The Southwest Solaradobe
February 2008

Looking to a green Spring with Southwest Solaradobe~

It’s a tough year for the general housing market, but for those breaking away from the usual energy-consumptive stick architecture, it’s a year they are relishing.

It takes awhile to develop a set of plans and longer to get them permitted. Our March 15/16 Early-bird planning class in Albuquerque is handy for anyone wanting to put pencil to paper (or ink to plotter) towards an effective set of plans. Instructors Joe Tibbets of SWSA and architect Mark Chalom of Santa Fe will help you ease into the design process, with due respect for Passive Solar Design, codes and keeping costs under control. For details, please go to This one will only be held in the spring.

Californians should get behind Ray Schmal’s new adobe yard in Southern California, California Mission Adobes. Located west of Palmdale, Ray will produce stabilized pressed earth blocks and traditional emulsion-stabilized adobes. Ray has been out getting soils and suppliers together. He’s invested considerable pesos in an AECT press, a letdown machine, trucks and other equipment- so it isn’t just talk. To support him and all hopeful California adoberos, SWSA will hold a weekend class on April 5/6 at the 29 Palms Inn in that city. Our hosts, Pat and Sid Rimmington and owner Jane Smith, are all SWSA grads. We’ll be in “Irene’s Adobe” at the Inn, which seats 20+. Ray will bring samples of his blocks. On Saturday, Doctor Fred Webster, P.E., California’s leading seismic engineer for Earthen Structures, will talk. It’s rare that we get out to California, and more rare that the expertise will be in one room. Architect Mark Chalom and Joe Tibbets of SWSA will also be teaching. Again, info and sign-up at

We’re making progress on our California Craftsman Bungalow, converted to Passive Solar. CAD draftsman Jeff Epler has been working with SWSA on the plan. At this point, it’s a two-bedroom, 2 bath home, measuring 36’ 8” by 41’ 6”, which doesn’t count a nice front porch, ample in size and sporting Bungalow pilaster porch supports. There’s a large Living Room, a big Kitchen, a large Master Bedroom and smaller guest (or child’s) bedroom. It’s an “easy-living” plan with three-foot doors, single level, Count Rumford fireplace and- well, we could go on forever. We’re including a Utility/wash Room that opens to a Battery Storage Room (for those pre-planning a solar electric system). You’ll be able to wash clothes and look over to an instrument panel with read outs for your energy supply. This will be a hot-rod house with Bungalow detailing. We are drafting it in two versions for 14” thick walls and 16” thick walls. It will be a talking point at the 29 Palms class.

Towards the end of May, SWSA will be in Edgewood, NM, with Rammed Earth contractor Chandler Huston and Rumford fireplace expert Jim Buckley for two weekend workshops- one for Rammed Earth, the other for building the Rumford fireplace. Buckley will fly down from Washington State to conduct the fireplace workshop (we’ll build one against a specially formed rammed earth wall). Again it’s a rare chance to talk to two pros on one site- check the details at

What else is up? A lot! SWSA is working with straw/clay contractor Scott Cherry of Santa Fe, on how to adapt Scott’s slip form method to pack an insulating straw-clay mix on the exterior of earthen walls. The reason? To eliminate the petroleum-based insulation boards and foams that many builders have used to enhance thermal performance. As New Mexico continues to evolve its green building code, NOW is the time to develop sustainable applications that everyone can get behind.

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