ongoing professional development.
Certification is a tool to help employers, both in training their personnel and selecting new employees.
More information and the exam application can be found at

Helen Levine - TEG Board Member


New Level of Certification!

TEG will soon be offering the Adobe Fundamentals Certificate to those who wish to test their knowledge of adobe construction, yet haven’t had the opportunity to acquire the experience and put the time in necessary for the higher level of certification.

The exam will be open to all, regardless of experience!

As with the Adobe Proficiency Certification, the Adobe Fundamentals Certificate exam is comprised of 2 parts: a written exam and a hands-on exam, with the written exam to be offered online and the practicum in person, location to be determined.

For more information keep an eye on the TEG website - we anticipate the first exam will take place this spring

Helen Levine - TEG Board Member


SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (cont.)

As the two test projects from last year, one being the Wall Fire Resistance (ASTM E119 Standard) test and the other being a relatively straightforward wall shear test, finished up at the end of the calendar year 2021 we were finally able to get valuable data from the shear test which was extremely interesting and will be detailed below.

First, the status of the ongoing research. Since the last report, I have worked with both the NM Small Business Administration (NMSBA) and the Sandia Labs engineers once again to procure another round of funding for the fire resistance testing that is yet to be completed in terms of running our built wall through the full set of prescriptive requirements to pass the E119 test. This year’s project will be focused entirely on getting all the Sandia equipment in place, tested, and confirmed as to the equipment’s ability to deliver on the E119 requirements. As I mentioned in my last article, we petitioned for a small round of grant funding late last year with the sole intention being to provide the Sandia folks with the monetary resources to “figure out” what had happened failure-wise when they conducted last year’s fire test. This funding did indeed happen, and the Sandia folks worked diligently the last two months of the year to understand what needs to be changed in order to meet the test requirements. This has given us a running start, so to speak, on this year’s project and I’m once again, and hopefully not misplaced, confident that success looms!

Second, the structural/shear testing finished up quite successfully. As I last reported, two test wall units with dimensions of 2’ x 2’ x1’ (4ft³ total) were built, with one being tested and the other being accidentally destroyed before it could be tested. That one test was extremely promising, so we worked with the NM SBA and the Sandia engineer leading this project and we petitioned for and were granted an extension on the time frame of the project. This was easily achieved since we had only used a portion of the grant funding.

We agreed that two more test walls of the same dimensions could be put through the shear testing so that we could determine if that first test was representative of the overall strength of the wall system. This meant that I needed to recover, clean, and then reuse the metal test structure elements that I described in my last article. Also, we needed to go again through the paces of constructing these two test wall pieces. This included placing/cutting/shaping the blocks, mixing and applying the epoxy bonding material, getting the correct alignment with the metal pieces and then bonding them to the test wall itself, and then moving them successfully from our build site at EarthTek to the Sandia labs point of testing, getting coordinated with the Sandia engineer to actually perform the tests, and it all having to be done within two and a half weeks of getting the time extension. Done!

Here are some of the images of the fun!

Reclaiming the metal test structure pieces. This meant that the test wall itself needed to be broken apart and then deal with each of the 4 metal pieces separately. As shown, this was no easy task, with both bore holes and sledgehammer being needed to fully remove the blocks. The well-defined crack seen running vertically in this picture was the original crack from the testing but it only opened up like this after much hammering and “swiss-cheesing” the blocks. I did end up also breaking a sweat!


The individual sides (8 total) of the metal test structure had to be cleaned of all epoxy and any other irregularities in order to get a trouble free bond with the new test wall pieces. This meant initially breaking all large block pieces off of each one, chipping (no other way as far as I could figure out) all of the epoxy off of the metal, taking a grinder and fine detailing the metal, and then making sure that they were still straight.


In all the test wall pieces, SCEBs had to be cut to as close a precise size as possible. Our nice MK 14” dry saw is a real workhorse we were able to get the pieces within about 1/8” on the exact size. Not always though! Remember, measure twice and cut once. I forgot that a few times as I got tired. Our blocks cut very cleanly with virtually no spalling or chip out, so we were able to make a secondary “shaving” pass on some of these mistakes.


We learned much from the first two test wall builds, including figuring out how to build the whole thing on a pallet without the use of any lifting equipment. Not easy but it proved to be entirely doable, and even made some steps much easier! The white tape is damming up a portion of the block face where we were pretty sure we would get spillage of the epoxy while it was in the liquid phase. We were right and this kept it looking a bit more professional. Must impress the Sandia engineers after all. The numbers (upside down here) are how I kept track of which blocks went where depending on the cut size.

And here are the results of the tests. The images show that all three test wall pieces demonstrated similar characteristics when the actual breaking point was reached, with the break lines showing that the joint lines generally held while the blocks themselves, or more accurately, the entire monolithic mass, broke along the lines of shear force.


This was the first test wall piece that was put through the shear test and the first one that we built. Very good definition on the crack which led us to believe that we could get good results if we tested additional pieces. We built the next two test wall pieces as closely as we possibly could to this one.


This was the second test wall piece that was put through the shear test. It did appear to break somewhat off center, but we think that was due to our, shall we say, misalignment (really more of a momentary lapse of attention during which one of the plates moved and then set before we could move it back the 1” that it needed to be set at) which in turn led to this offset break. Notice the two drawn lines which we drew to indicate to the Sandia engineers where we thought the shear break would occur, the one on the left being the one we drew after the mistake.


This was the third and last test wall piece that was put through the shear test. The break line is small but visible from top to bottom and follows the expected lines of shear force. This one test was also special since we asked the Sandia engineers to do something unique, which was to apply a calculated 50% force (~ 5K psi.) and then relax it, reapply the same force and relax it once again, and then reapply force all the way to breaking. The goal of doing this was to tease out whether this system has elastic qualities that we can demonstrate. There was no deformation of the wall through these two force applications which indicates that the wall is repeatably durable at least through the 5K psi. load. Not a bad thing to know in terms of a built system!


The above graph is part of the final report and shows that all three test wall pieces behaved quite similarly in regard to how they loaded and then failed. The peaks are different because of the unavoidable small differences in the test pieces themselves, but still show that, on average the breaking shear force is approximately 11.3K psi. In the line for Load 3 (third test wall piece) you can see the thicker part of the line from around 1K psi. to around 5K psi. where they applied/relaxed the force and then went to failure.

This concluded the shear testing of our SCEB/Epoxy bonded wall system, and we were extremely pleased with the results. The data speaks for itself and it is apparent that this system has strength attributes that are quite uncommon in the earthen materials domain.

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:

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