"I believe Casting could revolutionize the way homes
are built in the future."
Bob Alexander, who owns and operates LX&R Design,
isn't your typical home designer.
"I didn't come to New Mexico to study architecture
or design solar efficient housing." he relates,
"I came here to build powerful Fusion Lasers, an
alternate energy source for future generations."
"I worked at LANL when the name changed from Los
Alamos SCIENTIFIC Laboratory to Los Alamos NATIONAL
laboratory. I didn't see it at the time, but, I believe
that was an omen."
Following two lay-offs from LANL and another from a
government funded, private firm within a five year
period, Bob decided it was time for a new career. One a
bit more "down-to-earth", so to speak.
"I had always been interested in architecture,
particularly solar design, but, I had no real training in
it. When I first moved to New Mexico I lived in a house
in Truchas that had something like a solar greenhouse. I
noticed how nice and warm it was in there, even during
cold winter days.
It left an impression on me."
"When I began looking for a house to buy, I
instinctively looked for an older adobe with a South
facing wall onto which I could build a solar addition.
Within the first year I had designed and built a 500
square foot solar-greenhouse addition which cut my
heating bills in half. It also allowed me to grow plants
year round. There were tax rebates available then and it
only cost me 50 cents a square foot to build."
"In 1991 I began taking Drafting classes at Northern
New Mexico Community College. Northern has a good
Drafting program, I can't say enough about their
Jeff Toomey, who heads the Drafting program at Northern,
took me under his wing and helped me to find scholarships
and grants so that I could continue my education. He also
answered an endless series of questions concerning
"It was during this period that I took my first
Solar Design class from Quinten Wilson, who runs
Northern's Adobe Construction classes. Quinten really
opened my eyes to Solar architecture and the various
"I started LX&R Design in 1994 shortly after I
designed my first adobe house which was built up in La
Madera (NM). I was really into Passive Solar Adobe
architecture at that time and studied everything I could
find on the subject. I won an award that year in the New
Mexico Passive Solar Design Contest with the most
solar-efficient entry. "
"During that period I designed several more Adobes.
One is a nice sized cabin with a loft and vaulted ceiling
which was built in Lyden (NM). Another, more spacious
(>4,000 square foot) adobe was designed for clients
near Silver City (NM). "
"Then I met Stefan Bell who introduced me to
Strawbale construction. I must admit that I was skeptical
at first. I mean all the three little pigs jokes come to
mind. In reality, Strawbale construction is a very useful
way to use a material which was formerly a waste product.
It is also user friendly in terms of the owner-builder
"I went on to design two large Strawbale residences.
One was an artist compound around 6,000 square foot with
seven separate residences under a common roof and
communal work areas. The other, around 4,000 square foot,
is a spacious residence for a family in Abiquiu (NM). The
owner of that Strawbale wanted to build the whole thing
himself, so, we came up with a plan which would allow him
do to just that."
"I thought a lot about adobes and strawbales and the
uniqueness of each material. Adobe works well as mass in
a home, something to store heat in, but, it lacks
insulative qualities. Strawbale works well as an
insulator, which prevents heat from escaping, but, it has
low mass and doesn't store heat very well. Then it dawned
on me that a home which uses both materials, a
"Hybrid" home, would be ideal. So I designed
around that principal for a while."
"During the period I was earning my drafting degree
and subsequently I have studied many forms of
architecture. I am still intrigued by underground and
I looked at the Earth Ship designs Mike Reynolds has done
up in Taos. They are relatively inexpensive to build ,
but, very labor-intensive."
"I have always been interested in the concept of
poured adobe where the building material is literally
poured into forms in a near liquid state. I know of
several people who have attempted to refine this
principal, but, cracking is often an issue due to the
fact that the material shrinks considerably when it dries
and the R-value of most of these materials is quite
"Casting opens up a whole new realm of design
possibilities which are difficult, at best, to achieve
with other building materials. It also uses less wood in
the construction which is important in terms of
construction cost and ecology."
"I am a founding member of our local Habitat for
Humanity chapter and I can see the need for cost
effective housing. I hope Habitat will eventually pick up
on this casting idea. It is relatively low-tech and easy
"We are clear cutting forests up in Canada now
trying to keep up with America's building demands. We
just can't keep going that way. We need to be thinking
about sustainability and things like solar efficiency
when we design and build homes. I believe Casting could
revolutionize the way homes are built in the
"A few years back, I met a guy who had developed a
home-made casting mix. Using a batch mixer and five
gallon buckets, he and his wife built their own home. Ron
is a skillled builder, a talented artist and a true
craftsman and his home reflects these qualities in its
many hand-crafted features."
"Ron and I have been experimenting with different
casting materials and mixes. Recently. the National
Forest Service has provided us with some initial funding
to test these mixes for R-value and compressive
"I see people investing in "pre-manufactured
homes" which have come a long way, but, they rarely
build equity the way more permanent homes do. We are
focusing on the little guy who is willing to invest some
"sweat equity" into building a nice home
without going into a life-long debt."
"Another area we are looking at is the possibility
of making building blocks out of the stuff. I mean a
person could cast building blocks in his back yard and,
once they are dry enough to handle, take them out to the
building site and put the walls up."
"Wall Casting is still evolving and we don't have
all the answers yet, but, we are refining our forming
system and constantly exploring new ideas. We have
secured several nice building sites in the Santa
California sub-division (near the El Rito turn-off on Hwy
84) and hope to begin construction this Spring using the
"We have started to write a book on Casting and plan
to do a video series as well. We can see the possibility
of eventually offering classes in Wall Casting and
possibly even franchises to owner-builders, but, right
now we just want to see our designs go from paper to
"Recently HGTV, The Home and Garden Television
Channel, contacted me. They are interested in doing a
segment on our Wall Casting system. And we don't mind the
To learn more about LX&R Design and to see home
designs for Adobe, Strawbale, Hybrid and Casting visit
the LX&R Design website at www.lxrdesign.com.
Final Note: Bob also has considerable experience in
videography and he is currently Director Of Photography
for New Mexico Digital Video who's feature length
production "Zen and the Asteroid" premiered at
the 2005 Santa Fe Film Festival ! See the accompanying
article on NNMDV for additional information.
from "The Sun News"
See also: "Pumice
House" & LX&R
Design Casting Page