The use of adobe, a clay-like building material, has been utilized in the construction of homes and other structures for thousands of years. Adobe is an earthen building clay derived from natural materials like straw, water, sand, dirt, or clay.
Modern residential homes constructed from adobe are most commonly found in dry or desert-like climates across the globe. However, adobe is much more adaptable and functional than one would think. We’re examining how adobe could be well-used in all five climates across the planet.
Tropical climates are hot and humid, with higher than average precipitation, often reaching 59 or more inches per year. The average temperature in tropical areas doesn’t fall below 64 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18 degrees Celsius. Tropical climates are most often found within the earth’s equator, where sun rays are more concentrated.
Adobe has been used in tropical environments for thousands of years. The Mayan and Aztec civilizations used adobe in residential homes, huts, and other structures. Homes created from adobe that are situated in tropical climates can enjoy the cooling properties adobe offers. Adobe is also leak resistant once dry and finished. Meaning during high precipitation events found in the tropics, adobe is resistant against water damage.
Historians suggest that adobe homes in North America were first constructed in the American South-West by various Indigenous communities. Today, many modern homes in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and other dry areas are created using modern adobe compositions.
Early adobe-style structures were rounded, with no distinct roof or symmetrical walls. Over time through modern architecture, rectangular and symmetrical homes began to emerge with distinct roofing and detailing that we see today.
Dry and hot climates are perfect for adobe-style homes. They offer sun protection and retain heat during crisp desert nights while remaining cool during scorching hours of the sun.
Temperate climates cover most of the United States and are defined as having warm, humid summers with mild winter seasons. Such climates are compatible with adobe structures, as they are strong enough to endure winter seasons and storms and provide cooling interiors during summer months.
However, there are some disagreements about adobe being used in areas that are prone to hurricanes or earthquakes, which are often found in temperate locations. If choosing adobe in these areas, building with extra support beams and foundational layers is recommended.
Regions with continental climates typically experience mild to cool summers and cold, long winters. These areas are prone to severe snowstorms and strong, periodic winds. Areas like this can benefit from adobe-style homes for heat retention and to avoid water leaks.
Deeper foundations are recommended for homes in these regions built with adobe, and may need maintenance and repairs more frequently than other climates.
Very few humans occupy polar environments today. However, adobe structures would be a desirable building material for areas that experience frigid temperatures. Many adobe-style homes are completed with a fireplace and chimney for heat and air ventilation. This feature would be essential to include in adobe-style homes created in polar regions.
- Adobe has been used to build homes and other structures for thousands of years.
- Adobe can be used in all climates, but some may require additional features or more frequent maintenance.
- Benefits of adobe include heat retention, natural cooling, and resistance to water leaks.