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TEG Newsletter – Issue #7

Earth USA 2019 – Biggest Summit So Far

Earth USA 2019 took place from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, October 27, 2019 at the Scottish Rite Center’s Alhambra Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was the 10th International Conference on Architecture & Construction with Earthen Materials organized by Adobe in Action. More than 150 earthbuilding enthusiasts attended the conference to view 32 podium presentations, 20 poster presentations and 2 demonstration sessions. Presenters converged on Santa Fe from around the world – including countries such as Canada, China, Japan, the UK, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, India, Egypt, Chile, Rwanda, Bangladesh and Norway. The USA also had strong representation with presenters and attendees from New Mexico, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah. Prof. Ronald Rael (UC Berkeley Acting Chair of Architecture; Professor of Architecture, Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture) dazzled us all with his keynote presentation entitled “Mud Frontiers: Notes from the Borderlands”. The 2019 Fred Webster Earthbuilding Engineering Prize was awarded to the presentation “From ‘Why to do’ to ‘How to do’: Research and Practice in Rammed-earth Architecture in China” by the authors Prof. Jun Mu, Tiegang Zhou and Wei Jiang from Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, China.

Full details about past, present and future conferences can be found at Join us in two years for Earth USA 2021!

Kurt Gardella – Adobe in Action

Results from Las Vegas ICC Public Comment Code Hearings…and What’s Next

Two earthen-building code proposals were recently heard in Las Vegas at the triennial ICC code hearings – the Cob Research Institute’s [] Cob Construction (Monolithic Adobe) Appendix [] to the International Residential Code (IRC), and The Earthbuilders’ Guild’s proposal [link] to reform the Portland cement stucco requirements and allow other plaster types, in the International Building Code (IBC). Both proposals received overwhelming support from ICC voting members at the hearings, and are next subject to an online vote by building and fire officials for inclusion in the 2021 IRC and IBC. If successful, these proposals will be significant landmarks in the regulation of earthen building in the United States. The IRC and IBC are model building codes used by almost every State and local jurisdiction in the U.S. For cob, currently no guidance exists on how to properly design and build these structures, sometimes leading to unpermitted work and dangerous buildings, particularly in high-seismic areas. As an earthen wall system, cob provides a useful fire-safe option for communities in western States vulnerable to the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires. For adobe, the code currently offers no guidance on minimum vapor permeability of their finishes, and actually mandates the use of low-permeability cement stuccos for unstabilized adobe bricks. This is forcing designers and builders to build in a manner which has been known for decades to be poor practice, sometimes causing plaster delamination or spalling, and in some cases structural failure. The success of these proposals depends on support from building officials – please contact your chief building official and urge their vote to approve proposals RB299 [] and S156 [link] during online voting (approx. Nov 14-27). CRI is conducting a campaign to locate and inform these officials about RB299 and the cob proposal: This information is also applicable to S156 and the adobe proposal. [Caption: CRI civil engineer Anthony Dente testifies at ICC Public Comment Hearings on Oct 26″ The New Zealand Earthbuilding Standards Need Your Support (Ben Loescher) Although not well known in the United States, the New Zealand Earth Building Standards are known internationally as among the best informed and easiest to use earthen building codes in the world. However, due to funding diversions by the New Zealand government, these codes are under threat. The Earth Building Association of New Zealand (EBANZ) has launched a fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $60,000 NZD required to complete revision of the codes so that they may remain available to domestic and international users. Donations may be made directly to EBANZ here []. Additional information is available at the Earth Building Association of New Zealand website [] Ben Loescher & Martin Hammer

Update from Colorado Earth – New Build in Buena Vista, Colorado

Colorado Earth designed and supplied compressed earth blocks to a new home in Buena Vista, Colorado. We continue to work with masons from various regions on how to build with earth. It’s always a joy to see walls go up and eyes of anticipation on the home owner. I want to thank everyone who came to Earth USA and supported each other in our efforts.

Lisa Morey

SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (cont.)

Since my last report in May 2019, we have commenced on the project to build a test wall with the epoxy bonding material and have made some excellent progress. The end of the project is the end of the month of November, so the culmination of this project is the actual construction and subsequent destruction of the wall, with the test consisting of the measurements of the forces necessary to do this. As the images show, the wall was built using Paverde manufactured SCEB units, sized at 12”x4”x8”. The 8” dimension is approximate as this is the variable dimension in our block press. We allow this dimension to fluctuate since we stop the press cycle once target pressure has been reached instead of stopping to a set size, which would create blocks of variable density. The 4” height does not vary, which allows for the very thin horizontal joints as shown. The bonding material is currently a bit lower in viscosity than we would like, but there were some unexpected challenges during this test which led us to us this mix. The ultimate bonding strength is not affected by the initial viscosity, so we proceeded and simply ensured that we had a full laydown of the material and let the excess adhesive flow out of the joints, which are set at 1/8” by using standard tile spacers. The procedure was to push the block down until it reached the tile spacers which pushed out any excess adhesive. The actual bonded wall dimension is 3’x3’x1’, with the floating ends of the blocks simply being outside of the tested area. There were 4 PhD. engineers/scientists working on this test, including Dr. Mathew Ingraham, a geomechanical engineer, shown in the image laying down the adhesive. The Principal Investigator, Dr. Darin Leonhardt, a systems engineer, remarked that since no one who was working on this had built a wall before using blocks of any type, that this may have been the most improbably unskilled labor force to ever do this. They did figure it out though, and we were entirely fortunate to be there for it and to observe these extraordinarily capable people figure out things that were extraordinarily challenging. Dr. Mat Celina, a materials scientist, was able to alter the primary mix on the fly to accommodate the need to change the viscosity along with the set time and filler ingredients to get the adhesive to set (no longer flow) in about 3.5 minutes and start to fully harden in about 7-8 minutes. Full cure will take a bit longer, but with the spacers in place there was no worry about crush down squeezing the lower course adhesive out before full set. The test will consist of applying sufficient force to shear break the wall, with the hoped for results showing that the bonded wall system nears the strength of the individual blocks in regards to shear strength. This is important since this will be a major breakthrough in the ability of earthen walls to be quickly constructed yet still have strength enough to meet rigorous strength requirement. We are also hoping for an indication that there is some amount of elastic, or at least plastic, yield prior to full destruction of the wall. At the time of this report, the actual tests have not been carried out, as they are scheduled for the 6th of November. I will give a synopsis of the results in my next installment report.

John Jordan

TEG Tour – September 2019

The Earthbuilders’ Guild was privileged to tour an adobe home in Albuquerque built by TEG member Matteo Pacheco. Affectionally known as the Lizard House, the details throughout the home were extraordinary. Beams, vigas, adobe wall details, extraordinary tile work and the feel of those adobe walls made this TEG Tour a truly enjoyable experience. Visit TEG’s Facebook page to see more photographs. Tours are usually scheduled every other month the same day as our Board Meetings. Check our website for details on our next tour or event. We’ll be in Albuquerque, New Mexico in January.

Pat Martinez Rutherford

TEG Honorary Membership Nominations

The Board of Directors is accepting nominations for Honorary Lifetime Membership in TEG.

Below is the Criteria. Deadline for nominations is March 1, 2020. Email your nomination to Honorary Lifetime Membership Criteria One Honorary Lifetime Membership may be awarded to a member of the earthbuilding industry annually, with a two-thirds majority approval of the Board of Directors. Nominees should be submitted in writing to the Board by any member(s) in good standing, with a description as to why the nominee should receive this recognition, along with the material to substantiate the reasoning. The nominee should be of good character, meet TEG’s ethical standards and must meet at least two of the three criteria listed below for consideration. Submissions must be received by March 1st of 2020; the Board will announce its decision by the end March. Advancement of Earthen Construction • Research related to better understanding of earthen materials • Development of earthen material technology • Advancement in earthen engineering Service to the Community • Education • Increase in public awareness and recognition of earthen construction • Charitable and social benefit work Service to the Trade and Organization • Contribution to TEG as an organization • Work enabling and serving earthen tradespeople and professionals

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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