Learning how to build an adobe hacienda -- with a solar twis

Thousands of people today are looking for more energy-efficient ways to build their homes of the future. Jerry Hobgood of Colorado is one of them. At the beginning of the year she moved into her own passive solar-adobe house, which she helped to build. When construction was under way, Ms. Hobgood helped with much of the unskilled labor, thus allowing the building crew to do the skilled work and thereby cut costs.

In August 1980 she attended a six-day intensive course at the Southwest Solar Adobe School in Glenwood, N.M.

Twenty-two people took part in the seminar conducted by Joe Vaughn, an architect, and Joe Tibbets, a contractor-designer: engineers, contractors, architects, and do-it-yourselfers.

Attendants learn the advantages of adobe construction and get actual hands-on experience by making adobe blocks and laying them. An electrician and plumber tell them how to incorporate the plumbing and wiring into an adobe structure.

They're also told what to check out in local building codes which could affect their adobe projects if they ever decide to build.

The instructors, in fact, go over the plans, step by step, for building a solar-adobe house for as little as $10,000, assuming the land is already owned. A $10,000 house is described as a ''core house'' - one that can easily be expanded if the need arises. A ''core house'' is a one-level design with about 700 square feet of living space.

After touring a few solar-adobe and rock houses, the attendants draw up plans of their own, which are then given to the class for criticism and suggestions.

All of this is fine, of course, but finding the right contractor who knows solar-adobe construction could be a problem, as well as getting a loan to do the job.

If you do choose to build your own solar-adobe house, the total cost could be a lot less than the down payment on a conventional house.

Besides adobe, there are many other kinds of out-of-the-ordinary types of shelters. In Barnstable, for example, on Massachusetts' Cape Cod, some 200 people are living in biospheres or bioshelters, each of the occupants convinced that the architectural future is here now.

The biosphere owners are members of the New Alchemy Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and education in developing ecological approaches to food, energy, and shelter.

The New Alchemy concept is not an isolated one. Similar projects going up throughout the country.

In a Minneapolis suburb, an earth-shelter town house development is already built. Earth shelters are usually built into hills, with soil on the roof. They're apt to have a south-facing thermal pane, which retains and dissipates large amounts of excess heat energy.

The University of Minnesota's Underground Space Center estimates there are close to 4,000 such homes completed or being discussed in the United States at the present time. Residents have yet to complain about natural light being confined to one side of the dwelling, a spokesman from the Underground Space Center says.

William Shurcliff, a Cambridge, Mass., physicist-architect, designed several superinsulated homes in a western Canadian province, thus helping to fan widespread interest in this concept.

Superinsulated houses are modest, no-nonsense structures with emphasis on insulation, windows, vapor barriers, air change, and thermal performance. They pay little attention to beauty and livability.

Mr. Shurcliff says that for ''truly superb, thick, and thorough'' insulation, use Styrofoam or cellulose fiber at the sills, headers, eaves, window frames, door frames, and electric outlet boxes. His homes have neither a furnace nor thermal devices, but remain comfortable throughout the bitter Saskatchewan winters, he asserts.

Miscellaneous heat sources, such as a stove, sunlight through a south-facing window, and clothes dryers, are enough to heat the homes, according to Shurcliff.

Geodesic-dome homes, a concept developed by Buckminster Fuller, are globular networks of triangles that offer maximum floor space and require minimum amounts of building materials. Some 10,000 units a year are being sold, the National Association of Dome Manufacturers reports.

Peter Chermayeff, designer of the New England Aquarium, has some firm concepts about future homes. He declares:

''The design thinking now is that less is better, tight is good. You'll live closer to work so you can walk there. You'll live in a smaller place in a small-scale village community. People are returning to a village-scale life style.

''I visualize the kitchen as the center of the house.''

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.




Save for later


Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items


Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items