Types of Solar

Buildings designed for passive solar heating with natural sunlight to light a building’s interior incorporate large south-facing windows, skylights, and building materials that absorb and slowly release the sun’s heat. Incorporating passive solar designs can reduce heating bills as much as 50 percent. Passive solar designs can also include natural ventilation for cooling. Windows are an important aspect of passive solar design. In cold climates, south-facing windows designed to let the sun’s heat in while insulating against the cold are ideal. In hot and moderate climates, the strategy is to admit light while rejecting heat. Interior spaces requiring the most light, heat, and cooling are located along the south face of the building, with less used space to the north. Open floor plans allow more sun inside.

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Our Work
Price-Herndl Home
This is an adobe and frame home of 2,000 Sq. Ft. It is a passive solar home that used less than one half of a tank of propane in the first 2 years it was occupied. It features skylights with movable reflectors for solar heating and controllable natural light. more images
Grenko-Miale Home
This is a conventionally framed home that has a pitched metal roof, interior mass walls for passive solar heating, and extensive exterior living spaces. More images
Rose Home
This is an all-electric home of about 2,500 sq. Ft. with super insulated walls and ceiling.
Gordon-Bunge Home
This is a passive solar adobe that has never required a furnace. It include seismic resistant features. More images
Baker-Gregware Home
This is a 3,000 Sq. Ft. home with both active and passive heating and radiant cooling. It is adobe with 18” thick walls, extensive custom woodwork, and a sunroom. more images
Smith – Murray Guest House
The Smith – Murray guest house is 700 Sq. Ft. It is passive solar built with adobe. It has the first radiant (hydronic) cooling system in Southern NM. more images
Galves Home
The Galves residence is an active solar home built in 1984. It has 6,000 heated Sq. Ft. with covered parking for 6 vehicles, 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, and custom doors, cabinets, and millwork by Sun & Earth.
Russ Home
The Russ house is a re-modeled adobe featuring additional insulation, a metal roof, and an exterior wall of stabilized adobe.
Barty Home
The Barty house is a 2,500 sq. ft. home with exposed adobe walls, cherry wood floors and cabinets, adjustable skylights, one of the first grid-tie solar electric systems locally, and radiant cooling and heating with a ground source heat pump. more images
Engler Home
See House plans for Sun and Earth Energy Efficient Homes

Price-Herndl Home

Built by Sun and Earth
Custom Cabinets
Built by Sun and Earth
Custom Home
This is an adobe and frame home of 2,000 Sq. Ft. It is a passive solar home that used less than one half of a tank of propane in the first 2 years it was occupied. It features skylights with movable reflectors for solar heating and controllable natural light.
Price-Herndl Home

Baker-Gregware Home

This is a 3,000 Sq. Ft. home with both active and passive heating and radiant cooling. It is adobe with 18” thick walls, extensive custom woodwork, and a sunroom.


“Our new home is 3,000 square feet. The temperature within the new home remains constant and comfortable from day to night and throughout the seasons. Our former home was smaller (1,100 square feet), yet the utility bills were higher. Even with electric heat, the old house was often cold on winter evenings.”


“We were impressed by the quality of craftsmanship and attention to detail. We appreciate Sun & Earth’s customer-friendly approach. We felt part of a collaborative effort to bring our dream house to fruition.”
”the in-floor radiant heating system is much less drying than forced air during the winter months.”

the house has not required heavy maintenance due to the quality of materials and workmanship, high quality stucco, roofing, insulation and other features that have saved money over time

Sun Room

Dining Room Woodwork

House Plans

“We are very pleased. The house has exceeded our expectations in terms of aesthetics, quality, and energy efficiency.”
“Friends from Germany said this was the most beautiful house that they had ever seen that real people lived in.”
Dr. Nancy Baker and Dr. Peter Gregware, professors at NMSU, eight years after initial construction, typical results of Sun and Earth client oriented approach.

Barty Home

Custom Home

“I knew that Jim Graham was the only builder I would ever work with. He is a man of such incredible integrity, and he really cares. He cares about the environment, he cares about his clients and he cares about the houses he builds. Jim is a gem.”

“I had almost no propane bill for the winter.”

“Right now, even with my air conditioner on all the time, El Paso Electric is still sending me payments of about $90 a month.”

SANDRA BARTY, homeowner

Sun and Earth Construction

Earth Sheltered Homes

Adobe Homes

Jeanette Harris is a freelance writer, realtor, and lover of interesting houses. Her article appeared in Southwest Homes, Sun-News on June 30, 2002.
Today adobe is labor and detail intensive. Some adobe bricks are still made with straw and also have a small bit of asphalt to stabilize them. Recipes can vary, and there are many types of adobe.
The end result, however, is a much heavier house than a frame variety. An adobe house requires not only cleared but compressed ground before the foundation and bricks are laid. Once the foundation is completed a layer of special adobe bricks made with more asphalt for waterproofing is laid. Consistency is important with not too much clay or sand.
The traditional adobes have lintels made from beams of wood over the windows and doors that can be attractively carved. Bond beams are laid to tie all the walls together and wood vigas are laid on top with more adobe between them. Latias, smaller poles of pine, spruce or aspen, are laid at angles to each other and so create an interesting pattern. Fiberglass insulation can be installed between the sloped sleepers and a canale or drain channel helps drain water from the roof. Extra foam insulation can increase the R-value. While a frame house may be built in a couple of months, a 3,000 or so square foot adobe might take five times as long. Charming bancos, nichos, trasteros (a built-in cupboard), tile work, corbels, and lintels add to the character and the cost.

Rammed Earth Houses

Rammed earth houses have also become popular and may be suitable for wetter conditions, too. I always think of them as adobes on steroids. Rammed earth was apparently used on the eastern seaboard around the time of the Civil War and later in the 1930’s in an Alabama homestead program. Walls are formed by pounding a mixture of soil, cement, and water into reusable forms using pneumatic tampers which create very efficient and owner-friendly homes that are meant to be termite-free and fire-proof, as well as energy efficient and solar oriented.

Small wonder that adobe is experiencing a rebirth. A timeless classic that both saves the owner energy and requires little energy to produce compared to other building materials, it provides beauty with real substance. When the Spanish explored this part of the New World, they were intent upon finding the cities of gold and were rather disappointed at their lack of success. Perhaps we know better. Not all that is gold glitters here as the sun both creates and shines on a unique landscape of homes that hug the shimmering earth.