Monthly Archives: December 2013

Teaming up with the University of New Mexico


For the Fall semester 2013, we teamed up with the University of New Mexico Sustainability Studies program for a practicum course to give students collaborative hands-on local sustainability experience directly benefiting the community.

At The Hive, students attended workshops on Super Adobe construction, LED light installation, and DIY solar panel assembly. Everyone has been so eager to learn and willing to work hard. Through the rain, snow, and cold, we’ve managed to put a lot of hours into our project. We truly couldn’t have asked for more.

It’s been such a blast and are so proud of what the students have managed to accomplish in such a short time. They will be revealing their finished product and giving a presentation demonstrating what they’ve learned on Tuesday, December 10, 2013. Anyone who’s interested is welcome to come check out their beautiful work. To be honest, we’re sad that it’s over, but we’re looking forward to next semester!

workshop1.1                        workshop1-6workshop1-9                        workshop1-2

ss334                        amber1

ss334-4                        Jesse

Below are individual blog entries from each of the Sustainability Studies 334 students that worked on The Hive project, discussing their experiences from this past semester.


blog headshots-2I have really enjoyed the time spent working with such great people.  It has been a lot of fun getting to know my team and I applaud Jesse for what he is trying to accomplish here at the Hive. This place will soon be the best sustainable model of living in the greater Albuquerque area.

I have learned a great deal building the Super-Adobe bench/wall that I will be able to use the rest of my life.  The most fascinating part of our project, to me, is the LED lights we placed in the wall using recycled wine bottles.  We first had to choose what side and what type of bottles we were going to use.  This created a rather long debate on if the bottles should be uniform or all random.  Luckily Mitch and I won; the bottles are all the same color and shape.

The part of the wall that will be random is the tile work that will be placed on the wall once it has been plastered.  We then had to choose how the LED would go into the bottle (see picture).  It was really neat learning how to solder LED’s and wiring them together.  I actually ordered myself some LEDs and bought a soldering iron to try and create some of my own lights.  I want to place them on my bike, in my house; I actually want to put them everywhere!IMG_1264

We are hooking up these lights in the wall to a photovoltaic panel that we actually created from its raw components.  This is another great skill I can see myself using in the future.  You can adjust the size of PV panel you are creating to fit the amount of energy you are going to need.  Instead of buying a massive panel to power just a little strip of LEDs you can build your own panel the size of picture frame.  You can even use a picture frame! This idea has actually helped me come up with a great business idea to help impoverished countries.

The Super-Adobe building method itself has to be one of the most sustainable building methods ever created.  Once constructed, these walls are waterproof, wind-proof, fireproof, earthquake-proof and create great insulation.  The walls consist of nearly all earth materials (New Mexico requires either a small amount of cement or lime), so these walls are rather inexpensive to make.  It would be great if I could travel to other countries and teach them this building method.


Once again, thank you for Jesse and Mitch in making this project possible and for the hard work of my team!


blog headshotsBuilding with Super Adobe techniques at The Hive has been a truly enlightening and empowering experience. Throughout my time working at this site I’ve learned: how to dig trenches with a pick axe, sift earth, make excellent punch out of vitamin c packets, and how to fill, lay, and tamp earth bags into the foundation of a Super Adobe structure. With a small group of just 5-10 people, we’ve achieved an immense amount of progress on this project. Working as an efficient assembly line, we positioned one or two people at each station in the Super Adobe construction process. These stations included shoveling gravel and earth into piles, sifting the earth, mixing lime and earth in the cement mixer, holding up the earth bag, filling it with the earth mixture, shaking and forming the bag for the desired distribution, and finally, tamping the bag down to create an even surface to build upon. I have taken pictures of workers in many of these stations which are displayed below.

margo pic 3margo picmargo pic 2

With no heavy machinery, toxic materials, or large amounts of labor, Jesse and his crew at The Hive have constructed multiple large-scale earth structures that are safe, affordable, and sustainable. Super Adobe is considered a green building technique because it can create reliable shelters that are environmentally friendly, inexpensive to build, and require a small labor force to construct. Super Adobe fulfills all three sides of the sustainability pyramid. It is financially viable, environmentally benign, and promotes social harmony and equity.

This building technique reinforces and promotes a sense of community wherever it is constructed. The effort at the 2105 St Cyr complex has brought together many individuals from around the Albuquerque area and helped to forge friendships and communal bonds that would not have otherwise arose. Volunteers at this site work towards a unifying and common goal, while also receiving a hands on education in sustainable building techniques.

Before joining this effort, I believed that only professionals and specialists could pull off feats such as: constructing a Super Adobe structure, installing LED lighting, and building solar panels. Working at this site has destroyed this notion. Jesse and the other mentors have shown that with enough passion, hard work, and patience, anything is possible. The only limitation that exists is an illusion that we place upon our own abilities. If I’ve taken anything away from this experience, it’s a sense of empowerment and a belief that I am more capable than society has led me to believe.  I will continue to volunteer at this site because it is an admirable cause and because there are certain things in life that you can’t learn in a classroom.


ShileenI chose to be a part of the UNM Sustainability program because I realized that our Earth is deteriorating before our very eyes due to the industrialization of our modern world; and because of this choice I’ve had the great opportunity of working at The Hive. The day I most enjoyed was the day of a Saturday workshop. It sticks out to me because of the sense of community that came with working on the site that day. We began by introducing ourselves and explaining why we were there. There were people from the sustainability program, people whom are interested in the Old School program, friends of the site managers, and even a young boy had come with his grandma out of interest in the site; there were people from all walks of life.

This, I think, is one of the most important foundations of building a sustainable world; the community. The people who come together to do good are not only the best people to be around, but are also the best at creating and maintaining a positive attitude and hope. Seeing a young boy giving his time and opening his mind to this knowledge is what really motivates me because the sense of togetherness and community it builds.

I think the Super Adobe building method is important in creating a sustainable world also because of how energy inexpensive it is to build. The wall requires so many less gas miles that are usually used to ship materials for construction from creation site to building site because it is used from the earth in your own backyard! The most energy used is to dig the earth, and your muscle input doesn’t affect your carbon footprint whatsoever! The wall also doesn’t require nearly as much cement as a conventional wall. So much energy is put into creating cement when it is possible to acquire the same sort of structural integrity a concrete wall gives you just from your surrounding area.

The Super Adobe wall actually has high structural integrity just like cement because it is possible for it to withstand natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes, due to its low flammable materials content and it’s malleability to the earth beneath it. The best part of the Super Adobe wall, which can appeal to anyone, no matter their environmental consciousness, is that it is cheap! The most important and abundant material used, earth, you don’t even have to pay for.


I’ve really learned a lot from my experience working with Super Adobe at The Hive. It’s a great feeling to get hands on in a project and be able to say you were a part of it. That and getting to meet all the different people that are interested in the same thing creates such a wonderful feeling of community that is hard to find. As a college student, being a part of large lecture classes all day can get tiring. The Hive is a great escape for some fresh air, new skills, and great conversation. It was one of the highlights of my semester and I hope everyone enjoyed it like I did and will enjoy the finished product just as much!


blog headshots-3This is my first time submitting a final assignment in a blog form, which is a testament to the “alternative” learning experience I had at The Hive. These types of things are what give us bragging rights as students of sustainability- not just being assigned to play with dirt and bees, but being able to say, “Come check out what we did!” Acquiring a higher education is an undeniable privilege, but entertaining that a career path may not transpire from it can admittedly spark traces of defeat. So empowerment in college has come to me through projects like this- building small skills that allow me to live a more spirited and consciences life. Although I’m still unclear in which avenue to pursue a career in sustainability, I can feel it transpiring for others at The Hive. Here, an appreciation for creation, kindness, community, and playfulness manifest an energy that I can reflect on as truly inspiring.*

I will speak more concretely for a moment. Over my time at The Hive I have come to recognize Super Adobe (ahem, flexible-form-stabilized-rammed-earth) as the closest example of sustainable building I have seen.  A small amount of lime or concrete is affordable when it is not the bulk of your building material. Sourcing earth from the area makes the project feel really bonded with the site. I imagine if you were able to directly source gravel or glass aggregate it would feel even more so. Knowing that a Super Adobe structure is heat and wind resistant, grows stronger with water exposure, can move with the earth and withstand major pressure gives it superhero status in my book. Energy efficiency and employment of human labor earn credit for the method as well.


I see it personally important to present sustainability as possessing beauty, so I found value in not only integrating the arches and LED lighting, but in the process of making it attractive and what that looked like to each of us. I believe conversations can be just as important to a project as the work. The Hive creates platforms for conversations, which lend to our understanding of sustainability dialogue and culture. Quite literally people will come down the street and inquire about our messy adventure. Next thing you know they are checking in almost daily.

To speak more on community, I found that help was more readily available from the people around us when we occasionally broke from work to acknowledge the creations around us. (For example, Rev’s dragon or Dan’s mud hot tub platform).  Kindred recognition in those around me is essential in valuing my communities, so I am most grateful to have met some muddy chums in my Super Ado-bay journey. For example, a text message from one of my comrades reads, “It was the first time in school I feel like I really accomplished and learned something, and the look on that kid’s face learning about the stuff we were doing made it feel like we really can make a difference. It was a good day.” (I will leave him –oops- anonymous.)


It is really the patience, repetition, personal attention, and graciousness put forth by Jesse and Mitchell in the teaching process that leads me to have any confidence in using Super Adobe.* I came to realize over the course that this type of mentoring is forthcoming in creating a functioning team; a skill that reaches far beyond the ability to build a structure.

*Please note this is not a superfluous attempt at brown-nosing- I actually had a freaking blast.


blog headshots-4My personal time at The Hive has been a valuable and satisfying experience thus far. Super Adobe was a new concept to me, and I was interested to hear of how to implement a new and more sustainable building technique into the modern world. This form of building proves that neighboring and easily accessible material may be used in place of large amounts of cement.  This is a great discovery knowing that cement manufacturing is among the most energy consuming industrial operations.

There is also a sense of satisfaction knowing that the wall we are building has a large amount of material coming from the exact location we are working on. The project began with a great amount of planning and visions which may be utilized for comfort, privacy and aesthetically pleasing tastes. Through, what sometimes feels like endless construction of this wall, I have been able to learn a practice of efficiently building and working as a team. However, I have also surprisingly seen and now seek a new sense of community through harvesting new ideas and spreading knowledge.

An important aspect in this project, for me, has been the “flow” of work. As Mitch had explained to me, the most efficient way we may work together is in understanding this flow, at first by observation. He mentioned to first take note of what your coworkers are doing, and plan for the next step, whatever it may be. This has held very true in the building of the wall from sifting dirt to allow for the next mix to be made, measuring earth bags, and filling buckets of earth to be passed on to the “layer of the bag.”

lynnea solar panel
I also found this to be legitimate when we were working on soldering out solar panels. We may have started slow as we were learning, but we then learned to work with multiple hands to keep a steady and flowing technique of careful soldering. Through this we were able to knock out 36 solar cells within a few hours. This displayed great teamwork and left me a feeling a sense of accomplishment for a Saturday.

Furthermore, I was also surprised the great amount of community present at The Hive, and it seems to continually grow larger. Many of the tenants have helped and watched the development of the project, all while conversing to the background of charming music. However the sense of community did not simply come from the site of The Hive. There are many people walking the area who aren’t shy to observe and ask about the project they see before them.

In one case, a man and his father drove by and stopped and proceeded to introduce themselves. He had stated that he had driven by the project a few times and it had sparked his curiosity. Jesse and Mitch were generous in allowing the two to browse the site and walk into the dome. After the father had been taken to the airport, our friend came back and helped us build an arch form until we had successfully finished laying it.

In another instance we had two ladies walk up. They had previously read some articles regarding super adobe and were interested in building their own structure without having to hire anyone for construction. It was a friendly conversation on the perks and tactics of building with super adobe. They further noted their interest in attending a workshop for some hands on learning. I have been truly amazed by the great sense of company and friendship from strangers that is sparked by a large project.

My favorite part of this project is experiencing and understanding what may be made by the work of a few hands. I have felt a great sense of satisfaction seeing what we have accomplished and knowing how a more environmentally sustainable practice may serve the neighboring community for generations to come. This has reminded me of the great outcomes which may come from recycled materials, such as our bottled LED lights, and earth from The Hive site. I am also proud to know that we may harvest the sun for our LED lights through the solar panels we put together ourselves.

Any person willing to ‘Do It Yourself’ is capable of doing such grand projects. I have enjoyed being able to work on this project and look forward to spreading this knowledge in order to live a more sustainable life. Through education, unity and organization we may be able to change the direction our planet is taking, and find a more balanced and happy way of living.