Earth Studio House Plan 1342 has been designed
for a project in the western high plains of New Mexico
at 6500' elevation and 5500 heating degree-days.
The owner enjoys a 270° view of the snow capped
Santa Fe mountains, and the Sandia and Manzano Mountains.
The wind-swept site catches winter storms that do
not reach the drier Rio Grande Valley, 35 miles distant.
Summers are cooler and wetter than nearby Albuquerque
at 5000' elevation. The builder's solar electric
system provides water pumping, lights and construction
tool use, so he is "off grid", using photovoltaic
panels to generate all needed electricity.
Sizes, space and future add-on possibilities
Sizes of the main rooms are: Sunspace 12' x 27' 6", Living
Room/Kitchen area 12' 10" x 27'6", Bedroom 13' 6" x
14' 7" (includes closet, desk, shelves), Bath 7' x 9' 8",
Wash/dry Closet 7' x 30", and Entry Hall 4' x 9' 9".
Three exterior doors are located on the east side, accessing
the Sunspace, the Entry Hall, and the Kitchen area. These are
insulated foam core doors.
Kitchen area measures approximately 15' x 8' 4",
with 19' of 24" wide counter space, part of which
is dedicated to a cook top/oven and sink. Upper cabinets
provide 13' 6" of storage. The counter layout
is the standard "U" shape for an efficient
workspace. About 4' 6" of the stove/countertop
area is open to the Living Room.
designed, the home will accommodate two people. Planning
for added living space could include modifying the
west Living Room window into a door, then adding a
passive solar wing extending to the west. Another choice:
add a wing to the east, extending from the Sunspace*.
Ceilings are exposed pine vigas, 9-10" diameter, with 1
x 8" rough-cut exposed wood decks over them. Insulation
above is 12" cellulose (R-44). A vented air space is indicated
above the cellulose layer and below the final cover above. The
final cover is a galvanized, 26 gauge metal deck over 1x 6" wood
Along with the vertical, direct gain glass on the south wall,
a portion of the Sunspace roof (roughly 21' x 5') is dedicated
to solar gain, using a translucent greenhouse material. The
owner will utilize the Sunspace for growing vegetables year-around.
As with all greenhouses, the temperature swings will be greater
than in the adjacent Living, Bedroom and Bath areas. That
means that closeable doors must be provided between the Sunspace
Room and the interior rooms. These are standard tempered,
6' wide sliding patio door units.
into back rooms
During the coldest period of winter, the low sun will penetrate
the clerestory windows above the Living Room, and beam sunlight
through two interior windows into the Bedroom, assuring well-lit
interior rooms. They have plenty of vertical space: the highest
portion of the Living Room Ceiling is approximately 18' 6",
and the highest portion of the Bedroom ceiling is 14' high.
Calcs, severity of climate and solar operations
The owner wanted a home with exposed rammed earth walls, not
requiring an insulation and stucco cover on the exteriors. As
a consequence, all exterior walls are 18" stabilized rammed
earth. The upper portion of the east and west walls is insulated
2 x 6" frame with an added foamboard layer and board/batten
finish on the exterior. Extrapolating from New Mexico's Ue factors,
SWSA established a value for the 18" rammed earth portion
of the wall system. This was combined with the composite of R
factors for the insulated frame portion of the walls and allowed
SWSA to pass Plan 1342 through the NM Model
Energy Code for this climate zone, without the need for exterior
wall insulation over the rammed earth wall.
great input of passive solar energy through the south
doors and windows are the main energy driver for Rammed
Earth House Plan 1342. They are a combination
of standard sliding glass patio doors and fixed glass
on the first story, with open able and fixed units
in the clerestory above. The owner will operate nighttime
insulating blinds at sundown (minimum R-5) to cover
the glazings. During summer months, the solar overhangs
cut the sun, creating shaded south walls. Other windows
on north, west and east exposures are low-e or heat
mirror type, and will be fitted with "storm glazing" during
winter months for a higher R factor. The average R
factor for all glazings in Plan 1342 should be at least
R-3, with east and north units striving for an R-5
(check manufacturers' ratings).
for winter heating
Backup is via an under floor radiant heating system using an
efficient boiler and Ipex piping from Radiant Heating Systems
of Albuquerque. The boiler location will be in the Sunspace Room.
It is anticipated that backup will be required during periods
of extended cloudy weather. The owner may opt for a small, efficient,
wood-burning stove in either the Living or Bedroom area.
mass walls to aid in heating and cooling
There are two major interior mass walls, one of rammed earth
18" thick, between the Sunspace (greenhouse) Room and the
Living Room. Also, the wall between the Living Room and Bedroom/Bath
area is 14" adobe, which may be exposed for an "artistic" finish.
Interior rammed earth walls may be left exposed or plastered
with a ½" gypsum-based smooth finish. Both of these
walls have secondary adobe walls above them (with additional
bond beams) to support the clerestory windows and the exposed
viga ceilings. The significant mass of interior earth walls has
a stabilizing effect on temperature swings and will help the
home to "cruise" through cold and hot spells.
Standard wood frame construction of 4" thickness is shown
along the Hallway and a small portion of the Kitchen. Bath and
Wash/dry areas utilize a 6" frame wall to house plumbing
Rammed Earth Studio Plan 1342 represents
an efficient Living/working studio for one or two
people for areas of the Southwest where winter severity
does not exceed 5500 degree heating days, and for
elevations between 5000-6500'. Good air flow and
high ceilings will take care of cooling for much
of the summer season, with an evaporative cooler
required for hot spells. The Sunspace provides ample
room for growing vegetables, as well as generating
needed winter heat. The passive solar system will
require night time closing of insulating curtains
builder of Plan 1342 should be familiar
with rammed earth construction, including forming systems
and quality control for fully-stabilized walls. The
New Mexico rammed earth code was utilized as part of
the design process for Plan 1342.
Earth Studio Plan 1342 comes as a set of
four, 24 x 36" sheets in black on white. Drawings
in standard drafting scales depict Elevations, Floor
Plan, Foundation Plan, Wall Sections, Viga Framing
Plan, and Electrical Plan**. Several Isometric Drawings
(for clarification) are included.
For New Mexico builders, an additional sheet, with NM Energy
Conservation Code figures (necessary for NM permit) is available
at $15(covers NM Climate Zones 3-7).
such "add-ons" are anticipated, the builder
should consider pouring the "future" footings
at the time the main house footings are poured. Rebar
can be extended and "tied off" from the new
bond beams so as to tie into the future bond beams.
A review of the new NM Rammed Earth Code in Adobe
Builder, Issue 9, shows further
**. A standard AC plan is shown, but some fixtures on the Electrical
Plan are shown in D.C. because of solar electric circuitry.
set of Rammed Earth Studio Plan 1342,
sent in a tube via priority mail is $85, or three sets
One set of Rammed Earth Studio Plan 1342 with
NM Energy Calcs is $100, or three sets for $125.