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The first of these books is a classic and still in print. The other two may be harder to find. I recommend them because they make you look at your built environment: how it's used or could be used, how to get the space you need at a price you can afford and how to be very comfortable living/working in the finished building.
A Pattern Language
by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, etc., Oxford University Press, 1977. A book to make you think about how you really use space, as opposed to how you think you should. Everyone comments on how comfortable our house is and how the spaces flow into each other. This book had a lot to do with that. After all, if you are going to the trouble to build a custom house, shouldn't it be customized for you? Take the time to get into this book; the scale goes from cities to chairs, from picking your site to the uses of sunlight and shadows.
30 Energy Efficient Houses ...You Can Build
by Alex Wade and Neal Ewenstein, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA, USA, 1977. Ideas and some plans from owner-built homes including adobe ones. This book shows you some of the joys and the hair-tearing aspects of designing/building outside conventional tract homes - and that you can do it successfully, sometimes on a very small budget.
Your Engineered House
by Rex Roberts, M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, NY, USA, 1964. I bought this book years before I designed our house, but it helped me let go of some costly, conventional ideas and we saved a lot of time and money. Our house was built for one-third of the lowest price per square foot that I was quoted by builders.
A Little House of my Own, 47 grand designs for 47 tiny houses
by Lester Walker
published by Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2000, ISBN 1-57912-151-9
151 West 19th Street, NY, NY 10011, USA
Historic and contemporary ways to achieve living space with limited budget, limited space.
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Workshops at BeanTreeFarm.com
Tucson, AZ group for cob building and other mudwork
Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings, Design and Construction
by Paul Graham McHenry, Jr., The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ, USA, 1989. Covers the engineering aspects of both adobe and rammed earth, includes the New Mexico Building Code for Adobe, 1983.
The Adobe Book
by John F. O'Connor, Ancient City Press, PO Box 5401, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1973. Basic book which includes some useful tables on Residential Wiring Needs,etc.
Adobe Bricks in New Mexico, Circular 188
by Edward W. Smith, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, State of New Mexico, USA, 1982. Modern production techniques of adobe bricks in the State of New Mexico.
Adobe: Build It Yourself, Revised Edition
by Paul Graham McHenry, Jr., The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ, USA, 1989. Good overview of all the things you need to consider, from planning to plumbing to permits and tools.
Adobe, Pressed-Earth, and Rammed-Earth Industries in New Mexico, Bulletin 127
by Edward W. Smith and George S. Austin, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Socorro, New Mexico, USA, 1982. Update of Adobe Bricks in New Mexico, Circular 188.
Build with Adobe, 2nd Edition
by Marcia Southwick, Ohio University Press, USA, 1988. Folksy book, but with practical considerations for planning a comfortable house to live in.
Building it with Bales, a Step-by-Step Guide to Straw Bale Construction, Version Two
by Matts Myhrman and S. O. MacDonald
published by Out On Bale, 191998, ISBN 0-96422821-1-9
1037 E. Linden St., Tucson, AZ 95719, USA
Hands on, detailed construction book, bibliography.
The Cob Builders Handbook, You Can Sculpt Your Own Home
by Becky Bee
published by Groundworks, 1997, ISBN 0-9659082-0-8
PO Box 381, Murphy, OR 97533, USA
Cob building was widely used in the Southwest before the Spanish introduced adobe brick. Hands on, artistic construction book.
The Earthbuilders' Encyclopedia, The Master Alphabetical Reference for Adobe and Rammed Earth
by Joseph M. Tibbets for the Southwest Solaradobe School, 1989. Good resource book that explains and illustrates earth building terms, tools, materials and techniques. Includes a display section for tradespeople, suppliers and professionals primarily located in the American West and Southwest. The School offers workshops around the Southwest.
Mud Brick Techniques by Ron Edwards, 1990 and Mud Brick and Earth Building the Chinese Way
by Ron Edwards and Lin Wei-Hao, 1994. The Rams Skull Press, Box 274, Kuranda, QLD 4872, Australia. Both of these Australian books give a different perspective than the American books. One of the interesting things to me in Australia and in China was that adobe is used in tropical, rainy environments such as Kuranda. Also the dirt that I saw used in adobes in around Melbourne was not sifted. The bricks contained gravels and very large pebbles as well as organic matter.
The Rammed Earth House
by David Easton, photographs by Cynthia Wright
published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1996, ISBN 0-930031-79-2
PO Box 428, White river Junction, VT 05001, USA
David Easton designs elegant, efficient rammed earth homes that meet the CA earthquake code.
Stick in the Mud, Easy Low-Cost House Step-by-Step
by Merrick Fry, Boobook Publications, PTY.LTD., PO Box 238, Balgowlah, NSW, 2093, Australia, 1985. Wattle and daub (stick and mud) construction of an inexpensive house. The Pima Indians in southern Arizona, as well as the Yaqui and Mayo Indians in Sonora still use wattle and daub to construct houses.
The Straw Bale House
by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen David Bainbridge with David Eisenberg, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, Vermont, USA, 1994. Technique and photos, some basic floor plans. A good book to read if you are interested in building with straw bales, but with no experience. Includes simple projects such as patio walls.
The Healthy Home: an Attic-to-Basement Guide to Toxin-Free Living
by Linda Mason Hunter, Pocket Books, NY, 1989. Another book to make you really think about your built environment so that you can make informed choices, preferably before you build or remodel. Practical and wide-ranging advice including a home health audit worksheet to get you started.
Sunset Magazine published a series of do-it-yourself books. The ones I have found most useful over the years are:
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