March 2015

Intersections of Archeology, Architecture, Culture and Place

Much of the Sustainable New Mexico Architecture focus of this edition of Green Fire Times was written by architect Rachel Preston Prinz. Rachel loves to share her passion for discovering the genius loci—the “Spirit of Place.” After having been a project manager in traditional architecture firms for more than 10 years, she founded the Albuquerque-based firm Archinia in 2007, and its nonprofit offshoot, Built for Life, in 2012. Rachel has given multiple TEDx and Pecha Kucha talks on sustainability and historic preservation and is a well-regarded designer and architectural researcher. She served as a preservation commissioner in Taos and has led groundbreaking More >

Sustainable New Mexico Architecture


Rachel Preston Prinz


Twentieth-century architecture began to paint a different picture of New Mexican architectural values. That picture is one of architecture from other places that is unsuitable for our climate, at worst. At best, it is one that copies the architecture of our place but with total disregard for historic materials and methods that are designed to work well with our climate. This ultimately means our homes cease to work for us and are dependent on technology to function. What can we do to change that and make architecture work for the people of New Mexico again?

If it is More >

Taos County Courthouse Preservation Plan Moves Ahead


Rachel Preston Prinz


To preserve the historic Taos County Courthouse on Taos Plaza, the town of Taos and Taos County have come together to address long-standing issues regarding maintenance and use of the facility, which has been all but abandoned since municipal offices were moved from the building in the late 1960s. Since that time, the building has served various functions, including as a home base for some of the plaza’s merchants. However, underutilization of the facility and the dwindling budgets that resulted left the building in need of some relatively serious upgrades in order to make it functional, financially viable More >

Taos County Courthouse Murals


When the new Taos County Courthouse was completed in January, 1934, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Public Works of Art Project commissioned four of Taos’ premier artists to paint 10 murals in the facility. The project was managed by Santa Fe artist Gustave Baumann. The four artists engaged in the effort were: Emil Bisttram, Ward Lockwood, Bert Phillips and Victor Higgins. They became known as the “Taos Fresco Quartet.” An 11th mural was completed in 1994 by renowned New Mexican fresco artist Frederico Vigil following his conservation of the original murals.


Emil Bisttram’s works in the courthouse include:

Aspiration / Asperación (no. More >

How Archaeology and Architecture History Can Teach Us about Truly Sustainable Design


Rachel Preston Prinz

When this photo was taken 18 years ago, I had no idea how prophetic it would become. I was traveling to Europe’s mysterious ruined places, like Paestum and Pompeii, and fell in love—with the bones of architecture. I would marvel over details like this elaborately laid column. That was the beginning of a career where I would get to play on the edge that separates architecture and archaeology. I figure out the puzzles, patterns and underlying systems that made old architecture work and then apply that knowledge to modern design. I will share with you some of the More >

Cañada de Apodaca Trail Nominated to National Register as Part of Old Spanish Trail


Rachel Preston Prinz and Mark Henderson


In a nondescript drainage on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just west of Dixon, one of northern New Mexico’s stories comes to life in a landscape that has changed little since indigenous people used these pathways as far back as 600 years ago to move between the pueblos of Picuris and Taos and points further. This is the story of the Cañada de Apodaca, a historic trail recommended for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing intact segment of the Old Spanish National Historical Trail (OST). Cañada de Apodaca is one More >

Nominating Sites for the National Register of Historic Places: The Need to Preserve Both Historic Architecture and Wilderness


Rachel Preston Prinz


We chose this place to live for a reason. Preserving some of the last pristine, northern New Mexican historic and environmental (wild) viewsheds is one way that we can preserve this beautiful and rugged place for our grandchildren.

Recently, I was asked to be part of a team brought together to produce nominations of six high-potential route segments of the Old Spanish National Historical Trail (OST) for the National Register of Historic Places. Each site would be located in and approved by the State Historic Preservation Offices, Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and U.S. Department of the Interior sections—Bureau More >

UNM-Taos: Skills Development in Sustainable Design


Asha Stout


Within a half-hour drive from the University of New Mexico-Taos Construction Technology Department’s Green Trades Training Center, one can find more than 900 years of living architectural history ranging from the historic Taos Pueblo—a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site—to the Earthship Biotecture compound across the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.

Even before the Chevron mine in Questa closed last year, jobs in Taos County were scarce. To best serve the local population, UNM-Taos acts as both a community college for northern New Mexicans, providing traditional vocational education (now called career technology), as well as a pathway More >

So Long, Big Oil and Big Coal


Stanley Crawford


I started experimenting with solar in the early 1970s with the construction of a Trombe wall, possibly the first in New Mexico. A Trombe wall is essentially a very thin greenhouse with glazing applied vertically to a stone or adobe wall. The glazing can be in the form of clear fiberglass, polycarbonate or glass, with a two- to six-inch air space between glazing and wall surface, which is painted black to absorb heat. Heat migrates through the mass of the wall in the course of the day and radiates into the living space throughout the night. Being vertical, Trombe More >

What’s a Heat Pump?


John M. Onstad


Since the beginning of civilization, people have heated their homes by burning things: wood, coal, peat and, more recently, fuel oil, kerosene, natural gas and propane.

These fuels heat effectively and cheaply because a lot of energy in the form of BTUs (British thermal units) is stored in a relatively small volume. A cord (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.) of piñón wood contains about 22 million BTUs, a gallon of liquefied propane about 90,000 BTUs, and a cubic foot of compressed natural gas about 1,000 BTUs. At 75 percent efficiency in a wood stove, a cord More >

A Tribute to Linda Pedro, Advocate for People with Disabilities


Alejandro López


I remember how happy my elderly mother was each time she returned from retablo-painting workshops conducted by Linda Pedro at the local senior citizen’s center. My mother, like so many from every walk of life, was enthralled and deeply inspired by this larger-than-life woman who did so much—often, the seemingly impossible—from within the confines of a wheelchair and a seriously compromised body. Without a doubt, Linda Pedro was one of the great souls who have inhabited the mountainous community of Chimayó in northern New Mexico. She lived there for over 40 years, before passing away on Jan. 13th of More >

Sustainable Santa Fe Update


Bianca Sopoci-Belknap


Last month NASA released a report that warns that the United States is headed toward a megadrought the likes of which has not been seen in 1,000 years. If nothing is done to reduce the carbon load released into the atmosphere by human activity, NASA’s climate models show megadroughts forming over much of the U.S. by the end of this century that could last 20, 30, even 40 years. That’s two, three, or four times the length of the drought that resulted in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. If immediate action is taken to reduce carbon buildup, droughts will More >

Newsbites – March 2015


Green Buildings Get Lower Interest Rate Loans

The U.S. Federal National Mortgage Association—Fannie Mae—will for the first time provide lower interest rate loans to green multifamily residential buildings. Fannie Mae will grant a 10-basis-point interest-rate refinance reduction for the acquisition or supplemental mortgage loan for buildings with a green building certification. For example, if the market interest rate is 4 percent on the loan, with this pricing break the new rate is 3.9 percent. On a $10-million dollar loan amortizing over 30 years, the owner would save $95,000 in interest payments over a 10-year term.


Rick Fedrizzi, chief executive and founding chair of More >

What’s Going On? – Albuquerque – March 2015


March 1-31

Women & Creativity

Multiple Locations

Collaborations, performances, workshops and events across disciplines that showcase innovation and leadership of visionary community women.,


March 4, 5:30-7 pm

Green Drinks

Hotel Andaluz, 125 Second St. NW

Network with people interested in doing business locally, clean energy alternatives and creating sustainable opportunities in our communities. Presenter: Restaurateur Roy Solomon will discuss the Green Jeans Farmery project on Carlisle and Cutler. Presented by the ABQ and Río Rancho Green Chamber.,



March 5-6, 9 am-7 pm

Joe Sando Symposium on Pueblo Indian Studies

Nativo Lodge, 6000 Pan American Freeway N.E.

Presentations by scholars on Pueblo history and life. Presented by the More >

What’s Going On? – Santa Fe – March 2015

March 1-31

Women & Creativity

Multiple Locations

Collaborations, performances, workshops and events across disciplines that showcase innovation and leadership of visionary community women.,


March 1-31

DIY Santa Fe: A Creative Tourism Journey

An immersive cultural arts experience; month-long celebration of workshops and events offered through Santa Fe Creative Tourism, a program of the SF Arts Commission. An opportunity for visitors to learn from experienced artists and artisans while enjoying world-class restaurants, sites and accommodations. 505.792.5746,,


March 4, 2-4 pm

Home Kitchen Certification

WESST-Santa Fe, 3900 Paseo del Sol

An overview of the steps required to be able to legally create food products to sell. Free. 505.474.6556, More >

What’s Going On? – Española – March 2015


March 1, 2 pm

Camino de Paz Montessori Middle School Open House

Santa Cruz, NM (25 min. north of Santa Fe)

Presentation of curriculum and Montessori philosophy followed by Q&A with staff and parents. Student-led tours. Come see why Camino de Paz received Edible Magazine’s “Local Hero Award.” 505.231.2819,


March 13-14

Adult Literacy Tutor Training

Española Public Library, Lucero Center

Transforming lives through literacy.” Volunteer opportunity. Río Arriba Adult Literacy Program serves adults in the Española area who read below the 6th grade level. 505.614.5748,




What’s Going On? – Taos – March 2015


March 13-15

Taos Pueblo Artists Winter Showcase

Millicent Rogers Museum

3rd Annual showcase & sale. 17 artists. 3/13, 5:30-7 pm: Private preview reception. Museum admission fee. 575.758.2462, ext. 212.


March 19-20

Taos Shortz Film Fest

Taos Community Auditorium

150 juried global film short films from 34 countries and students from the Institute of American Indian Arts (3/19, 12 pm). Parties, filmmaker’s lounge, viewings. $5-$12 per program.,




What’s Going On? – Here & There – March 2015


March 5 Opening

Iron Tribe 2015

NMHU’s Burris Hall Gallery, 903 National Ave., Las Vegas, NM

International group show of sculpture featuring work by Highlands University fine arts professor David Lobdell. Accompanying events run through March 7.


March 10, 7-8:30 pm

Jump-Start Your Gardening

PEEC Nature Center, Los Alamos

Natali Steinberg will explain how to start from seed indoors. $40/$32 for two-part program. Registration required. 505.662.0460,,


March 19, 7 pm

Wetland Restoration in NM Desert Grasslands

PEEC Nature Center, 3540 Orange St., Los Alamos

Karla Sartor will discuss birds and plants where habitat is threatened by overgrazing and climate change and how restoration techniques can be applied to the More >