September 2013

Building in Adobe: A Powerful Catalyst for Real Life Learning


Alejandro López


Many exquisite soils abound throughout northern New Mexico, from which, as recently as 70 years ago, the majority of people constructed their homes, ovens and religious buildings. In the village of Las Trampas near Peñasco, the exposed adobe homes and the church of San José de Gracia radiate a certain pleasing light-salmon pinkish tone not to be found anywhere else. In Las Truchas, just a few miles to the south, an occasional building or ruin still reveals the use of a clayish earth full of pebbles of a dark sienna cast. In Ribera along the Pecos River, old evocative More >

Green Builders


Build Green NM Gold-Rated Solar Adobe

A traditional-style adobe home surrounding a center courtyard has just been completed north of Santa Fe. Owners John and Linda Dressman did the wooden bond beam, the carved portal rafters and posts, the ceiling beams, painted decking, interior finish woodwork and laid the brick floors. They hired Daniel Buck Construction, Inc. to fill in the rest of the work and coordinate the project.


The home, which achieved a gold rating with Build Green New Mexico, has radiant floors with a high-efficiency boiler. It has one-quarter the air leakage of an average home, thanks to an Energy Recover Ventilation system, R-12 floors, R-26 walls and an R-85 More >

The Earthbuilders’ Guild

Preserving and Promoting Age-Old Building Methods


Seth Roffman



The Earthbuilders’ Guild (TEG) is a New Mexico-based organization dedicated to the betterment and advancement of earthen construction of homes and commercial buildings. Motivated by family traditions, meaningful work, environmental concerns and the joy of working with the earth, as well as great respect for the benefits of the structures, the guild researches, preserves and promotes age-old building methods of adobe, rammed-earth and compressed-earth block construction. 

The TEG, a “Businesspersons’ League,” has stimulated communication and unity among contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, installers, architects, draftsfolk, etc., and has made earthbuilding a visible trade to bureaucrats and politicians who would otherwise ignore More >

New Mexico Earthworks


Sean Kaltenbach, a second-generation New Mexico builder with a deep dedication to sustainable homes, has led or participated in the building of numerous custom earthen homes. Kaltenbach, chairman of the Earthbuilders’ Guild board of directors, is often called on for advice or instruction in the specialized techniques and skills of earthen construction. His company, New Mexico Earthworks, specializes in adobe and compressed-earth block construction, as well as artistic fireplaces, bancos, architecturally interesting exposed adobe walls, and the use of custom finishes such as earth-and-lime plastering.

The many reasons to build an earthen home span romance, history and quality of life,” says Kaltenbach. “Adobe More >

Adobe: Building an Industry


Sarah Rowe


Green building. Renewable materials. Ancient tradition. Adobe blocks have been a New Mexico tradition for hundreds of years, but it is in recent decades that they have found a home with commercial manufacturers. These manufacturers have turned adobe from a poor man’s alternative and a rich man’s luxury into an accessible building material for anyone wanting a home.


Adobe’s journey is far from over. While the blocks have long been an important part of New Mexico’s culture, modern manufacturers are helping to make adobe mainstream by promoting a characteristic especially suited to building today: sustainability.


The Rise and Fall of More >

Earthbuilding Rammed Earth Style in Southern New Mexico


Pat Bellestri-Martinez


Back in 1983, the University of Arizona held the 2nd Regional Conference on Earthen Building Materials. All methods of earthen construction were discussed, demonstrated and experimented with (including adobe mud blown through tubes to create a wall) by many early pioneers in the field, such as David and Lydia Miller of Fort Collins, Colo. This was our introduction to building rammed-earth walls.


Knowing that we would be building our home in New Mexico within a few months—initially an adobe home—we became intrigued with building an earth home with a monolithic wall of rammed earth instead of individual adobe blocks. More >

Book Review – Sun Sticks & Mud: 1,000 Years of Building in the Desert Southwest

By Bart Kaltenbach and Barbara Anschel, with photographs by Steve Fitch

La Sombra Books, 192 pages


Knowledgeably written, with an abundant passion for earthbuilding in all its forms, Sun Sticks & Mud is part history, part picture book and part diary. Kaltenbach and Anschel present two narratives side-by-side: The core of the book, fittingly, is in the center of the pages, while the outer regions of each page feature a travel journal that describes their adventures researching earth buildings across the Southwest.

The many stunning photographs alone make this book a delight to flip through. The book is primarily geared toward people interested in More >

Adobe Newsbites


Adobe Construction Program at Santa Fe Community College Adobe Concentration within the Building Science and Construction Technologies Degree Associate in Applied Science (AAS)


Adobe—The Original Green Building Material. This program at SFCC’s School of Trades, Technology, Sustainability and Professional Studies is built around passive solar adobe design and construction principles. It provides the knowledge and skills you’ll need to gain employment in the adobe construction and earthbuilding fields. The program is also geared toward non-professional owner-builders who wish to obtain the skills needed to design and build their own adobe home, from foundation to roof, using traditional New Mexican construction More >

Earth USA 2013: The Seventh International Earthen Architecture and Construction Conference


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. More >

Green Conferences


8th Annual Traditional Agriculture & Sustainable Living Conference

Looking Back to Our Ancestors to Step into the Future”


Oct. 25-26, 2013 • Nick L. Salazar Performing Arts Building, Northern New Mexico College, Española


An important symposium next month will feature international and regional experts in the areas of food security and sustainable ecology, along with panel discussions and workshops on food and nutrition, contemporary youth issues, heritage seed saving, traditional farming, land restoration, traditional medicine and medicinal herbs. There will also be a heritage seed exchange and a vendors’ market featuring earth-friendly products, information and services.


The keynote speakers are world-renowned author, physicist and biodiversity More >

La Tierra Montessori Integrates Science and Arts with Outdoor Education


Roger Montoya



La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences is a free public state charter school that is serving as a demonstration model. Located in the heart of northern New Mexico at the former Oñate Monument and Visitor’s Center in Alcalde, LTMAS is the first public Montessori school in Río Arriba County. In its second year of operation the school is serving 85 kindergarten-through-seventh-grade students from the Española Valley and surrounding communities.


Employing the Montessori “whole child” approach, which considers the social, emotional, physical and academic health of children, the school’s core academic plan integrates science and arts with More >

The Bounty of Earth’s Harvest


Dr. Japa K. Khalsa


Produce yields from New Mexico’s long growing season can make for some amazing healing foods. In Eastern medicine, September is part of “late summer” and is linked to the Element of Earth. We can see this connection through the bounty of fruits and vegetables that the Earth is yielding in colorful abundance. The foods that are seasonal to this time are particularly beneficial to the cycle of the body as it begins to slow down for winter. Foods like squash, pumpkin, chile, apples and all the colorful crops have minerals and vitamins that are especially nourishing for More >

OP-ED: Junk Food – Junk Energy


Gary Vaughn


There’s just no substitute for energy. Nothing happens without it. That applies to our bodies as well as to the world around us. Our own personal energy comes from the food we eat. Food is our fuel—and with a full tummy we can accomplish amazing things. But when we leverage our own personal energy with energy from external sources, then we are truly formidable.


We measure the energy content of our food in calories. We measure the energy content of our modern lifestyles in kilowatt-hours (kWh), British Thermal Units (BTU), Therms and various other units of energy. But energy is More >

The 2013 Extraordinary Technology Conference


Charles Bensinger

In a world beset by increasingly dire news, I found the presentations and demonstrations featured at the 2013 Extraordinary Technology Conference stunningly refreshing and hopeful. The presenters were fully aware of the extraordinary challenges we all face as we make our way deeper into the 21st century. Indeed, nearly every speaker recounted how either a personal health crisis or a deeply felt sense of overwhelming planetary urgency led them to search for alternatives to the inadequacies of the mainstream health care system and the crippling myopia of the traditional scientific paradigm.

The Marriott Pyramid North in Albuquerque, NM served More >

The Photon-Powered Car

Timothy J. Vaughn

Photon-powered devices were once the imagination of sci-fi writers for stories about futuristic places and civilizations. Television shows and movies like Star Trek and Star Wars had photon-based devices. Today these ideas are a reality. With the advancement in power-generation from photovoltaic cells and modules, commonly referred to as solar modules or panels, we are now generating power for our homes, businesses, stores, schools and more. The conversion of photons (light particles) into electricity has been possible for several decades, and the applications are spreading rapidly. Globally, photovoltaic power generation is the fastest growing sector of the power-generation industry. The More >

OP-ED: PNM Again Threatens Survival of New Mexico Solar Industries


Janet Bridgers


There are times when it’s necessary to give a shout to solar energy supporters in New Mexico. This is one of them. The great progress we’ve made toward cleaner energy is again threatened.

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, 8:30 am in Santa Fe, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will hold a public comment hearing on PNM’s petition to amend the renewable portfolio standards here in New Mexico. Established during Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration, these standards call for regulated electric utilities to meet 15 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy sources by 2015 and 20 percent by More >

Wildfires and Watersheds – Proactive Best Management Practices (Part II)


Michael Aune



When the New Mexico Senate and House of Representatives voted to approve HJM24 without any dissenting votes this past legislative session, each member made a commitment to “develop and implement proactive best management practices to eliminate risks prior to forest fire, flooding or other disruptions in the watersheds.” The subsequent letter that the NM Legislature sent to the five members of NM’s Congressional delegation further stated: “It is imperative that such damage be prevented in advance due to the even higher cost of major repair…to watersheds as a result of wildfires on the National Forests.”


HJM24 began as an effort More >

Newsbites – September 2013


Arizona Solar Under Attack


A legislative battle is brewing in Arizona over whether or not it is necessary, or just, to reduce the financial incentive to homeowners for installing solar panels. Residential and commercial net-metered solar systems receive credit from utility companies for the energy they generate. Arizona Public Service, the largest utility in Arizona and a publicly traded corporation, is pressing to either increase the rates of electricity usage for solar customers regardless of the amount they generate, or to quarter the credit they receive from generating electricity. APS, which is granted monopoly status in certain areas, claims that net-metered More >

What’s Going On? – Albuquerque – September 2013

  Sept. 4, 5:30-7:30 pm

Green Drinks

Hotel Andaluz, 125 2nd St. NW

Network with people interested in local business, clean energy and other green issues. Presentation by Realph Wrons, Environmental Technical Professional with Sandia National Labs on “SNL/NM on the Path to Zero Waste to Landfill.” Hosted by the Albuquerque & Rio Rancho Green Chamber of Commerce. Info: 505.244.3700,


Sept. 7, 6 pm-midnight

Una Noche en España

Hotel Albuquerque

Annual gala for the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation. Reception, dinner, dance, entertainment, silent and live auction. 505.766.9858,


Sept. 14, 9-11:30 am – Through Nov. 2014

Help Children Learn to Grow Healthy Food

South Valley

Volunteer independent educators/gardeners/farmers are More >

What’s Going On? – Santa Fe – September 2013


Sept. 3, 3-5 pm

Eldorado/285 Recycles

Eldorado area recycling advocacy group monthly meeting. All welcome. 505.570.0583,


Sept. 4, 6 pm

A Place at the Table

Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 107 W. Barcelona Rd.

Award-winning film about hunger in America and its impact on families. Brief discussion following screening.


Sept. 6-7

Modernist Encounters and Contemporary Inquiry: Art, Appropriation and Cultural Rights

Hotel Santa Fe

Symposium with keynote address “Global Indigenous Modernisms” by Professor Ruth Philips. Panel discussions examine encounters among Native and non-Native scholars, curators and artists about the interpretation of Native art and cultural objects in collections and exhibitions, representation of indigenous cultures by artists and institutions, and the More >