Southwest Building Construction

Adobe Construction Program (ADOB)


Associate of Applied Science


Quentin Wilson, the department chair, chose adobe to make house models in the fifth grade. By the seventh grade he made full-size adobe bricks in his Albuquerque back yard. In 1970 he moved to Ojo Caliente with Maria and raised three children in a run-down, abandoned adobe home which the family reclaimed, renovated, modernized and enlarged. After teaching high school and college math for 5 years, he began to earn his living in solar adobe construction beginning with project management and construction instruction for the Sundwellings Demonstration Project built with 18 students at Ghost Ranch in 1976. His mentor was Peter van Dresser. Following that, he built adobe homes for 25 years as a licensed general contractor while continuing to teach evening and weekend solaradobe classes throughout the Southwest. In 1995, Quentin organized the Department of Southwest Construction at Northern New Mexico College while tapering off his construction business. Now beginning their ninth year, the adobe classes represent the only full-time adobe construction program in the USA. After 35 years the family homestead is now quite ready for a new cycle of renovation and a second bathroom.

Kurt Gardella completed his adobe certificate with Quentin and the department in 2005 and has been building with adobe ever since. Due to Kurt’s web design background, in 2006 Quentin gave him the (seemingly) impossible task of offering one of his hands-on adobe construction courses through the internet. That first basic course has now grown into 5 classes offered each semester which include a growing number of podcast interviews and step-by-step video instructions. Originally from New Jersey, Kurt worked in pizzerias in high school and college before moving to Germany where he still spends a good part of his time. Apart from trying to convince everyone to build passive solar adobe homes, he is on a personal quest to construct the ultimate mud pizza oven.
Greg Seelhorst has a B.S. in Construction Management from Cal Poly SLO, as well as Associate degrees in Adobe Construction (N. New Mexico College) and Renewable Energy (San Juan College). Greg has worked over 11 years throughout Africa on renewable energy and appropriate technology projects. His credentials include project management for off-grid rural health center installations with Solar Electric Light Fund in Rwanda; Vocational Skills Training coordination for the re-integration of Burundian ex-combatants with PADCO, Inc. in Burundi; Area Development Program Coordination for World Vision Burundi; Director of Operations and pioneer for the start-up of Habitat for Humanity in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; International Partner for Construction and Appropriate Technology with Habitat for Humanity in Uganda; and a 3-year Volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps in Mali. Greg is fluent in Bambara (West Africa) and French, with basic understanding of Spanish, Swahili and Kirundi (East Africa). Greg is currently working as the installation coordinator for a solar company in Sonoma County, CA called Solar Works. Greg is also a NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) Certified Solar PV Installer and has also completed additional design and installation training at SunPower and SMA headquarters. Greg enjoys spending time with his Burundian wife, Narizadi and baby girl, Kaya and they dream of the day when they build an off-grid, woodless domed adobe house somewhere in the world.

Eduardo Carvalho is an architect, born in 1974 in Angola who lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal. Graduated in 1998 from Oporto Faculty of Architecture. Interested in earth architecture since 2001 when attended the Adobe Program in New Mexico with Quentin Wilson. Co-founder in 2002 of Plano B arquitectura, an office dedicated to architectural research with earth and natural materials in conjunction with industrial materials. Co-founder in 2003 of Centro da Terra, the portuguese earth building association.

Anselmo Jaramillo

Kirk Higbee

Donna Concannon

Associate of Applied Science Construction Trade Management (El Rito)

This program provides you with the skills necessary to enter the construction industry at high than entry level. As a graduate, you will be capable of entering at supervisory or management internship levels. It combines the program requirements of the Southwestern Building Construction with classes to build business and management skills.

Communications (6 hrs)

  • ENG 111 English Composition I (3)
  • SPCH 130 Public Speaking (3)

Math/Computers/Lab Sciences (6 crs)

  • CS 102 Computer Literacy (3)
  • Elective (3)

Social/Behavioral Sciences (3 crs)

  • Elective (3)

Humanities and Fine Arts (3 crs)

  • Elective (3)


Electives (2)

  • BA 117 Business Math (3)
  • BA 220 Introduction to Business (3)
  • BA 240 Principles of Management (3)

Concentrations (choose one of the following):

  • Option 1:
    Adobe Construction (27 crs)
    Electives (10 hrs) from ADOB, CARP, CONS, or DRFT courses
  • Option 2:
    Wood/Steel Frame Building Construction (38 crs)
    Five courses from CARP 171-178 (30 hrs)
    Electives (8 hrs) from ADOB, CONS, CARP, or DRFT courses


Adobe construction has been used in New Mexico and in surrounding states since the eleventh century. As one of the world's oldest forms of building, it produces solid, long lasting structures. The great mass of adobe walls absorbs heat and releases it when the temperatures drop. It is straightforward to create a passive solar structure with this mass available to store heat. Northern's Adobe Construction Program is unique - the nation's only full-fledged certification program in building with adobe. It generally takes two semesters of classroom and field work to earn a Certificate in Adobe Construction. While offering a hands-on, apprenticeship-type experience, the program includes sufficient classroom instruction to ensure complete, critical coverage of all aspects of building adobe structures.

Students receive hands-on experience through working at home-construction sites, renovating houses and buildings and working on individual projects. The program will appeal particularly to the nature student, who is seeking such an experience out of the love of working with natural materials.


  1. Gain Skills in all aspects of residential building construction.
  2. Develop specialized skills in plastering, ornamentation and traditional building features.
  3. Learn theories and methods of incorporating passive solar energy into dove structures.
  4. Become a valuable skilled employee to any construction business.
  5. Build your own adobe home.
Choose us for our value, our quality degree and continuing education programs in diverse areas of study, our experienced faculty, and NORTHERN provides students with unique opportunities for academic, personal and professional growth. “You will have personalized attention, something difficult to get at larger colleges. We provide strong hands-on experiences from day one.” –Dr. Ivan Lopez, Dean, College of Engineering & Technology
The Northern Foundation remains committed to stimulate leadership, promote equity, and grow resources and philanthropy in the Española Valley and surrounding rural areas. Over the past twenty years, we have granted $1.3 million to support over 1,250 NNMC students.