Natural Building



Rammed Earth

Poured Earth




Timber Frame




Lightweight Concrete





Adobe is one of the oldest building materials in use. It is basically just dirt that has been moistened with water, sometimes with chopped straw or other fibers added for strength, and then allowed to dry in the desired shape. Commonly adobe is shaped into uniform blocks that can be stacked like bricks to form walls, but it can also be simply piled up over time to create a structure. The best adobe soil will have between 15% and 30% clay in it to bind the material together, with the rest being mostly sand or larger aggregate. Too much clay will shrink and crack excessively; too little will allow fragmentation. Sometimes adobe is stabilized with a small amount of cement or asphalt emulsion added to keep it intact where it will be subject to excessive weather. Adobe blocks can be formed either by pouring it into molds and allowing it to dry, or it can pressed into blocks with a hydraulic or leverage press. Adobe can also be used for floors that have resilience and beauty, colored with a thin slip of clay and polished with natural oil.

Adobe buildings that have substantial eaves to protect the walls and foundations to keep the adobe off the ground will require less maintenance than if the walls are left unprotected. Some adobe buildings have been plastered with Portland cement on the outside in an attempt to protect the adobe, but this practice has led to failures when moisture finds a way through a crack in the cement and then can't readily evaporate. When adobe is used as an exterior plaster it is either stabilized or replastered on a regular basis.

Adobe is a good thermal mass material, holding heat and cool well. It does not insulate very well, so walls made of adobe need some means of providing insulation to maintain comfort in the building. Sometimes this is accomplished by creating a double wall, with an air space, or some other insulation in between. Another approach is placing insulating materials on the outside.









A Review of
Adobe Homes for All Climates





with Quentin Wilson

What is Adobe?
Localities where Adobe Works
Appropriate Mixes for Adobe
Ways to Make Adobe Bricks
Foundations for Adobe
Laying the Adobes
Roofs on Adobe Homes
Adobe as Plaster
Adobe Floors
Structural Concerns

Appearance of Adobe
Mass and Insulation



Click on image to buy from Customflix.com

A Sampler of Alternative Homes: Approaching Sustainable Architecture . This two-hour DVD, produced by Kelly Hart, provides an overview of sustainable building concepts. You can enjoy a look at a fascinating variety of homes and the creative people who built them! Discover how passive solar design and environmentally low-impact materials can be used to create comfortable and economical homes. See the use of both traditional materials, such as adobe, and innovative materials, such as papercrete and earthbags.

This program offers a wealth of information about construction details and other considerations. It covers adobe block construction, piled adobe (similar to cob), rammed earth, both load-bearing and post and beam strawbale, earthships, earth-sheltering, cordwood, thin-shelled concrete domes, papercrete, earthbags, hybrid structures, and recycling various containers for housing. To watch a streaming video introduction to this program, click here.


For a VHS videotape of this program go to the STORE.


Earthen Floors:
A Modern Approach
to an Ancient Practice

by Sukita Reay Crimmel
& James Thomson, 2014

Click on image for more information

Homes and Interiors of Taos, Santa Fe, and the Southwest

Sandra Seth and Laurel Seth, 2012

Click on image for more information

Ageless Adobe:
History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

by Jerome Iowa, 2012

Click on image for more information

Spanish Colonial or Adobe Architecture of California: 1800-1850
Donald R. Hannaford and Revel Edwards, 2012

Click on image for more information

Earth Masonry:
Design and Construction Guidelines

by Tom Morton, 2010

Click on image for more information

Adobe Homes for All Climates:
Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques

by Lisa Schroder, Vince Ogletree, 2010

A review of this book

Click on image for more information

The Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon's Guide to Dirt:
Hand-Building with Adobe, Papercrete, Paper-Adobe,
and More

by Michael Van Hall, 2009

Click on image for more information

The Complete Guide to Alternative Home Building materials & Methods
by Jon Nunan, 2009

Click on image for more information

The New Adobe Home
by Michael Byrne and Dottie Larson, 2009
Kindle Edition

Click on image for more information

Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home
by Laura Sanchez, Alex Sanchez, 2008

Click on image for more information

Earth Architecture
by Ronald Rael, 2008

Click on image for more information

Build Your Own Earth Oven 
by Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field, 2007

Click on image for more information

Simone Swan:
Adobe Building

by Dennis Dollens, 2006

Click on image for more information

Adobe Conservation
by Cornerstones Staff, 2006

Click on image for more information


Building with Earth: Design and Technology of a Sustainable Architecture
by Gernot Minke, 2006

Click on image for more information

The Good House Book :
A Common-Sense Guide to Alternative Homebuilding

by Clarke Snell, 2004

Click on image for more information

Butabu :
Adobe Architecture of West Africa

by James Morris , Suzanne Preston Blier, 2003

Click on image for more information

Adobe Details
by Karen Witynski, Joe P. Carr, 2002

Click on image for more information

The Owner-Built Adobe House
by Duane Newcomb, 2001

Click on image for more information

The Small Adobe House
by Agnesa Reeve, R. Reck, 2001

Click on image for more information
Click on image for more information

The Adobe Story:
A Global Treasure

by Paul Graham McHenry, 2000

Click on image for more information

The Adobe Book
by John F. O'Connor, 1999

Click on image for more information


Pueblo Architecture and Modern Adobes:
The Residential Designs
of William Lumpkins

by Joseph Traugott, William T. Lumpkins, 1998

Click on image for more information


Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings:
Design and Construction

by Paul Graham McHenry, 1997

Click on image for more information

Architecture for People:
The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy

by James Steele, 1997

Click on image for more information

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia
by William Facey, 1997

Click on image for more information

Behind Adobe Walls:
The Hidden Homes and Gardens of Santa Fe
and Taos

by Lisl Dennis, 1997






Click on image for more information

Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture:
How to Build Your Own

by Nader Khalili, 1996

Click on image for more information

Building and Living With Earth

by Orlando Romero , David Larkin, 1994

Click on image for more information

Spectacular Vernacular :
The Adobe Tradition

by Jean-Louis Bourgeois, 1990

Click on image for more information

Adobe Architecture
by Myrtle Stedman, 1987

Click on image for more information


Adobe: Remodeling & Fireplaces
by Myrtle Stedman, 1986

Click on image for more information

LA Casa Adobe
by William Lumpkins, 1986

Click on image for more information


Adobe : Build It Yourself
by Paul Graham McHenry, 1985

Click on image for more information
Click on image to buy from Dirtcheapbuilder
Cinva Ram Plans Taylor Publishing offers an 11 page design-set of plans for making a CEB compressed earth block press ...aka Cinva Ram. (used by FernCo Metal to make the unit shown here. Design based on engineered specifications for manual earth block press is provided. Press was developed and engineered in third world countries for manual use. Welding of parts is recommended as part of assembly, and mechanical expertise is necessary to build these block presses. Xerographic, 40+ pages total information, sold "as is" as received from my resources. This means the plans are shown in mm, not inches, and you need a CAD or other program to convert; no lengthy assembly description is given. Booklet #535 Building with Adobe & Stabilized-Earth Blocks, and #1720 Adobe & Sun Dried Bricks booklet are included.



There is a distinctive mood and flavor to Southwest American art that reflects bright sunshine on cool adobe walls, with a peacefulness and relaxation that is hard to come by these days. These lovely artistic posters can bring this peaceful relaxation into your home.









Santa Fe I
Sven Alstrom , Designer

This one story Santa Fe Style ranch home has an attached two car garage and is based upon 24 inch wide straw bale (or adobe) construction on a concrete block foundation & concrete spread footings with crawl spaces and a partial basement. Though not designed as a passive solar house, it is designed for primarily hot weather climates. Natural interior plaster and natural exterior stucco are recommended. The interior square footage of the house portion is 2,336 square feet, measured on the inside of walls. In addition, the garage has 20 x 22 ft. clear inside dimensions. This home was originally designed for the main entrance to face east so that the kitchen is southeast for ‘ayurvedic' benefits – the plan also works well with the garage on the north side or by ‘flipping' the plan with the bedrooms on the south.

For more information about this plan, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.


adobebuilder.com Adobe Builder Magazine offers media, classes and information about adobe and rammed earth.

adobealliance.org Simone Swan's Adobe Alliance promotes earthen architecture, especially that inspired by the work of Hassan Fathy, through information and workshops.

naturalhomes.org lists workshops from around the world related to adobe building.

earth-auroville.com Auroville in India has been working with various aspects of earthen architecture and has much to share.

eartharchitecture.org features information and sponsors workshops on all types of earth building.

davidsheen.com features a wonderful collection of pictures of earthen sturctures from around the world. (If Firefox doesn't work, try another browser.)

mudcrafters.com specializes in adobe floors and earthen plasters, with lots of pictures and descriptions.

fawebster.com Fred Webster Associates has posted some excellent articles on adobe codes, structural defects, and earthquake damage to historic buildings.

claymineadobe.com a commercial stabilized adobe brick manufacturer with references for archtiects, schools, etc.

theownerbuilder.com.au an article about a "muddie" or adobe block home in Australia.

terrabuilt.com manufacturer of a compressed earthen brick machine that has a key/lock system eliminating the need for mortar.

adobebuilding.com describes a unique system for molding stabilized adobe bricks...they also occasionally sponsor workshops.

beyondadobe.com features a nice gallery of photos of adobe projects they have built in the Southwest U.S.

lavoutenubienne.org describes an African adaptation of adobe vaulted roof structures.

sukita.com an image gallery of adobe floors

iitk.ac.in/nicee this PDF document describes a simple, inexpensive method of reinforcing adobe buildings with plastic mesh for earthquake resistance.

velacreations.com instructions for making stabilized compressed earth block floors.

jinriki.blogspot.com How to make a traditional Japanese tamped earth floor.

docs.google.com is an Interlocking Soil/Cement  Compressed Earth Block Feasibility Study

nicaraguapuebloproject.org and facebook.com/PuebloProject describe how adobe building in Nicaragua empowers women.

Disclaimer Of Liability And Warranty
I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks, Inc.


Home       Site Map        STORE

For Email contact go to About Us
Established in 2001, GreenHomeBuilding.com is primarily a labor of love. Kelly, and the GreenHomeBuilding team of experts, have answered thousands of questions for readers over the years, and we continue to publish up-to-date information about increasingly important sustainable architecture. If you feel moved to assist us in this work, your kind donation would be much appreciated; this can be easily done through our PayPal account:
Custom Search


  [Solar Car]      [Earthbag Building]     [Dream Green Homes]
See Your Ad
in This Space!

Click Here
for More Information