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This 4-week online course is an expanded introduction to building with adobe (earthen blocks) in California. The best way to learn the basics of adobe is to grab some local soil and make some blocks yourself. This course takes you through that process step by step – from locating and sourcing soil and aggregates to storing your dried adobe blocks for use in a future project.
Who is it for?
This introduction is suitable for DIYers, natural building enthusiasts, adobe homeowners, aspiring builders, and the adobe curious, and a great foundation for more advanced study in earthen construction.
4 weeks, 6-8 hours per week
This is a virtual class held using an online classroom platform hosting reading materials, assignments, podcasts, videos and a discussion board. Instruction is asynchronous with new material introduced on Mondays, and students can participate whenever their schedule allows.
Topics Include:Relevant reading material on the week’s topic.Podcast interviews with adobe experts from the field.Video overviews of the week’s project/plan drawings.Step-by-step, hands-on project videos to get you working in the field.An integrated discussion forum which can be used for Q&A sessions between the instructor and course participants.
Module 1:Discuss safety in earthen construction.Gain an understanding of how earth has been used as a building material worldwide and in CA.Gain an understanding of the life cycle and basic properties of earthen building materials.Learn how to locate and identify suitable soil samples (clay and aggregates) for use in adobe construction.Gain a basic understanding of clay minerals and aggregates and their role in the adobe mix.Learn how to perform and evaluate field soil tests to determine soil suitability.Learn the proportions of a good adobe mix for your area and how to amend/blend your soil if a suitable mix is not naturally present.Module 2:Learn how to make a ½ ″ soil screen for prepping soils and aggregates for use in adobe construction.Learn how to make a 1-block (or 2-block) adobe form.Learn how to mix mud on a table/mud board.Learn how to mix mud in a wheelbarrow.Learn how to mix mud with a paddle mixer.Learn how to mix mud with a barrel mixer.Gain a basic understanding of stabilizers and their role in the adobe mix.Module 3:Learn how to mix and test a batch of mud on a tabletop for use in adobe block production.Learn how to make adobe blocks.Obtain an overview of the basic adobe block drying sequence.Obtain an overview of different methods of FIELD testing your adobe bricks for strength.Obtain an overview of different methods of LAB testing your adobe bricks for strength.Learn different ways of increasing adobe block production speed.Module 4:Obtain an overview of different ways in which adobe blocks can be transported.Learn how to stack and safely store adobe blocks in preparation for an adobe wall build.Learn how to calculate the number of adobe blocks needed for a given project.Bonus Topic: Learn how to prep bagged hydrated lime for use in adobe block stabilization.Optional Post-Course Hands-On Projects – Turning & Drying + Strength Testing + Stacking & Storing Adobe Blocks.
Graded Hands-On Project #1 – Collect and Test a Local Soil SampleGraded Hands-On Project #2 – Make a 1-Block Adobe Form and a ½″ Soil ScreenGraded Hands-On Project #3 – Make Adobe Tests Blocks