A Tiny Cob Home, Modern Hobbit House

It’s estimated that half of the world’s population lives in earth buildings, but for many countries this type of architecture was until recently fairly rare. Now materials like rammed earth, cob, compressed earth and mud brick are experiencing a comeback.

A modern cob home- Cobtun House- in England won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ sustainability award and went on to sell for well over a million dollars (750,000 pounds). And cob is just a simple mix of clay and straw (though sand or some sort of grit is often used as well).

Cob is cheap- the walls of Cobtun House cost just 20,000 pounds- and infinitely recyclable. It’s also a very green building material for plenty of other reasons.

It’s a local material: the clay and sand are most often extracted from the property where the building is built. It’s energy efficient: cool in the summer, warm in the winter and fire-resistant. It’s efficient with space since cob buildings are smaller than the average American home.

A cob home is also a perfect DIY project since the materials can be mixed with your hands and feet and molded freeform- without support structures- to create a house (See books like The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage).

In this video, Margaret Krome-Lukens of North Carolina’s Pickard’s Mountain Eco-Institute shows us the cob home- refreshingly cool on a hot summer’s day- that interns Mike and Greg are building for her on the property. They talk about the horse manure used as an additive to the walls, how the material is so easy to sculpt, the green roof and living small. Since her new home is less than 150 square feet, Margaret talks about the joy of giving up stuff to move in.

Rina Swentzell’s Adobe House

Judy introduced me to Rina Swentzell’s house and I am really impressed. This house does not fit in the tiny house size but fits more in the small size but I find the simplicity and the beauty of the home well worth sharing for inspiration and ideas.

The house is based in Northern New Mexico and was designed for the grandmother of Bill Steen’s children and Athena’s mother. The grandchildren were involved in the construction and were able to show and develop there construction talents.

Benito worked on the building from start to finish, being there from the foundations through the walls andfinish plasters. Anything that was done with wood, from the roof to the finish carpentry and furniture. Continue reading

Cob Workshop and Class

The Natural Building Network is offering a Cob Workshop this summer at the Mariposa Ecovillage in Amarillo, Texas.

This is a practical hands-on cob workshop designed to give you building skills through first hand experience and practice. Be prepared to get dirty! We will be spending most of each day doing enjoyable but physical work.

This workshop is a 10-day intensive designed to prepare you to build a cob home.

Here is what you will learn:

  • Get hands on experience in each stage of construction so you can go home with the confidence and skills to build your own house.
  • Alternating work and class lecture will cover safety, financing, building siting, planning, permitting, foundations, walls, windows, doors, roofs, plasters, floors, sculptural work, electricity and plumbing.
  • Use a range of cob construction techniques from hand and foot mixing to tractor-cob.
  • Bring your building plans, designs and ideas to discuss with experienced builders with an eye toward framing a do-able project and realistic expectations.

Lodging and meals are available and this is a family friendly workshop. To get the full scoop go the Natural Building Network website.