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The Roots of Earth Construction: Why Adobe and Rammed Earth Architecture is Seeing a Resurgence 

Posted by on Aug 16, 2021 in Las Cruces NM, Rammed Earth | 0 comments

The Southwestern United States is unlike any other part of the country. It has unique characteristics that create the well-known southwestern flavor. Aside from its desert landscapes, breath-taking sunsets, succulent cactus, and plant life, the Southwest also offers a flourishing earth construction movement inspired by the traditions of the Pueblo Indians, Spanish settlers, and others. So what is earth construction and how does it implement various building and architectural traditions?

Here, at Villa Custom Homes, we have written a lot about what we do and what sets us apart from other home builders in the area. Not only do we specialize in earth construction with rammed earth homes but we implement both traditional, modern, and smart home technologies to create living quarters that are sustainable while never compromising style and beauty. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the idea of earth construction and how it has changed over the last few decades. 

Using the Earth’s Natural Materials to Build Homes

Human dwellings have seen considerable advancements since the days of our ancestors and their hunting and gathering way of life. When humans were killing buffalo with spears and wearing loincloths, building shelters was not practical as people had to follow herds and animals. As civilizations advanced, shelters became of utmost concern. The Romans, for example, were one of the first advanced civilizations to use rammed earth techniques. The style traveled to France and Spain. So when Spanish settlers came to the modern-day southwestern United States, they brought these ideas, although earth construction was already a tradition here. 

Pueblo Indians used the soil and dry clay mixtures as building materials as well.  The Spanish settlers, however, brought Moorish influences that further changed how the architecture of the area would be developed. 

The Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain, for example, was built in the 10th century by the Moors and described by poets as “a pearl set in emeralds.” The castle/fortress complex still stands today. 

Using Adobe Bricks to Characterize the Southwestern Style 

The use of adobe bricks would become a significant advancement in the construction of the Southwest United States. In the 1930s and 40s, adobe bricks were used in the construction of southwestern buildings, but this method of construction slowed down right before World War II.

Common load-bearing masonry used in this country includes adobe and rammed earth. As concern over sustainable building and resources rises, materials like adobe and rammed earth are being further analyzed as worthy materials to consider for the building of homes and smaller structures. The building of these homes uses far less if any fossil fuels and no industrial processing. 

What is Rammed Earth Construction? 

What happens when you compress and dry a natural sandy mixture? You get an incredibly formidable material known as rammed earth! Think of rammed earth as a permanent, re-constituted rock that is often reinforced with beams, concrete, or other materials. Rammed earth, unlike a lot of adobe construction, is resilient even in rainy parts of the world, as it could withstand both dry and humid environments.

Characteristics of Rammed Earth Structures and Walls 

This building material has several unique characteristics that set it apart:

  • This type of building is inherently environmentally suited. The walls are resistant against outside temperature and will resist the heat during the day and the cold at night. They have what is known as a 12-hour temperature cycle or the flywheel effect, which takes in heat in the day and releasing it at night when it gets cooler.
  • Rammed earth walls are thick and might vary from 18 inches to 24 inches
  • The thick walls of rammed earth homes add to the coziness and warmth of the structure 
  • The walls of rammed earth have a great thermal mass
  • Walls are extremely fire resistant since there are no flammable components
  • The walls of rammed earth homes do not invite rodents, bugs, termites, or any unwanted critters

Rammed Earth in the Modern World and the 21st Century 

Rammed earth homes continue to be relatively rare, although they’ve garnered more and more attention as people seek alternative materials. So, despite the fact that using clay, soil, and dirt as building materials has been used for thousands of years, there is nothing old-fashioned about it. The versatility available with using this material is seen in more and more nuanced architectural forms. 

The Southwest is ahead of the rest of the country in implementing these building techniques in modern ways, without compromising luxury, beauty, or style. 

Bringing the Truth About Earth Construction Home

Earth construction is inherently more robust and sustainable than other materials. Earth construction proved time and time again in history that it could withstand the demands of harsh conditions, but it has to be done correctly. 

At Villa Custom Homes, we are the leading experts in rammed earth and adobe building in the Southwest. View some of the homes that we have built across New Mexico. 

Want to find out more? Call us today and learn how getting a custom-built rammed earth home can be the decision that changes your life!

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As Lumber Prices Rise, Consider a Rammed Earth Home 

Posted by on Apr 27, 2021 in Las Cruces, Rammed Earth | 0 comments

A rammed earth home in the middle of construction

The skyrocketing cost of lumber has many custom home builders struggling to keep prices down or even holding back construction. Inventory is low across the country. Homes are snatched up as soon as they hit the market, leaving many prospective and hungry home buyers unsure of how to proceed. So what options do you have if you’re looking for a home in this unprecedented climate? 

You can look for alternative materials — like rammed earth— that provide you with more bang for your buck!

Let’s take a closer look. 

The Rising Cost of Lumber and Other Home Building Materials in 2021 

In more ways than one, the housing market tends to mirror movements and trends in the supply chains, culture, and overall economy. A home reflects the lifestyle, values, and priorities of modern homeowners. And there has been a lot of hustle and bustle lately in real estate — especially since the start of the pandemic when interest rates dropped to record lows and demand for homes shot sky-high. So as homes flew off the market, buyers searched for ways to take advantage of the low-interest rates, but low inventory and disrupted supply chains have impacted people’s ability to do so.

Lumber Prices Rise to Unprecedented Highs

One hot topic making the rounds in real estate and homebuilder circles — as well as among consumers and homebuyers — is the lumber shortage and its exorbitant prices. According to various sources, the cost of building a home in 2021 has risen by an average of $24,o00 and this trend is largely a result of rising lumber prices. 

Business Insider reported the following:

  • Lumber costs rose up to 200% in the past year
  • Homebuilders have had to adjust their prices, passing them on to the consumer

What Caused the Lumber Cost Spike? 

The rise in lumber costs did not occur overnight. It has been a slow working trend for at least a decade. The National Association of Home Builders reported a 30% rise in lumber after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That year, the price of the material was already at an all-time high. In April of 2020, some reports said lumber prices went up by 130%, which has consequently caused the price of single-family homes to rise as well. 

Factors that have had an impact on the rising prices include:

  • Tariffs imposed in previous administrations
  • Renegotiating of NAFTA in 2017
  • Higher U.S. import duties on Canadian lumber
  • Chaos in the market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • A drove of DIYers and Weekend Warriors stuck at home searching for lumber for home projects and remodels
  • Disruptions to production during the height of the pandemic 
  • And foresting restrictions over the years

When the country was in full panic mode, many industries had to shut down due to safety concerns. Lumber mills were no exception, and they did close their doors temporarily, which worsened the situation as demand increased.

How Much Lumber Does a Typical Home Need?

Homes today are built with interior wood framing. They are often referred to as “stick-built” because the pieces of wood are thin and relatively narrow. 

Home-building wood comes in four basic types that include framing studs, sheathing, plates, and headers. An average single-family dwelling of about 2,000 square feet — depending on the style — could typically expect lumber to compose about ⅓ of the costs of all materials. 

A home this size will use about: 

  • 16,000 board feet of lumber
  • 6,000 square feet of structural panels

History indicates that as traditional options run out, people will search out other options or alternatives. Using different and innovative materials can help offset this increased cost. 

The Law of Supply and Demand — The Quest for Wood

The concept of supply and demand is nothing new. It’s the universal law of economics that drives economic growth and innovation in all industries. Because interest rates remain low for now, there is still enough interest in home buying, which is keeping demand high. The question is, what will happen when things stabilize and prices adjust but people have forked over thousands more on homes that may not recuperate that value? 

What is the Future Forecast for Custom Home Prices and Home-Building Materials?

Experts are watching the trends closely. The pandemic has now begun to turn a corner and industries are returning to some normalcy. Yet, it is still uncertain when lumber prices might finally take a break from their relentless climb. People are finding themselves paying a mark-up price for a material that will not hold the same value in a few years. 

Rammed Earth: The Alternative Material That Offers Timeless Benefits 

One of the benefits of living in the Southwestern United States is that the climate is such that it allows for different types of building materials. And yet rammed earth is not a new invention. It has been around for thousands of years, thereby proving its longevity and resilience. It can be seen in such structures as the famous Alhambra castle in Spain, which still stands today. 

Rammed earth has inherent value because it is:

  • Energy efficient
  • Environmentally friendly 
  • Low maintenance

While a rammed earth home might still use some lumber and other various wooden materials, it offers an entirely different panorama of benefits that have captured the attention of home buyers looking for an alternative and a new form of custom home building.

For Your Custom Home, Find a Material That Never Stops Giving 

Villa Custom Homes has been the leading rammed earth custom home builder in the region for decades. We build homes all across New Mexico and the Las Cruces area. Not only has the rammed earth material gained popularity because it offers a gorgeous and earthy feel, but it also provides natural energy efficiency, reliability, and beauty.

Find the right alternative without sacrificing your vision of a dream home. Contact Villa Custom Homes today and learn what’s possible with rammed earth.

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Finding the Right Home Builder for Your Dream Rammed Earth Home

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 in Las Cruces, Rammed Earth | 0 comments

a rammed earth home in the desertIf you’ve ever driven close to the Organ Mountains, you’ve more than likely noticed the many beautiful adobe homes that populate that area. With their distinct beige colors and classic “New Mexican” designs, these homes are some of the most sought after in Las Cruces.

When it comes to building your dream adobe home, it’s necessary to team up with a home builder who knows exactly what it takes to create a house that’s both functional and beautiful. This is where Villa Custom Homes comes into play. Since we specialize in rammed earth, you can rest easy knowing we’ll bring your dream to fruition. 

Rammed Earth is the Way to Go

When you see an “adobe” home, you may actually be looking at a rammed earth home. That is because adobe homes are time-consuming builds since the adobe bricks themselves need to cure in the sun until they harden. The technique of building true adobe homes is an antique method that hasn’t changed much in decades. 

Rammed earth construction, similarly enough, hasn’t changed in decades and centuries. This construction process simulates the natural process of sedimentary rock creation. Rammed earth walls, for instance, are extremely thick (from 18 to 24 inches) and can stand the test of time. These homes yield the same outward appearance as adobe homes while providing a plethora of benefits.

The Beauty of Natural Materials

Rammed earth homes are designed and built to stand the test of time. These homes are also perfect for the desert environment. Rammed earth walls contain thermal mass, meaning they maintain cool indoor temperatures during the hot summer days, and warm up at night as it gets colder outside. The science behind this particular effect is a top reason why so many prospective homeowners in the Southwest choose rammed earth homes over traditionally-built homes. 

These homes are incredibly energy efficient, beautiful, timeless, pest-resistant, fireproof, and so much more! You’ll be able to stay cool indoors while saving on energy usage. Rammed earth homes naturally reduce noise due to the thickness of their walls, so you’ll never have to worry about loud neighbors or leaf blowers. 

Why a Reliable Home Builder Matters

The rammed earth building process requires skill and experience so it’s necessary to choose a home builder with the expertise necessary to make your dreams come true. Villa Custom Homes has been your trusted source for decades, and we see no sign of stopping any time soon. When you choose us as your home builder, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing your vision will come to fruition exactly how you pictured it in your mind. 

Give us a call today to learn more about what we have to offer!

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