How to Make Low-Cost Building Blocks: Stabilized Soil Block Technology

How to Make Low-Cost Building Blocks: Stabilized Soil Block Technology

How to Make Low-Cost Building Blocks: Stabilized Soil Block TechnologyAuthor(s): Malcolm Davis

Publisher: Practical Action (December 1993)

Paperback: 36 pages

ISBN-10: 1853390860

ISBN-13: 978-1853390869

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)

With the right soil, correctly prepared and compressed, it is possible to halve the amount of cement used for block-making. This manual shows how to make and use strong blocks from soil, from the initial planning to the end product.

Soil testing instruction basic description for making Cinva Ram bricks, 36 pages, simple instructions, written for third world or non-English speaking readers, covers soil testing for clay, how to mix and prepare soils, well illustrated, softcover.

Adobe Construction Methods Using Adobe Brick or Rammed Earth (Monolithic Construction) for Homes

Author(s): LW Neubauer

Publisher: UC California Agricultural Sciences Dept ,1964

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)

35 page booklet

A very thorough primer for Adobe! Explains how to make and build with adobe bricks. Soil selection, stabilization and waterproofing with cement, emulsified asphalt, lime are detailed.

Describes how to build and mortar walls, place lintels, windows, doors, and build roofs. Shows diagrams of construction details from foundation to roof, with correct measurements given. Covers finishing, painting, limewashing, fireplaces and chimneys,. Even describes other tamped earth methods such as English Cob, rammed earth, poured adobe; with photos and diagrams of formworks used. Black and white photos throughout, produced by UC California Agricultural Sciences Dept ,1964.

Earthen Floors

Earthen Floors

Earthen FloorsAuthor(s): Bill Steen and Athena Swentzel Steen

Publisher: Canelo Project


Order From: Canelo Project
HC1 Box 324
Canelo/Elgin, AZ 85611

Alternate Source:
(links will open in a new window)


Natural earth floors are fast becoming the finish of choice for people building with adobe, strawbale and cob. Comfortable to walk on, forgiving of dropped pottery and simple to maintain. Earthen floors are inexpensive, don’t off-gas like man-made products and are easily repaired. This illustrated booklet covers all aspects of earthen floors: base preparations for various climates, earthen mixtures; installation; non-chemical sealants; and upper story applications. 30 page booklet.

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia

Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi ArabiaAuthor(s):
William Facey

Publisher: I B Tauris & Co Ltd

Hardcover: 216 pages

ISBN: 1900404133

ISBN-13: 978-1900404136

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)

Until 1986, when it was acquired by H.R.H. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Sa’ud, the old farmhouse at al-‘Udhaibat was a tumble-down, neglected mud-brick ruin, no different from many other such buildings which have survived in Saudi Arabia from before modernisation. It was unmaintained and – as all buildings of sun-dried mud will, if left – was quietly subsiding into oblivion. Al-‘Udhaibat is situated just north of the metropolitan sprawl of modern Riyadh, in a location of special resonance for Saudi Arabians. For it lies in the great Wadi Hanifah, just south of al-Dir’iyyah, the old, ruined mud-built capital of the First Saudi State and hub of the 18th-century Islamic reform movement. How the attempt to restore this modest farmhouse, once owned by the late King Faisal, developed into a complex project with important implications for rural housing and the place of traditional materials in modern building, is the story told in this book. Al-‘Udhaibat remains a test-bed, its performance under constant scrutiny, and a source of inspiration for the new generation of Saudi architects. Topics covered in this lavishly illustrated book, aimed alike at architects, planners and general readers, include: The role of vernacular style in modern architecture; The environmental and historical setting of al-‘Udhaibat; Traditional techniques of adobe building in Najd; Issues in adobe restoration and re-building; The re-building process in detail; The reclamation and re-conditioning of the farmland; The future of adobe in the modern world. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Sa’ud is a grandson of the late King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and a nephew of the late King Faisal. He is perhaps best known to the general public for becoming, in 1985, the first Arab astronaut. He is today, however, equally prominent as an opinion-former, and his commitment to Islamic values and his concern for architecture and the environment are well-known. He is currently the President of the High Commission for Tourism in the Kingdom.


“Back to Earth is the story of a Saudi prince’s concern for the environment and his desire to preserve and give new life to the dying skills of adobe building in Saudi Arabia. To set an example, he has restored, in traditional techniques, a farmhouse outside Riyadh. The end result is stunning. … The most interesting section of the book is the description of the restoration. … The various processes are all documented with good photographs and drawings.” – Venetia Porter, Times Literary Supplement, 24 April 1998.

About the Author

William Facey is a historian of Arabia. He is also a museum consultant and a director of the London Centre of Arab Studies.
Adobe: Build It Yourself, Revised Edition

Adobe: Build It Yourself, Revised Edition

Adobe: Build It Yourself, Revised Edition

Author(s): Paul Graham McHenry

Publisher: Univ of Arizona Pr

Paperback: 158 pages

ISBN: 0816509484

ISBN-13: 978-0816509485

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)

This book explores the depths of adobe and enables the reader to build their own home intelligently and realistically. With an emphasis on adobe construction, McHenry discusses the planning of every aspect of one’s home from the financing to the foundation, the floors to the fireplaces. The prospective builder must be prepared for a long period of frustration, doubt, worry, and plain hard work, but the helpful ideas found on the pages of this book will encourage readers to build despite the challenges. McHenry describes this process as a tremendous puzzle, for which one must create and arrange all the pieces, and then live with the result.

McHenry begins with a brief history of adobe and then moves on to the planning of the home, emphasizing the influence of individual ideas. The intention of this book is to help bridge the gap between architects, builders, craftsmen, and the unskilled but determined individual who wants to build their own home. This book outlines the technical aspects of adobe construction with several pictures and figures to simplify production.

The creation of a home, from the earliest design concepts to successful completion, is one of the most rewarding experiences one can ever have. McHenry’s Adobe offers a realistic and straightforward guide to “doing it yourself.” His advice regarding adobe is useful for professionals and amateurs alike.



Building with Earth: A Handbook

Building with Earth: A Handbook

Building with Earth: A HandbookAuthor(s): John Norton

Publisher: Stylus Pub Llc

ISBN: 1853393371

Order From
(links will open in a new window)


2nd Edition Paperback
Publication date: October 1997

This handbook provides practical help in choosing whether and how to build with earth, from soil selection through to construction and maintenance. The techniques described in the second edition–revised and updated–of this book have a focus on achieving good quality results with accessible methods, that can go on being used by rich and poor, and for simple buildings as well as the more sophisticated.

Table of Contents
How this Handbook Might Help You
General Considerations
What Earth Is
Strength and Weakness
Climatic Performance and Comfort
Earthquake Resistance
Choosing Whether and How to Build with Earth
Choosing a Suitable Soil
Soil Composition
Particle Characteristics
Expansive Soils
Soil Analysis
Initial Sensory Observation
Field Tests
Field Laboratory Tests
How to Determine and Improve Quality
Visual Assessment
Compressive Strength
Bending Strength or Modulus of Rupture
Resistance to Water Erosion
Moisture Absorption
Soil Improvement
Wall Construction
Combination Walls
Load-Bearing Walls
Self-supporting Earth Vaults Build on Shuttering
Vault and Domes Without Formwork
Flat and Pitched Roofs
Short Span Earth Components Between Support Beams
Reinforced Earth Roofs
Foundations and Floors
Preliminary Considerations
Caring for Your Building
Openings, Joinery, Finishes and Furniture
Electricity and Plumbing
References and Notes

Adobe: Building and Living With Earth

Adobe: Building and Living With Earth

Adobe: Building and Living With EarthAuthor(s): Orlando Romero, David Larkin, Michael Freeman

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

ISBN: 0395566932

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)


From Booklist , 10/15/94:
When David Larkin’s name graces a title page, the book is bound to be well designed and full of superb color photographs. His most recent projects include Frank Lloyd Wright: The Masterworks and Barn (1993). Here Larkin has teamed up with Romero, library director for the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and expert on adobe in particular and southwestern culture in general, to create a picture-rich study of the history, technology, and dignified, sculptural beauty of adobe structures. The oldest of building materials, adobe bricks are made from mud and straw and have been used in Africa, the Iberian peninsula, and all across the Southwest and Mexico. Surprisingly durable if maintained, adobe constructions can last for centuries. Romero and Larkin explain brick-making and remudding techniques, showing both archival photographs of Native Americans at work on their pueblos and photographs of contemporary builders. They also document some of the Southwest’s most famous adobe churches and pueblos, such as the San Francisco Mission Church at Ranchos de Taos and the wondrous mesa-crowning Acoma Pueblo, as well as a selection of lesser-known buildings. Special attention is paid to interior decorative detail and to adobe’s intrinsic connection to the landscape.

The use of earth as building material is as old as civilization itself. For the 20th-century American, the process is most familiar in the sun-dried brick called “adobe” and the style characteristic of the desert Southwest. Here is the story of adobe, from Asia and North Africa to New Mexico and the fabulous homes near Taos. 200 color photos; line drawings.

Booknews, Inc. , 12/01/94:
This mouthwatering documentary and visual history of adobe structures encompasses their geographical, esthetic, and historical dimensions. It surveys North African earthen buildings, Hispanic-influenced Native American pueblos and churches of the American Southwest, and the contemporary architecture of Santa Fe and Taos, showcasing interiors, exteriors, and special features in gorgeous color photos (by Michael Freeman). The text is clear and informative. Of interest to a wide audience of architects, interior designers, and those with an interest in the esthetic, ecological, and economic appeal of adobe. No index.

Ageless Adobe: History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

Ageless Adobe: History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

Ageless Adobe: History and Preservation in Southwestern Architecture

Author(s): Jerome Iowa

Publisher: Sunstone Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2005)

Paperback: 160 pages

ISBN: 086534034X

ISBN-13: 978-0865340343

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)

The American Southwest possesses an extraordinary depth of cultural heritage and much of its history is preserved in its architecture. Particularly prominent in the region’s man-made landscape are the historic structures made from the earth itself: adobe. Attention has turned to ways of preserving and maintaining the old buildings of the Southwest partly because of the growing national interest in historic preservation. However, in the Southwest there has also been an increased awareness of the inherent viability of native architecture. Adobe structures present unique challenges and require special treatment and until now, much of that information has been unpublished. Ageless Adobe provides practical details on methods of preservation and maintenance for old adobe buildings. The over 200 illustrations in the book along with directions on ‘how-to’ will enable the do-it-yourself home owner as well as the professional architect or contractor to plan and carry out renovation. The author presents solutions to the problems of keeping an historic structure intact while repairing it and making it 20th century livable. The issue of energy conservation is discussed at length and the premise of the book is that historic integrity does not have to be sacrificed for energy efficiency. Rehabilitation is always preferable, usually possible and often more profitable than demolition.

Earth Construction : A Comprehensive Guide

Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

Earth Construction : A Comprehensive GuideAuthor(s): Hugo Houben, Hubert Guillaud

Publisher: Intermediate Technology

Paperback: 372 pages

ISBN: 185339193X

ISBN-13: 978-1853391934

Order From:
(links will open in a new window)


Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide
Reissue Edition
Paperback Publication date: October 1993

This comprehensive, illustrated handbook deals with the world’s oldest and most widespread building material. Although earth is extremely versatile and can be used at relatively low cost, it is essential that users have a good knowledge of its real potential in order to use it to best effect, and to avoid misuse.

This book assembles, orders and clarifies information about building with earth which has up till now been available only in scattered form. Text supported by illustrations deals with the essential aspects of earth construction, taking one step at a time–decision-making, planning, design and the realization of a project–so that the procedures, benefits and precautions are easily accessible and understood by those involved at every level. The accumulated knowledge and experience of centuries of use are presented alongside current technologies and research findings. There is a chapter devoted to disaster-resistant construction techniques, and extensive bibliographies throughout for those who require more details about a particular subject area.

This is essential reading for anyone involved in construction projects at all levels, including decision-makers and planners, building inspectors, architects and engineers, technicians, building promoters and bricklayers, and sub-contractors–as well as students and academics–enabling them to visualize and plan programs which profit from earth’s wide range of qualities and ameliorate its defects, to test, stabilize and build with the local soil, and to find solutions to problems as they arise.

Table of Contents
1.Earth construction
3.Soil identification
4.Soil stabilization
5.Soil suitability
8.Construction methods
9.Production methods
10.Design guidelines
11.Disaster-resistant construction
12.Earth wall finishes