Adobe: "Green," Eco-Friendly Construction That's Cheap as Dirt!

By
Real Estate Agent with Choices Real Estate

Adobe Eco-friendly construction

Tomorrow's eco-friendly miracle construction material may also be yesterday's, and it can be as cheap as dirt because it's made of dirt! In a word, it's ADOBE!

This miracle, green, construction material is as ideal for the earth homes of tomorrow as it has been for hundreds of years at Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico...in fact, it's durability can be demonstrated by one look at the Great Wall of China, as Jackie Craven points out in her guide to Earth Houses!

Here in New Mexico, adobe homes have been common for hundreds of years. Adobe is not just an architectural style, it's a construction material. Adobe bricks are made from compacted earth, clay and straw, which is then dried in the sun to form bricks 12-18" or more in thickness. This adobe bricks are then laid up to form the walls of the homes.  Well maintained, adobe can be one of the most lasting methods of construction, and one of the most environmentally friendly. It's always been said that adobe is "cooler in summer, warmer in winter," and the old saying is true. Adobe walls retain heat in winter, and stay cooler in summer, making adobe homes very efficient to heat and cool. The Southwest Solaradobe School's statistics iindicate that adobe combines with passive solar construction can cut winter heating costs by more than 60% in cold winter areas, and the high-mass earth walls similarly cut air-conditioning costs in summer.

And adobe is not just useful in the desert southwest. Adobe is also used in wet, tropical climates in Mexico and Honduras, and the alternative rammed earth construction can be even easier in wet climates. Both adobe and rammed earth construction are easy on the environment (none of the outgassing associated with plywood, fiberboard, etc.), and are naturally fire-proof and termite resistant.

It's true that many of New Mexico's custom adobe homes are very expensive. The work of making the adobe bricks is very time- and labor-intensive, as is the construction process itself. However, many New Mexicans also live in custom adobe homes that they have built themselves at a very low cost and lots of "labor of love." The actual construction materials are basically dirt, some straw and water, and lots of personal time and energy!

So consider "going green" with adobe construction! You can view lots of adobe homes on our website any time for ideas!

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Show All Comments
Rainer
99,219
Ashley Drake Gephart
Drake Intel Group - Albuquerque, NM
Brian great post. I think adobe gets left out when considering green options thanks for pointing this choice out.
May 14, 2007 08:48 PM #1
Rainer
32,580
Michelle Way
AVALAR Pro Realty - Jackson, MS
ABR, GRI, WCR
I have never heard of Adobe homes. Thanks for the Blog
May 14, 2007 08:50 PM #2
Ambassador
735,957
ASHEVILLE 1031 SIGNATURE PROPERTIES specialists in - LAND,INVESTMENT ACREAGES, AND LUXURY HOMES
Signature Mountain Homes and LAND- Asheville 1031 Realty, Inc. - Asheville, NC
Tell Us What Is Most Important to YOU

Brian~ 

Thanks for this post. Hope you will post it over at the ECO-All-Stars Group where about 200 eco-wise people are gathered and will be most interested in this!

May 14, 2007 11:17 PM #3
Rainmaker
336,214
Dena Stevens
Century 21 Canon Land & Investment - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
The more I study this type of construction the more it makes sense to me. Our ancestors had the right idea, it's just taking us forever to agree it.
May 15, 2007 12:09 AM #4
Anonymous
Anonymous
Jim Kimmons

Brian

Good post, but I need to know who builds your adobe homes.  The material isn't that expensive, but here in Taos, the labor to build with adobe is significantly more than with conventional materials.  "Cheap as dirt" just isn't the case here.

May 15, 2007 07:56 AM #5
Rainer
24,435
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC
ECO
I wonder if this is somewhat comparable to the straw bale homes we have here in North Carolina?
May 15, 2007 10:32 PM #6
Rainer
21,670
Brian Warden
Choices Real Estate - Bosque Farms, NM

Jim, as I mentioned, it's only "cheap as dirt" if you're building it yourself. I have a number of friends who've done this. It's definitely labor-intenxive, so if you're paying someone to first create your adobe bricks then lay them, it's very expenxive.

Bill, There are a number of similarities to straw bale homes, which are gaining in popularity here as well; in fact, I had straw-bale construction in mind for a future post!

Jane-Anne, I did post it to the Eco-All Stars group. Thanks.

Ashley and Michelle, adobe does often get "left out" of thoughts on green construction, but it's really a natural!

May 16, 2007 10:07 AM #7
Rainer
97,765
Danny Smith
DISCOVER TEXAS HOMES - Round Rock, TX
I fondly love these homes as I'm originally from New Mexico and grew up around this culture!
May 19, 2007 06:44 AM #8
Anonymous
Anonymous
Len Terry

Your system is good but you need to consider Omnicrete.com. It is more eco-friendly and more systainable with energy savings of over 75% when compared to standard wood or block construction. Call for details or visit our website.

May 12, 2008 10:17 AM #9
Rainer
52,590
Tiffany Wilson
eReal Estate Corp - Redondo Beach, CA
SFR, First Time Home Buyers & Investors

I am curious as to how well adobe stands up to earthquakes...  Good?  Bad?  Anyone know?

May 13, 2008 06:48 AM #10
Anonymous
Anonymous
Larry Williamson

Hi folks,

 

Brian you're right about adobe and earthen construction. It is definitely the technology of the future as rising energy prices are sure to rebound and continue to push building supplies and energy bills through the roof.  We would do well to study the choice of nearly all ancient civilizations that thrived well before fossil fuels dominated our energy supply.  And adobe along with compressed earth block --- CEB, rammed earth, and other earthen technologies  have an important part in meeting our future housing needs.  The only thing wrong with present earthen systems is their labor intensity which makes them expensive unless you are an owner/builder.

There is a new "earthen" technology that is currently undergoing "R&D" that promises to overcome this obstical to making earthen construction popular with mainstream developers/builders/contractors.  It's called the EarthCo Megablock process.  As with adobe, we use earth as our basic building material but we compress it to produce a compressed earth block or CEB .  Some of you are no doubt familiar with todays CEB technologies which are generally considered easier to build with than abobe due to their consistent shape.   But CEB and abode have much in common and still utilize a placement technology that is over 6000 years old and requires fairly large amounts of manual labor.   We at EarthCo Building Systems have developed a patented CEB technology that produces CEB blocks of enourmous size --- think large modular units --- we're talking tons not pounds.  Our giant EarthCo Megablocks are very easy to stack with mechanicall equipment.   A typical 1600 square foot houses requires less than one hundred megablocks to produce --- a similiar adobe or small block CEB  house would require over 5000 typical abobe or present day CEB blocks to reproduce.  If you've visited or been on a jobsite using either adobe or present day CEB there's usually a backhoe or skidloader around that's used to move palets of abode or CEB around the jobsite --- then they're placed using human labor to lift, fit, level, and straighten within the wall system.   We simply use the same equipment but instead of carrying a palet of blocks and placing them next to where we intend to build a wall --- We use the same equipment to pick up a single block that represents more than a palets worth of typical adobe or CEB and with our specialized lifting devide place our Megablocks directly into the wall system.   Since our machines go to the jobsite an use local earth this is an extremely energy and resource efficient process and requires minimal labor.   A crew of three has the potential to produce and place more than 20 tons of Megalocks per hour.   You will be hearing more about this system as we complete R&D but we are already beginning to muster worldwide attention amoung construction ecologists and engineers for our closed loop material cycle, and speed of construction.    One day the saying "cheap as dirt" will indeed fit the saying.   Please go to our website to learn more about us.  --- www.earthcomegablock.com

November 16, 2008 09:13 PM #11
Rainmaker
413,136
Betina Foreman
512-771-6318 Austin Home Girls Realty - Austin, TX
Realtor, C.N.E. Selling Homes in Lake Travis & Central Austin!

Nice photos of the adobe homes. We have a few adobe homes in Austin and the surrounding area. Very nice post!

November 17, 2008 04:01 PM #12
Rainmaker
413,136
Betina Foreman
512-771-6318 Austin Home Girls Realty - Austin, TX
Realtor, C.N.E. Selling Homes in Lake Travis & Central Austin!

Nice photos of the adobe homes. We have a few adobe homes in Austin and the surrounding area. Very nice post!

November 17, 2008 04:01 PM #13
Rainmaker
413,136
Betina Foreman
512-771-6318 Austin Home Girls Realty - Austin, TX
Realtor, C.N.E. Selling Homes in Lake Travis & Central Austin!

Nice photos of the adobe homes. We have a few adobe homes in Austin and the surrounding area. Very nice post!

November 17, 2008 04:02 PM #14
Rainmaker
46,676
Pete Jalbert
The Maui Real Estate Team, Inc. - Paia, HI
R(S)

Nice blog Brian. I had a few friends who did some adobe construction in the Four Corners area about ten years back. I also saw a lot of straw bale construction. Good point on the use of adobe and or rammed earth in wet climates.

November 17, 2008 05:57 PM #15
Rainer
21,670
Brian Warden
Choices Real Estate - Bosque Farms, NM

Thanks Pete and Betina. We love adobe construction here in NM!

December 11, 2008 08:39 AM #16
Rainer
21,670
Brian Warden
Choices Real Estate - Bosque Farms, NM

Thanks Pete and Betina. We love adobe construction here in NM!

December 11, 2008 08:39 AM #17
Anonymous
Anonymous
Sandy

I think it is fantastic how we are using renewable energy and going green in so many ways. I think we also need to do things like reducing our energy usage, like installing geothermal heat pumps to replace high energy heating and cooling systems.

July 28, 2009 11:36 PM #18
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Rainer
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