TEG Newsletter – Issue 10

 TEG Tours – A Look Back  

As with all aspects of our lives TEG is no exception, we are not able to continue gathering for our TEG Tours.  TEG Tours are held 5-6 times a year the same day we hold our Board meetings. 
We have incredible earthen buildings and homes throughout New Mexico.  Because we have not met in person since March, we are missing our TEG Tours.  Here’s a look back at the many places we have visited over the last nine years! All are located in New Mexico. Tours are arranged by TEG.  Consider joining TEG and being a part of discovering Earthen Buildings!  Follow us on Facebook for photos of the Tours.  We look forward to our future tours!
Wortley Hotel & Historical buildings, Lincoln
Chimayo Museum & Plaza del Cerro, Chimayo
The Armijo House, Las Cruces
Kit Carson Museum & Home, Taos
Casa San Ysidro, Corrales
Pat Taylor Restoration project, Mesilla
El Vado Motel, adobe restoration by Matt Pacheco, Albuquerque
Downey Rammed Earth home, walls by Mike Sims, Albuquerque
Taos Pueblo, Taos
Historical Tour of Hillsboro
Gutierrez-Hubble Home & Cultural Center, Albuquerque
Fechin House, Taos
San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe
Win DeLapp Adobe home project, Albuquerque
La Mesa Church, La Mesa
PERA Rammed Earth Building, Santa Fe
Classic New Mexico adobe home, Las Cruces
The Adobe Factory, Alcalde
Frenger House, Las Cruces
Matt Pacheco Home Restoration, Old Town, Albuquerque
Christo Rey Church, Santa Fe
Rutherford Home, Taos
Amador Hotel, Las Cruces
Adobe home of Mark & Betty Chalom, Abiquiu
New Mexico Earth Adobe Yard, Albuquerque
Adobe historic homes, J Paul Taylor Home, Mesilla
Adobe home of C.E. & Jan Laird, Albuquerque
Adobe home of Ernest & Dolores Aragon, Albuquerque
Adobe home & church of Vince & Mary Lou Chaves, Rodey
Martinez Hacienda, Taos
Adobe home of David & Midori Aragon, Albuquerque
Rammed earth home & Plants of the Southwest rammed earth, Albuquerque
Casa del Sol Construction, Danny Martinez, Adobe home, Albuquerque

Pat Martinez Rutherford – The Earthbuilders Guild

 An Update on Earthbuilding Activities in Germany

The adobe restoration project that I mentioned in TEG’s last newsletter is now complete. I shot a short project documentation video for the contractor which shows the modern equipment and construction techniques used by most earthbuilders in Germany. Examples of these modern techniques are: delivery of pre-blended plaster materials in construction grade bulk bags, the use of top-load pan mixers for high-volume plaster mixing, the use of plaster pumps to move the plaster mix to the upper floors of a building, the use of wood-fiber insulation boards for interior insulation of earthen walls, the use of plaster sprayers to apply earthen plasters to the walls. Trowel work still needs to be done by hand of course!

Even though the video is narrated in German, watch the above-mentioned techniques in action at https://youtu.be/bTxak16Bdiw.

Kurt Gardella – TEG Board Member

An Update on Summer 2020 Adobe in Action Activities

Eleven students are currently working their way through Adobe in Action’s online Adobe Wall Construction class. The students just finished their midterm projects – making their own rough bucks, anchor blocks and story poles and braces out of scrap lumber. Some students used cardboard and paper to make small-scale models for midterms. Adobe in Action’s next online class – Roofs for Adobe Structures – begins on August 17th. We mainly focus on pitched roofs in this class to encourage the use of natural exterior plasters but flat roofs are also covered. More info can be found at https://www.adobeinaction.org/event-calender. In addition to our online classes, we continue to offer project support to four owner builders who have all completed our full adobe certificate and have begun working on their home builds. Finally, expect a new episode of our Mud Talks podcast series around the middle of August which will focus on the owner builder experience at Adobe in Action. All past podcasts can be found at https://www.adobeinaction.org/mud-talks.

Kurt Gardella – TEG Board Member

New Book Chronicles San Diego’s Mid-Century Adobe Family

San Diego has perhaps the largest collection of adobe homes outside of New Mexico, many of which designed and built by the Weir Brothers. Rob Weir, grandson of the famous Weir Brothers construction family, has compiled a remarkable collection of anecdotes and photos from the Weir Brothers forty years of adobe construction. Built during a uniquely optimistic and prosperous time for the region, the homes combine western ranch house aesthetics with Southern California lifestyle preoccupations of the time – broad lawns, swimming pools, and wet bars. All are well documented in this book which was elegantly edited by Scott Hulet of Surfers Journal.
The book is available for purchase online.

Ben Loescher – TEG Board Member

 Adobe Certification Exam Rescheduled

The Earthbuilders’ Guild Adobe Proficiency Certification exam has been rescheduled to take place in Albuquerque on September 25-26, 2020.  The deadline to send in applications is September 15th.

TEG is adhering closely to guidelines and restrictions recommended by the New Mexico Department of Health and put in place by the NM state government—keep an eye on the TEG website for notice in the event further postponements become necessary.

The Adobe Proficiency Certification provides recognition of the applicant’s professional knowledge through a process of examination and review by adobe construction professionals.  The topics covered in the exam are extensive, encompassing aspects of modern construction: NM Earthen Building Codes and the permitting process, foundations, floors, wall construction, roof, insulation, finishes…and also include elements of adobe preservation and passive solar, among others. For more information go to https://theearthbuildersguild.com/teg-basic-adobe-proficiency-certification/. 

The benefits of obtaining Certification thru a recognized trade organization are many, from showing prospective clients or employers the level of skill and competency one has obtained in the field, to encouraging the professional development of others interested in adobe construction, and in providing an example of what it is to be an Adobe Builder.

Helen Levine – TEG Board Member

Colorado Earth – Thermal Conductivity Testing with CEB & Hemp

Colorado Earth has partnered with the University of Colorado at Boulder to test the performance of adding hemp fibers to the earth block mix.  After acquiring six different samples of hemp fiber, from very fine powder to coarser fiber, we are testing compressive strength and thermal conductivity to understand the properties of the hemp fiber in a compressed earth block.  More interestingly however will be the carbon storage capacity of including hemp, or other types of fiber, to the blocks.  The tests will indicate whether or not the addition of hemp fibers provides meaningful results to the wall system.  In addition to testing hemp and other fibers, Colorado Earth and the University are working towards a hemp fiber insulation panel or loose fill that will serve as an integral component to the wall section.  Deepening our understanding of local building resources will help provide a greater range of building products to the public.  

Lisa Morey – Owner of Colorado Earth

SCEB Research at Sandia National Laboratories (cont.)

Since my last report in November 2019, there have been many developments that have proven beyond a doubt that we are onto something quite positive.  The results of last year’s mechanical/structural testing, the outcome of which were hoped for in my last (Nov. 2019) newsletter article, were both extremely positive and extremely disappointing at the same time.  The test was a failure.  The goal was to test a small 3’ x 3’ x 1’ wall bonded together with our developed epoxy mix by exerting a side shear force that would increase until the wall failed, either through cracking or through bond failure.  As the wall was put under load, several things happened.  First, while the side force climbed up through 4,000lbs. of side load, the wall actually tilted to the side where the force was being applied.  Keep in mind that this small wall weighed around 1200lbs.  The Sandia engineers realized that they had not sufficiently anchored the wall to keep it from lifting up so they stopped the test, applied steel supports across the wall to anchor it, and restarted the test.  This time the force went up to over 7,500lbs., by which time the wall had started lifting up again but this time was bending the steel strapping across the top of the wall.  As the lifting continued, there was a very audible crack and the instruments showed that the force dropped by nearly ¾.  Something had failed and we quickly discovered that what failed was the hydrostone that was poured on top of the wall to anchor the pull rod, a high tensile piece of thick all-thread.  The test could not continue at this point so the engineers shut it down.  The test was a failure in that there was no conclusive demonstration of what point our approach would fail, rather the test setup failed.  On the optimistic side, the wall held together without any discernable problems through all of this including bending the steel support strapping (3/4’” x 3” bar stock) under a shear load of almost 4 tons!

While the results of the 2019 tests were inconclusive, the general outcome was enough to really get the interest of the Sandia engineers who went to bat for us for another round of funding for a very important ASTM E119 test.  This is the standard fire resistance test for wall structures that determine the wall system’s resistance to failure under a very rigorous heating (~1,800°F for up to 4 hours) and then water blast (simulating a fire department hosing) to see if the structure can withstand it without buckling or blowing through.   We asked for $120K for the test and were awarded $80K.  Not too bad and the Sandia engineers were optimistic that the test could be done for that amount.  We will be constructing a 9’ tall x 11’ long x 1’ thick wall, bracketed by upper and lower I-beams which will exert a simulated roof load on the wall while undergoing the heating and water blasting.  Part of this year’s project have been small scale testing to tease out any preliminary issues.  So far the tests have proven spectacularly successful, leading us to believe that we will pass the large scale test up to the level of commercial construction, which is much more rigorous time wise than the residential qualifying level.  The image of our small scale test reveals that our SCEBs held up under the full 4 hour burn time, with the bonding holding.  One very real benefit from this testing that we will be sharing with the earthen community is the detailed thermal conduction data.  It is incredibly informative and should add provide some extremely beneficial information to the energy justification for SCEBs.  The proposed wall build for the test is included.  More to follow as this project progresses.

John Jordan – TEG Board Member

The Old Mill – Ruidoso, New Mexico 

Since it was built in the late 1800s, “The Old Mill” as it is now known, has been a Ruidoso landmark. It is easy to identify, with the tall wooden water wheel and sluice box standing on the west side of the building.
In 2018, the mill suffered catastrophic damage in an explosion. The roof was blown off and the ensuing fire and suppression wreaked havoc on the un-stabilized adobe walls.
After sitting for some time, efforts are now underway to restore this icon of old Ruidoso. The local owners have enlisted Pat Taylor, a TEG member, to handle the reconstruction. Pat is one of the most knowledgeable people in the field of vintage adobe structures and their preservation. 
Reconstruction work began in June 2019 with the assessment of damage and the mitigation of further deterioration. Work progressed until October 2019, with the cooler weather shutting down operations for the year.
The project is now waiting for the warmer days of spring to resume work. Since the blocks and mortar of an adobe structure rely on the warmth of the sun to cure, a shorter season of work is available at Ruidoso’s altitude. Although given the warmer temperatures we are becoming accustomed to, it is not unusual to have a hard freeze as late as May. Even so, work should be able to resume by April 2020.
Post Script: This article was originally written in February 2020. Given the disruption of the past few months, no work has progressed. Pat has asked me to keep up with site maintenance. I will provide updates to the newsletter as work continues.
Rob Taylor, TEG Board Member
Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico

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