DIF Adobe Senior Center
Please note this document is currently a work in progress.
This 10 week project is a combination of social service and a comprehensive experience with natural building. The final goal of this project was to provide a refuge for homeless senior citizens within the compound of the Parras Desarollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) so that they can find shelter and companionship, as integration of the family and community is an important part of the Parras culture. DIF is a nation-wide government organization based in Mexico City. They are a social service organization providing communities with essentials such as childcare services, food drives, public education concerning etiquette, proper nutrition, child rearing, etc. while creating a community center and support network for those who need it.
The shelter was constructed out of Adobe, a natural building material that is widely used in desert areas such as in Parras, Mexico. By doing this project we hoped to raise public awareness of the benefits of using adobe. Adobe is a time-tested wonder, a building method that has low environmental impact, low overall cost and is ideal for warm climate area. This project also provided hands on natural building education for the participants of the Parras 2006 summer program and DIF volunteers. Throughout construction, we made efforts to recycle and reuse our materials.
 General Description
The final construction of the adobe senior center consists of one large room measuring 4.4 x 6 meters. The adobe walls are 30 cm thick, making the building itself 5 x 6.6 meters. Approximately 1,300 adobes were needed to complete the shelter, and were made offsite. The building consists of one large community room which will be furnished with couches, tables and chairs and a TV (not complete as of November, 29, 2006). The DIF bathrooms and kitchen are in very close proximity to the senior center, therefore plumbing is not necessary for the building.
The following shelter was constructed in Parras de la Fuente, a small ranch town of approximately 44,000 citizens located in the northern state of Coahuila, Mexico. It was constructed in the far back right corner, behind the kitchen, of Parras DIF headquarters. The adobe bricks used to build the center were fabricated offsite from DIF. The fabrication site provided ample storage space to allow approximately 300 adobe bricks to dry per day. The bricks were transported to DIF after fabrication.
 Proposed Materials and Budget
|8||Strawbales||Forrajera Parras on calle Bravo||50||400|
|4||Truckloads (HOW MUCH) Dirt||Materiales Alcala on Carretera Parras Paila Km1||330||1420|
|4||Adoberas||Carpiteria "El Nogal" on calle Manuel Madero||120||120|
|100 liters of Water||Bernardo's House||Free from la Presidencia||Free|
|10||Bags Cement||Materiales Ibarra on calle Calzada del Marques||110||1100|
|1||Truckload of Gravel||Materiales Ibarra on calle Calzada del Marques||350||350|
|Lime||DIF site||Already on site||Free|
|10||Bags of Cement||?||?||?|
The total cost for both the aggregate and cement was 1,200 pesos.
The only paid labor on this project is for the expertise and guidance of Martin, aka Ciro Liro. He has had over a decade of experience with making adobe bricks and construction. Martin will receive 900 pesos paid by the municipal government of Parras. All other labor is purely volunteer.
 Process: Preparing the Adobe Site
Fig 1: Here the students of the Parras 2006 program are clearing the area where the adobe bricks are going to be constructed. A majority of organic matter is removed so that it does not get mixed into the adobe. The ground both where the adobe materials are mixed and where the adobes dry is leveled. This allows for even drying of the adobes and a much smoother process.
 Process: Making the Adobe Mixture
Fig 1: After the pile of dry dirt is made into a crater it needs to be filled with water and soaked over night so that the hard chunks of dirt will be easier to break up. This way most of the dirt will be wet for the following day. In this picture the crater was separated into two parts by a dirt barrier. This was done so that half of the pile could be made one day and the other half the next.
Fig 5: The dirt is mixed by the stomping of feet. It is done in this manner in order for each grain of sand to be coated in a layer of clay. It is important that the clay and dirt are well mixed because clay offers the cohesive strength between the sand. If it is not well mixed, the adobes will crack or crumble. More water can be added through the mixing process; chances are the mixture will need it.
Fig 6: When the mixture feels stiff it is likely ready for straw. A good test for this is if your fingerprint remains. The straw is added in order to provide internal tensile strength to the bricks (making them more difficult to break in half). The pile should consist of more or less 10% straw. Straw function is the comparative to rebar in a concrete building.
 Process: Making the Bricks
Fig: After the bricks have dried for two days they are ready to be cleaned and placed on their side to dry more thoroughly. The cleaning is done with a shovel, spade or any other flat tool one can use for scraping. The bricks need to be scraped because on the bottom they have a layer of dirt that stuck to them because they were cured on the ground.
 Process: Preparing the DIF Construction Site
Fig 1: Previous to this photo the area was cleared of both organic and inorganic materials. There was a lot of trash and also a large decomposing tree. There was also a large adobe and concrete oven. The entire top of it was taken off, broken up and spread over the ground to make it higher and flat.
 Process: Making the Underground Foundation
 Process: Making the Aboveground Foundation
 Process: Building the Walls
- Week One
- The first step of the process was learning and perfecting the art of making adobes. Each day about 200 adobes were made in a three to four hour period with a group of about 15 workers. Each day the progress moved more quickly.
- day one: 27 bricks
- day two: 185 bricks
- day three: 166 bricks
- day four: 188 bricks
- Week Two
- With a quota of 1,300 adobes the adobe construction continued.
- day five: 180
- day six: Rain
- day seven: 54
- day eight: 174
- Total 974 Bricks
- [the rest were purchased at 3.50 pesos each]
- Week Three
- The building site, having been neglected for some time, needed to be cleaned and prepared for construction. A dead tree was removed, an out-of-commission adobe oven was taken down, and all of the inorganic trash was taken out. The materials taken from the adobe oven were used to level the ground in the area.
- Week Four
- The three foot foundation of the adobe oven was removed. Before taking it down, the large rocks and sand filling it were taken out. The rocks were piled for later use in the foundation and the sand was saved to be used as mortar. Once removed, the walls were taken down with a sledge hammer.
- Week Five
- The sand from the foundation was sifted in order to be saved for mortar. The rocks sifted out were used for filling in holes in order to level the ground. The concrete was removed from the rebar in the foundation and saved for use on the building.
- Week Six
- Tying string to the old adobe wall and the DIF kitchen and office buildings as points of reference, the perimeter of the building was established. Lime was poured over the string to mark the ground where the foundation would be. The following day the perimeter was dug about 60 cm (2 feet) deep, or until firm virgin soil was reached, and about a foot wide.
- Week Seven
- The foundation was filled using large rocks found on site and hand-mixed cement. Oiled wooden frames were set up in order to build the above-ground portion of the foundation.
- Week Eight
- During the final week, the walls were built approximately 3 feet high.
 Project Update Nov. 29, 2006
The building is currently, at least half built. Word from stakeholders, or Tybie should come by January 15, 2007.
 Project Participants
 Project Coordinators
 Adobe Construction Masters
- Martin AKA Ciro Liro (right)
The main mentor and teacher for this project.
He helped through the process of building the foundation.
 Project Participants
- Parras 2006 Humboldt students and coordinators
Aaron, Angela, Ben, Daniel, Irene, Jeff, Juliana, Kiva, Lauren, Lonny, Mark, Tressie, Tybie
- Parras DIF employees
Bernardo Reyes and Adrian Ortiz
- Parras DIF volunteers