By / In Architecture/ On
Adobe – What it is and it’s History
Adobe is one of man’s first building materials. Building with some form of dirt has origins all over the world. For thousands of years adobe houses have represented the practical wisdom of people who learned how to use the materials at hand to build homes that fitted the climate and landscape in which they lived. When the Spaniards came to Mexico they found the Indians using adobe, wood, and stone construction to house themselves. The Indians did not make bricks, but “puddled” the mud allowing each layer to dry before adding more. The Spanish made moveable sun-baked bricks, utilising the craft from home of forming the mud into blocks in wooden molds, a craft which is still used today. “Adobe” is a Spanish word derived from the Arabic “atob,” which literally means sun-dried brick. Today’s bricks have a small bit of asphalt mixed in to stabilise them. After the mud is poured into mud forms, a board is drawn across the top of the forms to take away excess mud and make the surface flat. After the bricks are dried they are taken from the forms and stacked.
Adobe is the ideal thermic material for building in a climate which has drastic temperature shifts. The mass of the adobe walls will absorb heat and radiate it back out into the house at night. The converse is also true. Thus the swing in temperature inside the house is very mild. In addition adobe construction offers non-toxicity to people who are sensitive to toxic substances such as the formaldehyde used in preparing chipboard.
Adobe is the construction material of choice for a few renowned architects, due to the fact it’s warm in winter and cool in summer.
Besides adobe there is another alternative, thermal and environmentally conscious construction method:
Straw Bale Construction
Plastered straw bale construction has been used for many years to build everything from luxury mansions to low-income housing. It is a technology which has proven itself over the last century to be durable, highly fire resistant, non-toxic, and structurally superior to many other systems used today. Straw is an annually renewable resource that creates highly insulated buildings which are both warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
It provides a highly agreeable environment, not only lower in construction costs but also in maintenance.