SuperAdobe Spotlight: New Ruins

New Ruins is a home and Airbnb nestled in the hills of Oaxaca overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This bungalow uses 100% solar energy and offers privacy, stunning views and is just an hour drive from one of the top ten surf breaks in the world, Puerto Escondido.

Learn more about this SuperAdobe gem from owner, Nicholaus Ames!


1. What is your SuperAdobe dome used for?

We use our SuperAdobe houses for living and renting on Airbnb. Southern Mexico is hot and having half a meter of compacted earth really makes for one of the best materials for a comfortable home. We also use SuperAdobe to make terraces for patios and gardens. We make retaining walls to be backfilled and clay tiled, playing with the inclined terrain and large rocks to make interesting spaces.

2. Why did you build using the SuperAdobe method?
Cost. Steel for traditional concrete work is expensive. Building with the SuperAdobe method allowed us to keep our cost down and the labor in this area is not expensive. We also had access to clay. The neighboring town is a brick-making community sitting on a large bank of clay. In addition, thermal properties make for comfortable living.

3. How much did it cost to build New Ruins? What steps did you take (if any) to keep the cost down, but still achieve the building you wanted?
The entire project has been expensive, which encompasses more than just SuperAdobe. The two SuperAdobe houses cost around $5,000+ USD each. Like any project, the devil is in the details, so i am not including finishing work in that estimate.

To keep costs down, we used car tire rims as port windows and earthbags from cattle ranchers and tortilla makers. For the second dome, we reused the door and window forms, when possible. We also had clay and earth premixed with a machine and then brought in truck loads. We used 1 truck of clay placed with 3 of regular earth, then mixed and 4 truck loads were delivered.

4. How long did it take you to build New Ruins?
Our first dome took us 3 months before we could live in it. For the second, we had better resources and understanding of the process and it only took 1.5 months.

5. The interior and exterior design of New Ruins is stunning. What is your background? What was your inspiration when building?
First off, thanks! None of us had much experience when we started the domes. "Fake it, 'til you make it." I'm a web programmer who wanted a change and had never built anything in my life. I've got smart friends who have helped along the way and gave advice or a hand. The interiors were slowly pieced together from purchased items in Oaxaca City, which has an incredible arts community with really great shopping. So, it all came together naturally, picking out things we liked personally. Using an all-white esthetic, we incorporated the colors into the accent items like art and textiles. And of course lots of locally-sourced wood. Earth and wood are very calming.

6. If you could describe New Ruins in one word, what would it be?
Permaculture.