Building With Adobe
The idea of building with adobe is as
old as dirt. The Spanish word 'adobe'
comes from the Arabic word 'atob'
which literally means sun dried brick.
In the Southwest United States the
Spanish found the native people
building with dirt, but more in a
'puddling' fashion in layers. The
Spanish then introduced the idea of
making individual bricks for
The advantage of building with adobe
is its 'thermal mass' properties. The
brick absorbs the heat in the warmer
temperatures and releases heat in the
Today's adobe construction is more of
a hybrid form of construction. The
main exterior perimeter is adobe.
Interior walls and all above the top
plate line is frame. Interior accents can
also be done in adobe.
The brick used on the house pictured
to the top left is a compressed brick
and not a sun baked brick.
As you can see by the three examples
to the left...adobe is a building material
and not a style. These three
elevations (to the left) are of the same
floor plan (a 1,118 sq ft floor plan) by
changing the wall section and the roof
plan the style of the building changes.
Whether building with conventional
material, (stick frame), adobe or other
non-conventional material; building
'passive solar' should be a must.
Building Passive Solar
Designing using passive solar aspects is also as old as building with dirt. The term 'passive solar' entails
designing your building to work with the sun. "Active Solar Systems" are systems that use the sun's energy, but
require a machine to make them work. These machines are typically in the form of fans and pumps.
Passive Solar design is not only for the purpose of relieving heat load, it also helps relieve cooling load. The
idea of designing with the sun and its position in relation to your building is twofold. Done correctly; you
welcome the sun into your building when you want it to help warm your building and you keep it out of your
building when it is time to keep your building cool.
In the northern hemisphere the sun is to the south of us. The position of the sun changes throughout the year.
The sun is at its 'highest' on June 21st, and at its lowest on December 21st. The actual angle of the sun in
relation to the earth will depend on your location (latitude). The picture below illustrates the sun's positions for
Las Cruces, NM
Thus, building orientation and window placement become a criteria for energy efficient design. How far one
wishes to go with the concept will vary. Style of living, views, lot size will all play an important role in design.
I, Patrick Vigil, have designed and built a number of homes using passive solar techniques. My resume includes
6 credit hours from the Engineering Dept at the University of New Mexico in Passive Solar Design and 3 credit
hours from the Architectural Dept at UNM in environmental design. These concepts are always on my mind
when I design. To what extent we take solar design is up to you, your life-style desires for an energy efficient
Passive Solar techniques were used on this home in the North Valley of Las Cruces built in 1989.
|2700 Sq' Adobe--Contemporary Pueblo
Built in 2008
|Affordable Passive Solar