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TEG Newsletter – Issue #6

TEG Tour – July 20, 2019 Taos, New Mexico

This summer’s TEG Tour was held in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Taos, New Mexico. We visited the Fechin House which is home to the Taos Art Museum. The Nicolai Fechin House is the historic home of the Russian artist Nicolai Fechin, his wife Alexandra and daughter Eya. After purchasing the house in 1928, he spent several years enlarging and modifying the two-story adobe structure, for instance, enlarging the porch and adding and widening windows to take advantage of the views. He carved many of the fittings of the house and its furniture, using typical Russian design elements such as “triptych windows and intricately carved doors.” The whole reflects a modernist sensibility combined with Russian, Native American and Spanish traditions. The group was treated to a personal tour with stories of Nicolai, the artist, wood worker and builder. His work through-out the home gave us a taste of the talented man that he was.

Article by Pat Martinez Rutherford

Earth USA 2019 is 3 months away!

Preparations are in full swing for Earth USA 2019 – The 10th International Conference on Earthen Architecture & Construction – which is taking place at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe, NM from October 25 to 27, 2019. More than 50 presenters from around the world and the USA will be speaking about the current state of designing and building with earth. The Earth USA 2019 keynote speaker is Ronald Rael – Acting Chair of Architecture; Professor of Architecture, Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at UC Berkeley. The conference also includes a full-day bus tour on Monday, October 28 which will makes stops at new construction and adobe renovation sites in and around Santa Fe.

Current conference sponsors include San Luis Valley Habitat for Humanity, Loescher Meachem Architects, Cornerstones Community Partnerships, C.C. Culver, The Earthbuilders’ Guild, Pat Taylor Inc, and The Earthen Construction Initiative. Adobe in Action (the conference organizer) is an AIA Continuing Education Provider. 24 AIA/CES credits (LU|HSW) are available for the conference. Full details about the conference can be found at Online registration can be completed at

Article by Kurt Gardella

CRI’s Cob Code is Underway!

The Cob Research Institute (CRI) has submitted a proposed Cob Construction (Monolithic Adobe) Appendix for the 2021 International Residential Code (IRC). If approved as an IRC Appendix this new cob building code will become available for adoption by jurisdictions throughout the US as well as other countries. The proposed appendix was written by architect & code author Martin Hammer and civil engineer Anthony Dente, with input from many other knowledgeable contributors.

The first proposal was not approved at the May 2019 IRC Hearings primarily due to the lack of an ASTM E119 test to justify a very conservative 1-hour fire-resistance rating for cob walls. This was unexpected since anyone experienced with earthen building knows that earth walls are highly fire resistant and do not burn.The code proposal now has another opportunity for approval by voting ICC members (mostly building and fire officials) at the ICC Public Comment hearings in October. TEG members can help ensure approval by contacting local Building or Fire Officials and encouraging them to vote for approval of the proposed appendix at the hearings in Las Vegas or during the online voting in early November. The full proposed appendix with its public comment revisions can be seen on the CRI website at : Developing, writing and submitting the code proposal has been an expensive project for CRI. We need to raise $50,000 to fund the necessary testing, research, code writing, and attending hearings. Our funding campaign to date has raised $11,500 and the TEG Board recently and generously donated an additional $1,000 for which we are grateful. But we still have a long way to go and are asking for your support in this vital work. Cob and other noncombustible earthen building systems are especially important now, as a choice for the many regions and communities in the U.S. faced with increased frequency and intensity of wildfires. You can learn more about CRI and its code proposal and can donate on our website All contributions, large and small, make a difference. When you visit there we invite you to go to the contact page and subscribe to CRI’s newsletter The Cob Report for up-to-date news about CRI. We at CRI hope you can come join in the CRI cob code effort!

Article by John Fordice

Earthen Finishes Code Update

Every three years, the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) are considered for revision in a series of hearings. At its Committee Action Hearings held this April in Albuquerque, the IBC tentatively approved proposals advanced by TEG members to add lime plasters, cement-lime plasters, and clay plasters into the 2022 IBC. TEG is advancing an additional proposal that will improve the cement plaster provisions of the code, and add provisions that address minimum vapor permeability for earthen walls which is known to be critical to ensuring the longevity of earthen construction. This proposal will be heard in the Public Comment Hearings in October where it will be voted on by an assembly made up of national code officials. There is still some work ahead of us. In 2022 the portions of the code that govern the structural design of adobe buildings are expected to be retired. TEG will be focusing its attention to ensure that adequate guidance for the design of earthen structures remains in the building code.

Article by Ben Loescher

Update from Colorado Earth

Colorado Earth is excited to share some preliminary results from the data on our current Energy Performance Research. Here in Colorado, we had a long winter (our last snow was in June), followed by a hot summer (temperatures well over 100 F). The home owners have not turned on any mechanical cooling device this summer, and the internal temperatures remain steady at around 68 F (some say that’s too cool!). The winter results are also very intriguing, as Colorado has huge temperature swings, yet the walls buffer the outside extremes and stay comfortable throughout the day. We are still seeking funds to carry out this important work for earthen construction! Check out our GoFundMe page!

Article by Lisa Morey (formerly Schroder)

Welcome Vista Grande High School

Newest member of The Earthbuilders’ Guild is Vista Grande High School in Taos, New Mexico. Representing Vista Grande is Keaton Karvas. Keaton is the shop teacher at Vista. This spring he offered an adobe class and nine students participated. Four of those students are working on a Fundamental of Adobe certificate from TEG this Fall. TEG member, Quentin Wilson, is participating in the training and hands on work of the students. “Nobody is doing this at the high school level in this whole country,” said Quentin. The future of adobe is bright for Vista students.

Article by Pat Martinez Rutherford

More Adobe in Iceland

I attended a series of lectures and discussion groups on sustainable architecture in Reykjavik, Iceland. The lectures were organized by Miðgarður ( as part of Design March ( Miðgarður is a building association that plans to build dense, green, low-rise neighborhoods which are centrally located and have a low priority for vehicles. I gave Miðgarður my input on the possibility of incorporating earth as a building material into their projects. In a follow up meeting with Miðgarður we conducted soil tests on locally-sourced clay and aggregates. The soil tests were successful and I see a real possibility of incorporating earth as a building material into their projects. One idea is to use earthen blocks for walls which separate adjoining apartments to enhance soundproofing. A thermal wall heating system finished with earthen plaster ( could easily be incorporated into these earthen walls to tap into Reykjavík’s geothermal heating reserves ( Further blockmaking tests will be conducted over the summer.

Article by Kurt Gardella

Celebrating Life of Bill Powell

William “Bill” Powell, earthen believer, block press maker, and devoted father and husband, passed away suddenly on July 30th. He was many things to many people, but the thing he always was, to all the people, was a loving and honest friend, full of wisdom and sly humor, and he always delivered all of it with a true and warm smile.

I can say with certainty that he affected my life in wonderful and beneficial ways that will stay with me for the remainder of my days. He was my mentor and, truth be told, as much a father figure to me as my own Dad who passed away many, many years ago. I loved him though for who he was, someone that I, and countless others, could rely on through thick and thin.

Bill was 85 years old, still going about his daily chores, still the father and husband he had been for so many years, and still full of joy and wonder at each and every day. Whenever I called him and asked how he was doing, he would faithfully say “if I was any better I’d think that I’d died and gone to heaven”. I believed him then and I believe him now.

Bill spent most of his life being a mechanical visionary. He was instrumental in bringing horizontal press CEB machines into the current mix of earthen technologies, working on them and perfecting the methods of their manufacturing as well as their operating performance. He had a vision of CEB machines being the pathway to a broad and deep acceptance of earthen materials for construction of human habitations, not to replace adobe or rammed earth, but to add to these venerable materials in the construction arena. As a newcomer to CEB machinery, having come from a computing background, I was astonished to see that his electrical control switches were the embodiment of a “state machine”, essentially a step-wise decision computer, minus the electronic parts! He had figured out how to step through the multiple operational steps of a block press, and using relay and proximity switches, had coupled that to the hydraulic system to ensure a rapid, consistent, and reliable means of producing CEBs. His ability to master the machinery while still understanding that the feel of the dirt in his hand was the most beneficial thing he passed along to me, and to so many others. The impact he has had on the CEB domain will be felt for many, many years to come, but his truest legacy will be the way that he tutored, assisted, and nurtured those who also believe in earthen. Bill Powell loved training and teaching folks in the earthen technology arts and science. His son Dan carries on the tradition of machine manufacturing as EarthTEK.

Condolences can be sent to “Powell Family, 311 NM-4, San Ysidro, NM 87053.

Article by John Jordan

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

Education in Earthbuilding

Are you interested in expanding your understanding and knowledge of building with earth?

Perhaps looking for volunteer opportunities?

Take a look on our website under the Members’ tab or on the Directory for more information on who, what, when and where!

And keep an eye on the TEG blog for additional classes and projects going on in the earth-building world.

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