Cob Building – Environmentally Friendly Buildings

I first read about Cob buildings or a process close to it in the Mother Earth news. I liked the idea of an environmentally friendly way to build. Another aspect of the building is that is lead to creativity. You could create rounded walls and arches.

My mind thought of garden walls and arches, possibly a secret garden located behind the house. Mixing natural building material and plants and landscaping would create a harmony that would be relaxing.

This style of housing has always appealed to me. Below is an article By Chuck hall on Cob building. I have included links to take you to sites with more information and the original site of the story that has great photography of cob buildings.

Cob Building

Earth is probably still the world’s most common building material. Cob building is the art of building homes using earth materials. Usually when I tell someone about cob for the first time, they think ‘corn cobs.’ That’s not what it’s really about. The word ‘cob’ comes from an old English word that means ‘a rounded lump or mass.’ Cob is basically a mixture of straw, sand and clay. Once the walls are built (by stacking the cob to build walls) they are covered with plaster to seal them. There are no forms, brick shapes or frames. Since cob is basically the same consistency as modeling clay, it lends itself to organic shapes that are more curved and natural. Cob can also be used to build sculpture, garden walls and outdoor ovens.

Cob is literally ‘dirt cheap’ since it is made from materials readily found in nature. It can also be sculpted to provide beautiful artistic touches to your home, as these pictures illustrate. Not only that, but it’s so easy a child could do it. Ever make mud pies when you were a kid? Then you’ve already got most of the basic skills to build with cob!
Cob has been around for thousands of years. Some of the earliest structures on Earth, in the Mesopotamian region, were made of a type of cob. There are cob homes in Western Europe that have been continuously occupied for centuries. With a little regular maintenance, a cob home is extremely durable.

Cob is also non-toxic. It is made from natural materials that contain no toxins. Cob doesn’t require any products that don’t come directly from the Earth. This ancient way of building also doesn’t contribute to deforestation, mining or pollution. Since it is a natural form of building, it does not rely on manufactured materials. Since it is made using materials on the building site, it doesn’t use fossil fuels transporting materials to the site.

One drawback of working with cob is that many building inspectors are unfamiliar with the material. Cob is not covered by most building codes; however, adobe is covered in many. If you can convince your local building inspector that cob is a modified form of adobe, you may have better luck in getting your project approved. Another drawback is with insurance companies. Most won’t insure cob because they have no experience with the material. There’s some tradeoff in this department. You might not be able to get the building insured, but since cob is so durable and cheap, in the unlikely event that a disaster occurs and damages your building, it can be rebuilt for about the same amount of money that you would have spent on insurance premiums.

If you are having problems with the local building inspector, this can usually be worked around by finding an architect or an engineer who has experience working with cob. If you can get an architect to sign off on your project, most building inspectors will work with you.

I do cob building workshops on occasion throughout the Southeast, usually in the Spartanburg, South Carolina or Asheville, North Carolina areas and places in-between. If you would like to be notified of the dates and times of upcoming cob building workshops, sign up for the Culture Artist Newsletter. If you would like to sponsor a cob building workshop on your own site, please email me for information at chuck@cultureartist.org.
If you don’t live near Spartanburg or Asheville and would like information on cob building workshops in your area, you can visit the Cob Workshops site or the Cob Builders’ Directory for more info.

Here is the original link to the story: http://www.cultureartist.org/cob.htm

5 Comments

  1. Love this article. I had never heard of ‘cob’ building material before, very interesting. It would be neat to make a planting shed out of this!

    Julie
    http:/www.myantiagingskincareonline.com

  2. A planting shed would be cool or a greenhouse. I have always wanted a pit greenhouse and this would work well for the front. Denise http://www.thegardenersrake.com

  3. Talk about a great idea! I found this information very interesting.
    Do you know if Cobb buidings have been used to address the following social problems?:
    1. Homelessness
    2. Affordable homes/rentals
    It seems to me that, their low cost and environmentally friendly maintenance would make these kind of homes ideal for homeowneres and renters who cannot afford the high housing costs associated with traditional housing; and would also make them ideal for providing affordable housing for most of the homeless–who contrary to public opinion are mostly women and children.
    Thank you for sharing it.
    d

  4. It has been used for affordable homes. I haven’t heard anything about homelessness but that’s a good question.

    What I like about these homes too is that you can blend them in with the environment. Denise http://www.thegardenersrake.com

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What is “Cob?” - [...] up the material into balls called “cobs.” Now you start packing them into shapes like domes or curved walls, …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Categories

Online Garden Planning Tool

Archives