Adobe Project Planning & Foundations

This course covers the fundamentals of designing and planning an adobe home. We make our own adobe bricks – a great way to learn the basics of soil selection and testing. We also focus on designing and installing typical foundations for adobe structures.

Topics Include:

  • intro to the 3 major passive solar adobe systems (direct gain, Trombe wall and greenhouse)
  • site planning and building layout for best solar gain/cooling
  • floor plan basics
  • overview of basic tools needed for adobe construction
  • locating soil and aggregates for adobe construction
  • performing and evaluating soil tests to determine soil suitability
  • making a 2-brick adobe form
  • making a soil screen
  • mixing soil for adobe blocks and mortar
  • producing and curing adobe blocks
  • transporting and storing adobe blocks
  • testing adobe blocks for strength and water resistance – field and lab tests
  • calculating adobe blocks and mortar needed for a project
  • detailing recommendations for foundations for adobe structures – stem wall heights, moisture barriers, etc.
  • building and foundation layout process – setting batter boards, finding corners, marking dig lines
  • low-impact foundation dig methods
  • design and installation of ‘concrete spread footing/CMU stem wall’ foundation type
  • design and installation of ‘gravel/trench foundation with concrete grade beam’ foundation type
  • insulation techniques for foundations
  • calculating materials for foundations

Instruction Type:

This is a hands-on class. Attendees will have the opportunity to get dirty and use tools and equipment typical of adobe construction. Due to the course format, enrollment will be limited to 14 individuals. In the unlikely event of inclement weather, instruction will occur indoors.


Kurt Gardella

Kurt was an instructor at Northern New Mexico College from 2006 to 2012. He offers classes through Adobe in Action and at Santa Fe Community College.


The class will be conducted in Pioneertown, California, about 12 miles outside of Joshua Tree National Park and some 40 miles from Palm Springs. Joshua Tree and the surrounding area have a wealth of great hiking, climbing, lodging and food options, including Pioneertown’s world famous Pappy and Harriet’s just down the street.


There are lots of private vacation rentals available around Pioneertown, at various price points. Check out and for more information. The Wooden Indian Ranch, Little House, and Little Red Cabin are all within a block of Adobeisnotsoftware.


The cost for the week-long session is $500/person. Please inquire for discounts for groups of more than four.

Fine Print

Construction is inherently dangerous, and participants are expected to be partners in ensuring their own safety.  You may be asked to sign an acknowledgement of this in advance of class participation.  Children under 14 cannot be accommodated except by prior arrangement.

Classes may not be held in the event of sufficient registrations to cover operating costs – adobeisnotsoftware reserves the right to cancel undersubscribed classes and events with at least 7 days prior notice.

For individuals who find they may not be able to attend a class or event for which they are registered, adobeisnotsoftware will offer a full refund if notified at least two weeks in advance.  For cancellations less than two weeks prior to the event date, adobeisnotsoftware will provide a credit for the full amount of tuition to be used for a future adobeisnotsoftware event.


Pioneertown, CA


(760) 278-1134



Precise directions will be sent to participants prior to the class.