October 4-6 • St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art • Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

Quentin Wilson

 

Adobe belongs here.” That simple statement can include all of New Mexico, where it is ingrained in the history, architecture and culture. We often think of New Mexico as the world hub of adobe and earthbuilding activity. However, in 2000 at a conference in Berlin, Dr. Klaus Dierks rose from the audience to correct a speaker, saying: “There are two million earthen homes in central Germany alone!”

Earth USA 2013, the Seventh International Earthen Architecture and Construction Conference is coming to Santa Fe from Oct. 4-6. The first five conferences, presented by what was then the Adobe Association of the Southwest, took place at the Northern New Mexico College in El Rito, beginning in 2003. The sixth took place in 2011 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque under the new title Earth USA to reflect the wider scope of interest. Earth USA has a board of advisors from across the United States. The 2013 conference’s organizing sponsor is Adobe in Action, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit. The Earthbuilders’ Guild, which represents professionals in the field, is another major sponsor, along with the University of Oklahoma and Santa Fe’s Cornerstones Community Partnerships.

The Adobe USA/Earth USA series of conferences is indebted to the example of Dachverband Lehm (DVL) of Germany, a group of professionals who have showed the world that earthen materials are a legitimate material that can be quantified and qualified in laboratories so that the information can be used in the standardized formulas recognized and used by building officials. DVL has led the way with international conferences and educational materials on this subject to ensure quality construction methods.

The conference’s range of topics this year is quite wide. In addition to adobe, the event will focus on other materials that rely on clay for its adhesive power: rammed earth, compressed-earth blocks, sod/terron, burnt adobe/quemados, wattle, daub/jacal and cob, which can be described as puddled or monolithic adobe.

Presentations will vary from nearly poetic narrative accounts to formal reports on highly technical investigations. Dr. Horst Schroder, representing DVL, and recently retired from the Bauhaus University in Germany, will describe the process of getting earthen materials into DIN, the European equivalent of the American Society of Testing and Materials. Lucia Garzon of Colombia will report on the results of an energy-independent home she designed and built. Five Iranians have submitted papers on the rich heritage and tradition of adobe construction and use in buildings and cooling systems in their country. A paper by Dr. Mohamed Shariful Islam of Bangladesh looks at ways to increase the disaster resistance of adobe, primarily to their annual floods. Presentations from four authors at the University of Oklahoma will showcase their work with compressed earth blocks and the exciting work they have done to introduce CEB houses into their local Habitat for Humanity projects. Presenters from the University of South Carolina will address the performance of CEB structures in high wind conditions. Mark Nair of the Texas Panhandle will talk about community building at Mariposa Village near Amarillo. Marcy Frantom will discuss the surprising historical French architecture found in Louisiana, and French researcher Elsa Ricaud will discuss the heritage of earthbuilding in the United States. The 43 full papers will be assembled into the Proceedings of Earth USA 2013 and will be included in the $250 conference registration fee for attendees and available to the public for $60.

A free public Earthbuilding Trade Fair will take place Oct. 4-5 on the Santa Fe Plaza and in several parking spaces around the New Mexico Museum of Art. The trade fair will feature simple mud plaster demonstrations, machines that make compressed earth blocks, and information displays from earthbuilding companies, related businesses and organizations. On Oct. 7 there will be tours to local sites in and around Santa Fe. Pre-conference and post-conference earthbuilding workshops will take place throughout September and October. For more information, call 505.310.3259 or visit www.earthusa.org

 

Quentin Wilson was the instructor of the Adobe Construction Program for 15 years at Northern New Mexico College in El Rito. Prior to that, for 25 years he built solar adobe homes.

 

 

 

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