Happy Thanksgiving Day 2012

I would like to wish all our North American readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day! I thought this house fit the mood of the day and I hope you enjoy it.

This is the Laughing House sculpted by Linda Smiley and Ianto Evans out of cob, clay, sand, and straw. Dug locally right from the ground. They live in the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, so high thermal mass (non-insulating) walls work in their climate.

This photo is from their websitte: http://www.cobcottage.com/laughing-house

cob cottage

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.

That Roundhouse

This roundhouse, built of cordwood, cob, straw and recycled windows, is located in southwest Wales and owned by Tony Wrench. It’s not only a low impact, natural dwelling built with what was on hand, but it’s become a symbol for the rights of natural builders within the United Kingdom.

The house was built in 1997 by Tony and featured solar power, a wind turbine, composting toilet and reed beds for gray water. Tony based this house on American Indian designs he had seen in history books. In the past, he had had experience building “wacky structures” and wanted to live as close to the land as possible. Even though he built it inside Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with agreement from the owners of the land, he never got permission for the structure from the local planning board. After several court appearances, he and his partner, Jane, decided to demolish it in 2004, but changed their minds after public demonstrations persuaded them not to. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority attempted to get a court injunction to force Tony to demolish it, but were persuaded to allow it to stay up until July 2006, when they could re-apply under the new Low Impact Policy. In 2008, the committee voted to give Tony a conditional for three years. So – the roundhouse still stands. Continue reading