What is Adobe?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Adobe is an ancient building material which is in wide use in many desert regions of the world. It has also experienced a resurgence in popularity in areas of the world where people are concerned about environmentally sustainable architecture, because it is renewable, efficient, and naturally sourced. You can see many examples of this type of architecture across the Middle East, American Southwest, and Latin America, running the gamut from modest homes to sprawling complexes.

To make adobe, people mix sand, clay, and straw. Many people like to use dirt, which has a natural mixture of sand and clay, to make it. Once the materials are mixed, they are packed into molds or shaped by hand into bricks which are allowed to dry in the sun. After around a month of drying, the bricks can be used to build a structure which is mortared together with fresh adobe. It is important to pack the ground down well before building a structure with this material, because the weight of the adobe will cause extreme compression of the foundation which could result in structural flaws.


One of the major advantages to adobe is that it can be made with readily available material. Most people have mud and dead grass around, along with holes to mix the materials in. The other advantage is that it is extremely sturdy, with adobe structures surviving earthquakes, snow, and heavy rains with relative equanimity. For structures in hot regions of the world, this material is especially popular because it keeps buildings cool with its powerful insulating properties, and the buildings may be whitewashed to make them even cooler inside.

The term comes from Egypt, where people have been building adobe structures for thousands of years. The word (and material) slowly spread across the Middle East, eventually traveling to Spain with the Muslim Conquest. When the Spanish in turn conquered the Americas, they brought the word with them, although Native Americans had been building with this material for thousands of years already.

In hot climates, adobe is an ideal building material. It does not require timber, which tends to be scare in desert regions, and it is very easy to work with; a small crew of people can build a very efficient, pleasant house very quickly, once the bricks have been made. In the world of green design, adobe is favored because it is produced with renewable, local resources, just like cob, another popular mud-based building material.


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Post 5

This is a good article on the subject of What is Adobe?

Post 4

@everetra - There’s no need to continually go to the Adobe home page to download the latest version. If you’ve installed it properly, you’ll get a prompt for an Adobe update of your reader now and then. Just click on the icon when it comes up and the software will download and install the latest version.

Post 3

@MrMoody - If you're using reader, always make it a point to download Adobe reader updates. The reason is to ensure forward compatibility with any PDF files you open (I don’t think backward compatibility is an issue).

I found this out the other day when I tried to download a white paper and I couldn’t open it in reader, even though it was a PDF file. I had to download the latest edition of reader before I could open the file.

Post 2

@allenJo - I’m not a graphic artist so I wouldn’t know much about Flash or any of Adobe’s other multimedia products.

I do, however, love Adobe reader. I can read just about any PDF file that’s out there and the text is searchable too. Reader, of course, will only let you read, but I got a trial edition of their Pro product, which I was able to get hold of as an Adobe free download.

This product is amazing. It gives you complete page design functionality. It also lets you fill in blanks in Adobe PDF files, effectively making these files write-able.

I think this is the technology behind my tax software, come to think of it, because with that program I was able to fill in the 1040 and other PDF forms directly by typing in the information if I wanted.

Post 1

After reading this, I’ve had a “flash” of revelation. That’s supposed to be a pun.

I never knew that Adobe was building material. I did know that it was the name of a company that makes Adobe Flash and other multimedia products.

Now I understand the idea behind the name. As Adobe material makes buildings, creative artists use products like Adobe’s suite of tools to “build” graphic arts for print, multimedia and video.

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