Planning an Expansion From an Adobe “Starter Core”

My blog takes you along for a ride on the Adobe building trail here in New Mexico- a place where climate, traditions and practical solar applications keep Earthen construction at the top of Green Building, Southwestern style. If you’re a fan of ADOBE BUILDER On-Line, or curious about what we’re up to with our design, drafting and classes at , welcome aboard!

Right now, we just finished a presentation for our April 20/21 class in Albuquerque where emphasis is on how to plan the expansion of an Adobe (or compressed earth block) “Starter Core”. The assumption is made that the Starter is about 1000 sq. ft. and will expand by 600 sq. ft. in from two to five years.


One begins with decisions about what kinds of spaces the “Starter Core” should contain. Typically, those would be spaces for sleeping, bathing, kitchen, living and utility/ storage. Popular space choices for the future expansion would include a second Bedroom, second Bath and perhaps a Laundry or special use room. Sometimes, the transition between the Starter Core and the expansion can be a Solarium or Covered Patio. This is handy when two separate buildings need to be joined with a minimum of alterations to their walls.

When plans are drafted for the Starter Core, the Expansion Plan foundation should also be shown. That’s because one good way to keep costs down on the future expansion is to pour the expansion foundations at the same time as the Starter Core. Concrete is not going to get cheaper.

You will also have to show a few detail drawings on where junction boxes for the expansion electrical circuits and pipe for plumbing needs will be stubbed out. Remember that the main breaker panel that you install on the Starter Core will have to be big enough to handle the extra circuits that will be activated when the expansion is added. The Building/Inspection Dept. will want to see what you are intending to build down the road and how you will protect portions of the work that will tie into the future expansion. A scaled Elevation drawing that shows how the expansion will look when tied to the Starter Core will help at permitting time. Aesthetics have to be planned so that the site will look attractive during the years between the when Starter Core is built and the expansion is added. This means doing a few unusual things, such as bending steel rebar back against a building (and hiding it) or stair stepping an Adobe wall off the Starter Core, which will become part of the expansion structure later on.

Next Post- Planning the Expansion Doorway