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Building A Cob House In A Day

Building A Cob House In A Day

Cob construction, using a mixture of clay, sand, straw, and water to create a very strong, functional, eco-friendly material, is popular in many regions of the world. Looking through galleries of cob houses is always a fascinating tour into some extremely creative minds, as these homes can twist, turn, curve, and defy both logic and gravity thanks to the flexibility of cob. There’s also something whimsical about many of them, and something that always makes me think it would be fun to try to raise one in a day with a team of dedicated people.

But could you do it? A team of cob enthusiasts and teachers gave it a shot in Reno last year, although it wasn’t quite a day — their project actually took place over several days. What their test project illustrated, though, was that technically it is possible to build a cob house from scratch in just a few days, from the foundations to the roofing, which is pretty exciting news for those of us who love alternative building materials, fast (and safe!) construction, learning, and teaching.

One of the great things about building a whole house in a weekend is that it provides people with an opportunity to learn about the process from start to finish under the supervision of skilled mentors within a doable amount of time. People interested in learning cob construction may not be able to take very much time off from work, or might be under pressure to bring skills back to their communities, organizations, or other peers.

With a single workshop, people can get the fundamentals. They won’t be experts at the end, but they will have had hands-on experience with most aspects of cob building, which they can use in future advanced workshops (including those focused on wiring, plumbing, and other conveniences). People with some training can also work alongside other trained people on cob projects, and can in turn mentor people who are just learning, creating a ripple effect.

But why is it so important to build a house in a day? Many organizations doing relief work in the US and around the world rely on construction that is easy, fast, and reliable. Having as many methods as possible in the arsenal helps them decide on the best choice for a given setting — and cob offers some clear advantages, because not only does it meet these standards, it’s also cheap and eco-friendly. These can give it an edge on some other building techniques that require shipping in materials or spending a great deal of money.

When communities need housing, schools, and other structures fast, cob is one among many options to get them on their feet again after a disaster, and on the path to recovery. The fact that it can be quickly taught and quickly constructed means that people can quickly acquire the skills and go forth to spread them in the community — as communities rebuild from natural disasters, each new home will teach more people building skills, so community members will be empowered to lead their own recovery, rather than depending on aid.

Plus, the fact that you can build a home in a day (kind of) is just plain cool, don’t you think?

Katie Marks writes for This article originally appeared here.

Photo: Daniel/Flickr


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+ add your own
1:37AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

never heard of it. Why isn't it more well known?

6:56PM PDT on Mar 24, 2014

thanks for sharing, know a person who wants to build a house out of straw bale, this sounds better

8:35PM PDT on Mar 21, 2014

Excellent article. But as others have commented, it has to be built in the right climate/environment.

3:06PM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

I think cob homes are gorgeous when done well and organically styled. But they work much better in dryer climates. It becomes rather difficult to keep them waterproofed when you're looking at 50" or more of rain each year.

5:01PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

Is so.! Like many ways to build a home, all earth friendly and self sufficience built right in. Youtube vids on earth ships, earth sheltered, burmed homes, gads imagination alone could present thousands of alternative materials to one just down the road.:P) Houses about 8 people :)
I bought aa trailer years ago a terry trailer for 1000 clams, had asmall fire in it, got the ren materials thrown in too..good I set to work renoing the thing, ripped out the interior and replaced with hard wood siding, insulation, 10" deep in ceiling, added wood stove, solar pv x3. 6250 watt generator for in case of..had bathroom, tub, breakfast nook, Used sumps to handle sewage and buried when done..treated too.
After about 8 years I gave to my son..then I gave away my son too.:)
NOw treading water waiting for spring and year 2 of the permaculture foodforest aquaculture, rv park and gardens for market. hydro drop flume power plant, solar, wind, and earth energies.
Orchards. Lifes work in a short movie.:)

6:02AM PST on Mar 8, 2014


9:49AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

10:19PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Whatever works.

2:21PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

I think that cob is one the UK was using until 1900?
I think there are classes in building in UK now and
sure there was a TV prog; on a man still making them
he made a very large (more then 5 bedrooms etc)
it was a longer job then he planed as it rain a lot
I think it was Grand Designs a prog on large self builds

3:53AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Wattle & daub houses as well as mud brick houses too are made very commonly up to date in many parts of the world. Extremely cool, safe & earth friendly as sustainable. Whether it's suitable for our sky rise environment, I don't know as there is severe lack of shortage of land in the cities

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