Some days, don’t you feel the world crumbling around you? Financial crises, world hunger, war, poverty. It seems unending. Some people may feel that one way to escape is to have a small, comfortable place to come home to. A home that is like a hug, warm and alive.
Some people have found that feeling in a cob house. A hand sculpted structure that curves and comforts like the earth it is made from. The House Alive! company is offering workshops for 2009 on how to create your own small structure.
House Alive!, which was started in 2001 by Coenraad Rogmans, James Thomson and numerous volunteers, teaches workshops about natural building, natural design and appropriate technology. They also offer consulting services, do presentations and seminars and work to promote natural building as a real alternative to conventional construction methods.
Cob is a building material that is made of a mixture of sand, straw and clay. The materials are mixed wet, by foot or with a tractor or mortar mixer. The word “Cob” comes from an old English word meaning “Lump” or “Loaf.”
The wet cob mixture is used to build thick earth walls; the building technique is very similar to sculpting with modeling clay. Because cob building requires no forms, you can build your walls into any shape you choose. Curves, niches, arched windows and built-in furniture are common features in cob buildings.
Because cob can be labor intensive, it is best if a cob structure be kept on the small side.
House Alive! will be offering a workshop in May of 2009 on how to build a complete shelter. Participants of the workshop will leave confident that they can design and build their own natural home. The building techniques will include:
- Making cob by foot
- Rubble trench foundations
- Stem walls out of recycled concrete, earth bags, and stone
- Natural sub-floors for earthen floors
- The materials sand, straw, and clay: How they work, what to look for, where to find them
- Wall building: tapering, keeping it plumb, trimming, shaping
- Electricity: How to put in wires, how to build a circuit
- Plumbing: Water and gray water systems
- Windows, doors and hanging cabinets and other things on cob walls
- Hybrid buildings: The interfaces of cob with other materials
- Earthen floors
- Earthen finish plasters
Lectures and demonstrations will include
- The economy of building
- Passive solar design
- Natural design
- Composting toilets
- Solar hot water
- Solar electricity
- Codes, hybrid buildings and natural renovations
- Straw bale construction
- Light straw clay, adobe brick and waddle and daub.
- Roofs and roof insulation
- Simple living and community
One thing that cob building lends itself to is cohousing. Cohousing communities attempt to be as self-sufficient as possible, by building their own homes from sustainable materials like cob and straw bales and by growing their own food. The Emerald Earth Sanctuary in Mendocino County, Calif. makes decisions by consensus, and they value direct, open communication and conflict resolution. They also offer work parties, natural building workshops, and a work trade program.
If you are interested in learning more about cohousing, the 2009 cohousing conference will be in Seattle, June 24-28, 2009.
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