Design Questions
  1. What is unique about the Adobe Madre building system?
  2. Are there any code books written on adobe construction?
  3. Is adobe building slow?
  4. Can I build my own house?
  5. What kind of roof goes on an adobe brick structure?
  6. How do you run the wiring and plumbing?
  7. What if I need to add or change a wiring or plumbing service later?
  8. Most of the adobe homes in the USA are in the Southwest part of America (New Mexico and Arizona) with a distinct architectural style. What other styles can be used?
  9. What type of finishes can be applied to the adobe brick wall?

1. What is unique about the Adobe Madre Building System?

(LEFT) Specially shaped bricks work together to form a vertical column. The columns house a reinforcing bar which gets concrete grouted to form a reinforced column in the wall. The rebar is placed through a timber top plate (or concrete bond beam) and folded over so that the wall is sandwiched between the footing and bond-beam. The vertical columns also contain all services, such as plumbing and electrical.
(RIGHT) The drawing is a birds eye view of our scaffolding system and the photo shows how it is implemented in construction. Pipes are inserted into the wall at determined locations and scaffold planks are placed over the pipes. This self-supportive scaffold system is safe, simple and saves both time and money.

2. Are there any code books written on adobe construction?

Many countries have developed their own code books for adobe. In 2010, ASTM International published revised standards for earth building. In it outlines basic parameters that an adobe brick structure should meet. For full details on the Standards, please visit to purchase the guide.
Other code books include:
  • Uniform Building Code (UBC)
  • Southern and Standard Building Codes
  • International Building Code (IBC)
  • Engineering Design of Earth Buildings, NZS 4297:1998
  • Materials and Workmanship for Earth Buildings, NZS 4298:1998
  • Earth Buildings Not Requiring Specific Design, NZS 4299:1998
  • New Mexico Earthen Construction Materials Code

3. Is earth building slow?

No. The adobe brick walls of an average size home of around 2000 sqft (or 185 sqm) can be constructed within one month by a skilled 3-person team.

A crew of 3 or 4 able bodies can produce around 600 bricks in a given 8-hour day.

This same crew can lay approximately 250 bricks into a wall per day.

This same house with a simple floor plan would use around 4500 adobe bricks.

4. Can I build my own adobe house?

Yes. Adobe building is the most user-friendly earth building system used around the world and approved by codes and standards today. The process can be easily learned in a workshop in just one day. The slightly irregular adobe bricks are laid into the wall using a 3/4" mortar join, therefore there is some wiggle room and exactness is not as important when laying standard blocks. Generally, it is cheaper to build your own home rather than have one built by a contractor. The materials that go into adobe bricks walls are inexpensive whereas the labor can vary depending on your location. We have some real DIY success stories where beautiful houses were built on a low budget (like this one shown here). The process of building your own home using local materials is rewarding. You can go to the Services page under Do-It-Yourself to learn more.

5. What kind of roof goes on an adobe brick structure?

You can have just about any type or style roof construction for your adobe brick home. The roof construction is fixed to a timber top plate at the top of the adobe wall. We have built a living roof with plants growing on top (LEFT) and terra cotta tiles from Italy (ABOVE). The choice depends on style, availability, design requirements, and of course cost.

6. How do you run the wiring and plumbing?

We have specially shaped bricks which create a vertical core for running the wiring and plumbing (as well as reinforcing) within the adobe brick wall. The wiring and electrical are usually encased in a PVC pipe within the wall.
Our scaffold bricks can also be laid sideways for as many courses as required in the wall for horizontal services. The services are usually laid in a PVC pipe within the wall and mortared in place.

7. What if I need to add or change a wiring or plumbing service later?

It is simple to add or change any service in the adobe brick wall. We often leave spare sleeves in the wall for future use. Alternatively, it is easy to cut a chase groove into the adobe brick wall for services, which would require a simple plaster repair.

Here you can see how the adobe construction system can accommodate modern conveniences.

8. What architectural styles can be used?

Adobe construction can suit any architectural style, such as these shown here.
Flat roof adobe brick home with cement based plaster and paint over.
Adobe brick home with timber frame construction on 2nd floor.
Two story adobe brick home with 45° corners was built near the sea.
Round adobe brick home.

9. What type of finishes can be applied to the adobe brick wall?

Plastered smooth with a sculptural light fixture.
Lime wash brightens the finished wall.
Flush join has bricks in an even plane with the mortar.
Pointed style shows brick shape.
Pointed style using different color bricks and mortar.
Oxides can enhance the color of your adobe plaster.