Earth USA 2011 Conference Wrap

The Sixth International Conference on Earthen Building and Architecture, Earth USA 2011, met in Albuquerque, NM at the National Hispanic Cultural Center September 30 through October 2, 2011.

One hundred twenty participants came from fourteen countries and presented papers on various aspects of earthen construction. At the conclusion of the Conference participants worked collectively to prepare this message summarizing information, opinions and conclusions:

Earthen materials are globally available. Usually it is the dry climates that are brought to mind Adobe, Cob, Sod, Rammed Earth and Compressed Earth Blocks. However new locations for earthen buildings are always being reported. This year the surprise came from Norway where historical adobe homes are located near Oslo. Other reports came from China, Bulgaria, England, Oklahoma and Texas. Often these reports are of a few, isolated instances of earthen buildings. Germany, however, has long been known to have at least two million earthen homes.

Earthen homes are appropriate across the spectrum of building costs. Homes are built at zero cost in some countries while in places like New Mexico and Saudi Arabia contemporary adobe is considered the premium building material for homes and monumental buildings. Several papers at the Conference dealt with innovations that can reduce building costs in those areas where labor is expensive. In other parts of the world, labor is less expensive and employment is a sought after opportunity for citizens. Working with earth can create new jobs for young and old. It is richly intergenerational and educational in nature.

Material costs are not tied closely to the petrochemical industry. In New Mexico, the cost of an adobe brick has doubled in thirty years while the cost of a 2 x 4 wood stud for frame construction has increased five-fold in the same period.

It must always be remembered that of all building materials, those of earth have the least embodied energy; their carbon footprint can be almost zero; and they are the most easily recycled, reused, repurposed or just plain returned to dust. Brown is the original green, the original back to nature.

Other authors reported on the efforts to codify the use of earthen materials in construction: There is much collaborative effort across the globe which also includes educating code writers and enforcers. Germans lead the way with thoroughly embedded building construction norms in their national codes which will soon be inserted into the European Union standards. Australia, New Zealand and the United States follow right behind. In the USA, adobe is now part of the 2009 International Building Code beginning with 2102.1 where it is defined. There is also The American Society for Testing Materials ASTM E2392, Standard Guide for Design of Earthen Wall Building Systems. Adobe is included in the Construction Specifications Institute system as 04 24 00, Adobe Unit Masonry with two subcategories, 04 24 13 Site Cast and 04 24 16 Manufactured. This means that earthen materials are now mainstreamed in the eyes of codes and standards.

Participants noted that earthen materials have cultural connotations. They are simply part of the lives of many cultures. While abandoned in many areas, there is a growing interest on the part of youth. New communities using earth as the basic building material are being created in Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Most of the world requires great effort on the part of proponents of earth materials to preserve buildings from destruction in the face of modern development. Saudi Arabia has banned the further destruction of any earthen buildings of antiquity as a fine example to the rest of the world.

Architects, builders and dwellers have long had spiritual connections with the material and there are those who feel it creates living structures, certainly healthy structures without any of the chemicals often found in the modern home. The walls stabilize temperature and humidity through their thermal mass and porosity which promotes breathability and even phase change action as moisture moves in and out of walls.

Earthquake resistance is always a concern. Correct and careful building techniques go a long way to make any building safer. Age-old and new techniques can be incorporated in the design or retrofit to existing structures to increase their safety. Earthen structures are adept at resisting cyclones, tornados, hurricanes, fires, bugs and even bullets.

While all this is as old as dirt, it is as new as the next idea. Architects, designers and youth should be encouraged to create new shapes, forms and methods to create structures of wider appeal to more people. It need not be limited to the warm, round, brown buildings often brought to mind by the Santa Fe/Taos/Pueblo style; thoughtful, good design can increase its appeal while still maintaining timelessness.

After all, this is Planet Earth.

Quentin Wilson, October 2011, New Mexico/USA

About Earth USA 2011

Earth USA 2011
is the Sixth International Earthbuilding Conference initiated by Earth USA (emerging from the Adobe Association of the Southwest). The conference organizer is Adobe in Action.

The conference will take place September 30, October 1 and 2, 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico - USA. The conference is being held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center which is an official partner of the event.

Earth USA 2011 indicates a wider field of interest than previous conferences and will include adobe, rammed earth, compressed earth block: CEB, and monolithic adobe: cob. Any material or method that uses clay as a binder is considered.

Paper Subject Categories:

  1. Historic buildings and cities including their stabilization, preservation and conservation
  2. Education and information transfer including codes, norms and regulations
  3. Physical and thermal properties of materials and structures including seismic, flood and storm resistance
  4. Construction methods
  5. New architecture and construction projects including renovation, modernization and re-purposing of existing buildings
  6. Poster session


Earth USA 2011 is organizing a two-day trade fair which will coincide with the first two presentation days of the conference - Friday, September 30, Saturday and October 1, 2011.

Two tours to local earthbuilding sites will be available on Monday, Oct. 3 and Tuesday Oct. 4.

Pre-conference earthbuilding workshops are being planned throughout the month of September and will include topics such as adobe construction basics and adobe wall construction with a special focus on New Mexican adobe practices. Additional post-conference workshops on more advanced topics such as arch,vault and dome construction and rammed earth will be held after the conference throughout the month of October.


Earth USA 2011 Sponsors


Final Presentation Schedule

Earth USA 2011 Final Speaker Schedule posted on 9/29/2011


Thursday, September 29, 2011

5:00 - 8:00pm


Friday, September 30, 2011

7:30 - 8:30am

8:30 - 9:15am - WELCOME

9:15 - 10:00am
Author: Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud - Saudi Arabia
Title: Mud Buildings in Saudi Arabia - A Private Experience

10:00 - 10:30am
Authors: Jake Barrow, Program Director, CCP – New Mexico, USA
Robin Jones, Executive Director, CCP – New Mexico, USA
Title: Preserving Adobe Heritage: Cornerstones Community Partnerships at Twenty Five Years

10:30 - 11:00am - COFFEE BREAK

11:00 - 11:30am
Authors: María Rinaldi, Director of Planning and Capital Programs, Town of Bernalillo – New Mexico, USA
Francisco Uviña, Preservation Consultant – New Mexico, USA
Title: Conservation, preservation and rehabilitation of earthen architecture as a youth development program

11:30 - 12:00pm
Authors: Horst Schroeder; Bauhaus University (BUW), Weimar, Germany
Urs Müller; Federal Institute for Materials Research & Testing (BAM), Berlin, Germany
Christof Ziegert; Ziegert / Roswag / Seiler Architekten Ingenieure, Berlin, Germany / DVL
Title: Building codes and standards in earth building – Current situation in Germany

12:00 - 12:30pm
Author: Hauke Haupts, Architect - Trondheim, Norway
Title: The workman houses at Koengen in Oslo

12:30 - 2:00pm - LUNCH BREAK

2:00 - 2:30pm
Author: Dra. en Arq. Yolanda Gpe. Aranda Jiménez, Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas - Mexico
Title: Poured Earth/Tierra vertida

2:30 - 3:00pm
Authors: Dr. Rubén Salvador Roux Gutiérrez, Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas - Mexico
Dr. Luis Fernando Guerrero Baca, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco - Mexico
Title: Resistencia a la humedad de bloques de tierra comprimida estabilizados con cemento y con cal

3:00 - 3:30pm
Authors: Dr. Pablo David Elías López - Mexico (Victor Garcia)
Dr. Rubén Salvador Roux Gutiérez - Mexico
Title: Perfil térmico de una vivienda de bloques de tierra comprimida (BTC) en clima cálido humedo.

3:30 - 4:00pm
Author: Arq Lucia Esperanza Garzon - Colombia
Title: Una obra de arquitectura con tierra contemporanea en Colombia

4:00 - 4:30pm
Authors: Magdalena Pereira, directora Fundación Altiplano MSV - Chile
Cristián Heinsen, director ejecutivo Fundación Altiplano MSV - Chile
Title: Plan de restauración del conjunto patrimonial de iglesias andinas de Arica y Parinacota. Modelo de desarrollo sostenible

4:30 - 5:00pm - COFFEE BREAK

5:00 - 5:30pm
Demonstrations & Poster Sessions

5:30 - 6:00pm
Eng. Bader Aleyadah - Saudi Arabia
GM, Turathiyah Company - Saudi Arabia
Title: The Ahmad Bin Salman Mosque by Compressed Mud Bricks

6:00 - 6:30pm
Author: Charles W. Graham, Ph.D., AIA, FRICS – Oklahoma, USA
Title: Moisture Management in Compressed Earth Block Walls



Saturday, October 1, 2011


8:30 - 9:00am
Authors: Márcio Buson - Brazil
Humberto Varum - Brazil
Rosa Maria Sposto - Brazil
Title: Incorporation of paper fibers from cement sacks recycling in the production of compressed earth blocks

9:00 - 9:30am
Authors: Daniel Butko, Assistant Professor COA – The University of Oklahoma, Department of Architecture - Oklahoma, USA
Lisa Holliday, Assistant Professor COA – The University of Oklahoma, Department of Construction Science - Oklahoma, USA
Matthew Reyes, PhD Candidate COA – The University of Oklahoma, Department of Construction Science - Oklahoma, USA
Title: Student Research with Compressed Earth Blocks - The University of Oklahoma

9:30 - 10:00am
Authors: Bill Druc, P.E. - New Mexico, USA
Arnold Valdez, Historic Preservation Specialist - New Mexico, USA
Title: The Story of the Investigation and Restoration Plan for the San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church, Questa, New Mexico

10:00 - 10:30am
Author: Troy Lovata, Ph.D. - New Mexico, USA
Title: Adobe Isn’t Just for Adoberos: Adobe as Part of a Non-Foundational University Curriculum

10:30 - 11:00am - COFFEE BREAK

11:00 - 11:30am
Authors: Lisa Holliday, Assistant Professor, Construction Science Division, College of Architecture, University of Oklahoma - USA
Charles Graham, Dean and Professor, College of Architecture, University of Oklahoma - USA
Title: Foundation Systems for Earthen Building

11:30 - 12:00pm
Author: Georgi Georgiev, architect - Bulgaria
Title: Earthen Architecture in Bulgaria

12:00 - 12:30pm
Author: Patti Stouter - New York, USA
Title: Why Haitians Want High-tech Low-skill Earthbags

12:30 - 2:00pm - LUNCH BREAK

2:00 - 2:30pm
Authors: Yassar Khadour - China
Bin Zhang - China
Title: A Conceptual Design of Rural Earth Habitat Prototype

2:30 - 3:00pm
Authors: Bill McManus (Associate Professor, OU College of Architecture, Construction Science) - Oklahoma, USA
Daniel Butko (Assistant Professor OU College of Architecture, Architecture) - Oklahoma, USA
Matthew Reyes (Ph.D. Candidate, OU College of Architecture, Construction Science) - Oklahoma, USA
Title: Does CEB stack up for US Habitat for Humanity Affiliates?

3:00 - 3:30pm
Authors: Rongrong Hu – China
Jiaping Liu – China
Title: Sustainable development of traditional earth houses in China

3:30 - 4:00pm
Authors: Horst Schroeder; Bauhaus University (BUW), Weimar, Germany / DVL
Ulrich Röhlen; Fa. CLAYTEC e.K. Viersen, Germany / DVL
Stephan Jörchel; Ingenieurbüro S. Jörchel, Weimar, Germany / DVL
Title: Sustainable Education in Earth Building – Experiences of the Dachverband Lehm e.V. (DVL), Germany

4:00 - 4:30pm - COFFEE BREAK

4:30 - 5:00pm
Author: Fred Webster, Ph.D., P.E. - California, USA
Title: Simple and Effective Seismic Retrofit Techniques for Earthen Masonry Buildings

5:00 - 5:30pm
Author: Derrick Tate, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas Tech University - Texas, USA
Title: Developing Large-Scale Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Building Systems: Strategies for Entrepreneurial Innovations

5:30 - 6:00pm
Auhor:  Simone Swan (Adobe Alliance) – New Mexico/Texas, USA
Title: Adobe Alliance’s Recent Trip to Yemen


Sunday, October 2, 2011


8:30 - 9:00am
Authors: Charles Bransby Zachary, GB Geotechnics USA Inc - New York, USA
Avigail A. Charnov, GB Geotechnics USA Inc - Los Angeles, USA
Title: New uses of NDE techniques including Surface Penetrating Radar (SPR) and Infrared Thermography (IRT) for the Investigation of Adobe structures

9:00 - 9:30am
Authors: John J Morony - Texas, USA
Clancy E. Hall, Jr., P.E. - Texas, USA
Title: The Dual Footed Foundation; an Alternative to the Slab-on-Grade

9:30 - 10:00am
Author: K. Ben Loescher, AIA LEED AP – California, USA
Title: Assessing Adobe in California: Barriers and Opportunities

10:00 - 10:30am
Authors: Liana Sanchez,Owner/CEO, Avanyu General Contracting - New Mexico, USA
Mateo Peixinho, Owner/COO, Avanyu General Contracting - New Mexico, USA
Pat Taylor, Historic Adobe Preservation, Avanyu General Contracting - New Mexico, USA
Title: Honoring our past, Preserving our future; Owe’neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project, Ohkay Owingeh, formerly San Juan Pueblo

10:30 - 11:00am - COFFEE BREAK

11:00 - 11:30pm
Larry Williamson - Texas, USA
Title: Mechanizing Earthen Construction --- The EarthCo Megablock process

11:30 - 12:30pm - CONFERENCE WRAP UP

12:30 - 2:00pm