House Design

Architect - Jonathan Siegel, Siegel Design Architects, Albuquerque, NM. (Web site)

Engineers - Quiroga-Pfeiffer Engineering Corporation, Albuquerque, NM.

Consulting Engineer - David Mar, Tipping-Mar, Berkeley, CA. (Web site)

Construction Supervision - James B. Gorham, points unknown.

Our basic design calls for rammed earth walls, a construction method which uses the local soil and a small amount of portland cement to create walls which are essentially synthetic rock. The walls will be two feet thick, providing substantial thermal mass. In the floorplan below, the thick gray lines are the two foot thick walls. To read more about rammed earth, the definitive book was written by David Easton. His company's website is here. Locally, Stan Huston has by building rammed earth houses in New Mexico for quite a few years. His website is here. Stan died unexpectedly about a year ago, so we will turn to someone else to ram the walls. 

We visited the ranch on May 29, 2003 and Jonathan surprised us with a model of the house. The other surprise was the change in the design which unified the three structures under a single roof, which Jonathan proposes should be an earth roof.

Since then there have been many changes, some due to changed perception of our needs, some to budget.

Here's the floorplan that is the basis for the construction drawings:

The last delay in planning was a late decision to insulate the walls. Contrary to folklore, rammed earth and adobe are terrible insulators. They have great thermal mass, but almost no insulative value. The ranch site is quite cold in the winter and keeping the house comfortable would have been nearly impossible. Along with the rammed earth contractor we decided on a system that embeds rigid insulation in the midst of the walls, which required a significant effort to engineer the walls to be of adequate strength. We brought in David Mar from California to help develop the strategy for reinforcing the walls and analyzing their strength.

The plans went to Planning and Zoning in Espanola on June 15 and were approved. Next step is plan approval in Albuquerque.