COB is the building strategy I studied in 1996 with the wonderful Cob Cottage Company. It is simply sand, clay and straw. More details below. Here is a picture of that first course, and the project we worked on for 3 weeks. I am the short one, 2nd from the upper left. This was my start. ( I don’t know where this picture went, alas)
Since then I have built with cob, co-creating numerous projects. Below is a Cob Garden Wall being constructed on the Hobbit Sauna. A group of Waldorf 3rd grade students were participating that day.
Also on site are several Earth Ovens and Rocket Stoves built of cob. It is a wonderful local sculptural strong material.
Earth is probably still the world’s commonest building material. The word cob comes from an old English root meaning a lump or rounded mass. Cob building uses hands and feet to form lumps of earth mixed with sand and straw, a sensory and aesthetic experience similar to sculpting with clay. Cob is easy to learn and inexpensive to build. Because there are no forms, ramming, cement or rectilinear bricks, cob lends itself to organic shapes: curved walls, arches and niches. Earth homes are cool in summer, warm in winter. Cob’s resistance to rain and cold makes it ideally suited to cold climates like the Pacific Northwest, and to desert conditions.
Cob has been used for millennia even in the harsh climates of coastal Britain, at the latitude of the Aleutians. Thousands of comfortable and picturesque cob homes in England have been continuously occupied for many centuries and now command very high market values. With recent rises in the price of lumber and increasing interest in natural and environmentally safe building practices, cob is enjoying a renaissance. This ancient technology doesn’t contribute to deforestation, pollution or mining nor depend on manufactured materials or power tools. Earth is non-toxic and completely recyclable. In this age of environmental degradation, dwindling natural resources, and chemical toxins hidden in our homes, doesn’t it make sense to return to nature’s most abundant, cheap and healthy building material?
Inspiring 14 min. TED Talk by Anna Heringer (recommended by Selena Lucas who has a strawbale home in the Ann Arbor area)
Note from Deanne: Climate is a critical consideration. Solid earthen buildings are traditional in hot arid climates.
In 2009 Ianto was a featured speaker at the Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen with participation of 180 nations …
Ten Ways Natural Building can Address Climate Change.
Email Conversation from 2008 re Cob Building in the Midwest. Links might be old now….
It is a pleasure to hear of your interest in cob building.
I have pulled together a number of resources in the area.
You are always welcome to visit here, where we have a thatched strawbale cottage.
I know of a few cob buildings in the region/ cold climates:
- Erin and Jim Malloy have designed and built their own efficient Earthen home in north-central Vermont. They live comfortably in their inexpensive, mortgage-free, cob home surrounded by their fruit orchard. Both Jim and Erin work in the field of energy education. Plainfield VT. (I dont know them, but an intern Zachary Davis interviewed them, and they seem to be very happy with their tiny cob home. )
- Chris Reinhart has a bale/cob structure in Indiana. He has a lot of background and may consider taking on a job, or know of someone.
9545 Baby Creek Rd.
Bloomington, IN 47408
- Sr. Mary Baird constructed a small cob retreat building and might give feedback on how cob is performing in Indiana.
near Bloomington, IN 574 936 9936
built with the help of Chris Reinhart and
- Dave Sebolt, Ann Arbor, an architecht
might be able to tell you how his cob and strawbale home is performing in Goshen, IN. I haven’t had contact with him in a number of years.
- Chris Fox, below, is doing natural building as a living and is great. This might be a good place to start:
Fox Natural Building
Chris Fox. FNB offers a full range of construction services including: general carpentry, timber frame & natural enclosure system, Earthen Plasters, & Floors, Woodlot Management/Sustainable Harvesting, Green Constructino & Remodeling, Custom Milling & Furniture, Workshop Facilitation and more.
10645 Portage Street NW, Canal Fulton, Ohio / 216.225.0753 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ed Pease, Natural Building Network Member
- Sustainable Earth, is creating a Demonstration Organic Farm that contains several Natural Buildings. Sustainable Earth is a 501(c)3 not for profit membership organization dedicated to the development of sustainable farming and food systems. We embrace organic and natural (farmer defined) production systems. Host of the 2007 Midwest Small Farm Conference. Email: sustainableearth.steve [at] verizon.net. http://www.sustainableearth.net/.
Bryan Burnoski is currently based in the Midwest in a small Western Wisconsin town conveniently located one hour north of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I will be hosting various workshops focusing on cob structures using balecob, rocket stoves, earthen ovens, garden walls and benches. Projects will be ongoing and may not always be in a workshop format. I am interested in hosting people who want to learn how to build with local resources in order to create beautiful, simple and natural structures. Email: bryanburnoski [at]hotmail.com or call 651-428-5493. Osceola.
Go to my website Regional Natural Building page: http://strawbale.pbwiki.com/Michigan+&+Midwest+Natural+Building+Resources
There are a number of contacts and possibilities there, including a builders guild in Wisconsin.
Feel free to ask more questions.
You could consider making up an “ad” for what you want, and I could post it to my listserve. We may turn up some folks who would like to build.
There is a cob listserve which could be a good place to post this.
I would be interested to know how the process goes for you
From: Walter, James
Sent: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 1:06 pm
Subject: Cob cottages
Hi, Deanne Bedner,
Linda Smiley said I might get in touch with you about a cob cottage in the Midwest. Linda is my cousin. We are thinking about a Cob cottage at Tryon Farms in Indiana, near Michigan City. (see it on the web). Do you know if there are some examples of cob cottages near Chicago, or people we could pay to build something?
Linda will visit us in April on her way to Israel.
A QUESTION ABOUT COB IN COLD CLIMATES.
An ANSWER by UNCLE MUD !
Hi, I’m Amanda and I live in the panhandle of Nebraska. The sandhills section to be more specific. I’ve been doing some research on building a cob house but I haven’t been able to find out if our extreme high and low temps are going to be conducive to building a cob cottage here. What are your thoughts on this? We max at 130 degrees and bottom at -30 all before wind factor. Oh and its fairly open prairie but there are some trees and hills.
Your area has a few interesting tie-ins to Natural Building you should be aware of. East of you in Gotherberg Nebraska I came across recreation of the “Soddies” our pioneer ancestors lived in because (A) there wasn’t any timber, and (B) it was too cold and windy to live in a timber house comfortably if you could afford to build one. Here’s a link to a short clip about my visit to one a couple years ago https://www.patreon.com/posts/22384870
the takeaways for me were: Build with what you have, and building low to the earth with thick walls takes the bite out of the wind in your climate.
You may discover that clay is hard to come by in your area and cob doesn’t have the insulative value you need to weather the temperature swings and just plain long uninterrupted spells of extreme weather that would make your cob house a huge block of ice or a hotbox. My friends Jim Schalles and Nad are building near you successfully with the local soil so if you are on Facebook drop me a line and I will introduce you.