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«The Cob Builders Handbook You Can Hand-Sculpt Your Own Home Table Of Contents:  Acknowledgements and Warning INTRODUCTION What is cob? Why build ...»

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You'll learn to move efficiently and pace yourself. Cobbing is rhythmic, slow and constant so your fitness kind of sneaks up on you. I've heard claims of cob healing just about everything from anorexia to arthritis! Cob building sites are usually quiet and safe places for people to be. Cob structures make nontoxic, healthy indoor environments for the occupants.

Cob helps you get to know yourself in relation to others.  

It's easy to inspire others to participate in cob building projects because it's so fun and satisfying. People are happy when they are part of a team making something beautiful and useful! Cobbing lends itself to sharing, co-creation and group decision making. It reminds us that we can still function as a clan.

Cobbing together inspires deep sharing and friendship. Wonderful conversations seem to arise out of the mud! Cob building sites welcome people of all ages and abilities to join in the fun!

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You can do it! Cob is a flexible and forgiving medium. It requires dedication more than physical strength, and willingness to experiment more than skills. Building with cob is an easy way to go on a big adventure!

IT'S AFFORDABLE!   Did you think you might have to pay rent forever? Now that you have this book, you'll see there's a way out! If you have a place to build on, and you're a good scrounger, and if you're good at getting people together for house raising parties, your cob home can cost as little as $10 a square foot! A well-designed cob home will save you money on energy bills too! A conventional house made of concrete, 2x6s, chip board, plastic, fiberglass, vinyl, aluminum, composition shingle will cost at least $65 a square foot. (These are 1996 prices.)

IT'S COMFORTABLE!  

The organic shapes of cob walls are pleasing to the eye. Walking into a rounded cob home is like walking into a hug. Naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter, a cob home will keep you comfy year round. The thermal mass of the walls slows down changes in the temperature. Heat from a fire and from the sun will be absorbed and radiated back to you during the cooler nights. Cob walls also muffle sound, making a quiet indoor space.

IT'S LONG LASTING!  

No, cob homes don't melt in a downpour. Cob homes last for centuries. With the revival of cob and other natural building techniques, the next few generations can choose not to spend their lives paying off a mortgage. Cob homes don't require much maintenance either.

YEAH FOR COB!! It's too good and it is true!!  

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You can make a house that looks like any other, or you can take advantage of cob's sculptability and make a unique building, one of a kind.

A simple house with a sleeping loft, and clearstory windows to let in the light.

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Go to a cob workshop if at all possible. Getting your hands in it will give you • lots of information, inspiring ideas, confidence and rekindle your cellular knowledge. Workshops are a good way to get familiar with the material you will be building with.

Observe, define and document what it is about different environments • that appeals to you. Visit buildings that feel good to you. Check out the natural buildings in your area. Collect your ideas, sketches and photographs in a scrap book. Include the ideas you come up with while reading this book.

Take design lessons from Mother Nature. Spend time in nature noticing how • she puts things together. What shapes appeal to you? Colors? Textures?

Assess your resources: What do you have in the way of time, energy, money, • materials, skills and helpers? If you decide to have workshop(s) and/or house raising parties, set the dates and start advertising. Get your friends inspired.

Use your imagination as you design. Keep in mind the feelings you would • like to evoke in your home. Be flexible about your design. Once you've established the foundation, the spirit of cob will help you design from there up.

Design your home so it belongs where it is. Spend lots of time on your site • during the design process. Plan any roads, parking, energy systems, water sources, the garden-orchard areas, etc., at the same time, so that everything will work together gracefully. Include the sheds and storage areas in the design. It is important to make sure the home site will be as dry as possible. Plan a drainage system that moves water away from your house.

(Read the chapter on choosing a site for your home carefully! See page 17.) Start gathering materials: roofing materials, doors, windows, etc. These • elements will influence the personality of your design.

After you've started forming some clear ideas, make small cob models, • ideally right on the future home site. The models can be made of potter's clay or cob. This exercise is incredibly valuable and will teach you a lot about your design ideas. You can mock up your design full-scale with stacked straw bales too.

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Think Small Building a house (even a small house) is a big project! It's best to start something that you can finish without too much stress. You can always add a room on later. If you become a cob addict you can add on each year.





Smaller buildings usually require wood of smaller dimensions to support the roof.

This reduces the need to cut trees and spend money.

A well-designed small building is all a person needs. It's cozy and easier to maintain.

Measure the rooms where you live now so you can quantify the sizes of spaces.

A small home encourages more time spent outside in Mother Nature. Design outdoor living spaces around your home. Patios, covered porches and doorways that invite you outside add a lot to a home.

Design your home around what you intend to do in it. Write down your daily activities and think about what time of day you're likely to do each thing. Take advantage of natural light and heat when the sun shines into different parts of the house. Make a rough sketch using circular shapes to represent your daily activities.

This will give you a basic layout for your design. Try arranging the layout in a variety of ways. How can one place be used for more than one purpose? Plan the flow of people-traffic carefully.

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People almost never stand right next to a wall. This means the walls don't need to be as tall as you are, if the ceiling is slanted/ sloped. Be willing to let go of what you're used to while you are imagining your home. The lower the walls, the less work you'll have to do to make them, and the less energy it will take to heat your home.

Make sure you won't bump your head on the eaves while walking outside.

Think about efficient use of kitchen space. An old wive's tale says to put your sink, refrigerator and stove in a triangular relationship to each other. Old wives probably know what they're talking about. Notice kitchens. Which ones are comfortable and efficient? What makes them that way? Copy them. Arrange a visit to see the inside of a yacht or houseboat to get some good ideas for kitchens designed to take up a minimum amount of space.

It's easy to make beautiful furniture out of cob. Furniture that's built against the walls takes up a lot less room than movable furniture and leaves the floor space more open.

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Curved walls are more stable than straight ones. The tighter the curve, the stronger the wall. A long straight wall wants to fall over. A curved wall holds itself up.

If you must make a long straight wall, add a buttress or two. (See page 13 for more on buttresses.) When a cob wall curves tightly, you can deduct a few inches off its thickness because a curve is so strong. Where a cob wall is long and straight, increase the thickness of the wall.

As you imagine the walls, also start visualizing the roof and how it will sit on the building. The roof design can be refined as you build.

A wall defines the space on either side of it. Generally people are more comfortable in spaces with positive angles. (More than 80 degrees and less than 180 degrees.) This is easily done for more than one room if the rooms are all squares or right angles, but it's a little trickier if you want rounded walls. It's easy to see how nature solves this dilemma by looking at the honey comb of a bee hive, or a cluster of bubbles that are sitting on a flat surface. Each wax cell or bubble represents a "room" that is made

–  –  –

A partial wall, like a counter or built in furniture, is enough to create the feeling of a comfortably shaped room or space.

Keep this concept in mind while you are designing the outdoor spaces around your home too. Take into consideration other buildings, fences, trees and the outdoor terrain. These too, will define the space.

Make the Most of the Climate Design with passive solar access in mind   If you live in a temperate climate where the sun shines during the cold months, use the heat of the sun to heat your home. Using passive solar design means you'll use less energy, money and fuel to stay warm. Let the sun shine in! This is an important part of designing your home. (Read the sections on passive solar design on pages 58 and 114-117 very carefully.)

cob is thermal mass  

This means it is dense stuff that holds the heat from the sun or the fire for a long time, radiating it back out into a room slowly. It also takes a long time to heat up. In most climates where humans live, this helps create a pleasant indoor temperature. Cob is naturally cool in hot summers, and can absorb solar warmth in the winter. It tempers the climate throughout the year and does the same on a smaller scale throughout the day/night cycle. Cob is ideal in desert areas where it holds the night's cool throughout the day, slowly heating up to release the day's warmth at night. Pay attention to the weather in your area through the seasons. The more sun you get during the colder months, the more practical a solar designed home will be.

If you live where it's really hot or cold around the clock, you may want to insulate or 'outsulate' your cob walls with something that is full of air pockets, and synthetically regulate the temperature by heating or cooling the interior. Adding more straw, pumice, vermiculite, or even styrofoam packaging chips to the outer or inner layer of cob may increase the insulation value.

Other things to think about when designing

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A two-story house is more economical and efficient because the foundation • and roof are the most expensive energy consuming parts of building. When you increase your living space by building vertically, you use fewer materials in the roof and foundation.

Heat goes to the upper story. If you are like me and you like to sleep where it's • cool and where it's easy to get to the bathroom, you might want to put the sleeping place downstairs. If you have plumbing it will be easier and quieter to keep it all on the lower story.

You'll need lots of lumber for constructing the floor of the second story. Stairs • take up more space than you think on the lower level.

Stairs or ladders can be hazardous and difficult for the old and young. It is • trickier to get a multi-story house to look like it belongs in its environment. It's more awkward and dangerous to work further off the ground. The walls will have to be thicker at the bottom to support a second story. This means you'll need more cob and a more heavy duty foundation.

Noise   Cob walls do an excellent job cutting noise, windows less so. Hopefully the noisy side is not the sunny side. Design accordingly.

Plan for Future Additions Now   If you plan to add onto your home in the future, it's important to design the different stages so they complement each other well. Keep future addition(s) in mind as you design. Make sure the water will run straight off every roof into a gutter, and not onto another roof. (See page 38 for more about future additions.) You may want to consider a C, L, S, or U shape for modular building.

Designing the Entrance   The entrance to a home is a big part of its personality. It creates an impression for everyone as they come and go. It's worth investing thought and imagination into this important aspect of designing your home. (See the section on designing the door area, page 36.)

–  –  –

To strengthen a wall design, either because you want a thin wall or because you've decided to make a long straight wall, plan in some buttresses to help support it. A buttress is a secondary construction that adds lateral support to the wall.

It can be on the inside or outside of the wall. It will need its own foundation.

Interior walls that join the exterior walls serve as buttresses. Any substantial blob of cob, like a fireplace or furniture against the wall, will give the main outer walls lateral support. Furniture and interior walls will support less weight than the main walls so they can have less substantial foundations.

Interior walls take up precious space so the thinner you can make them, the more space you'll have.

Ideally, you'll plan the buttresses as you plan the home so they can be built at the same time as the main walls. This will make a strong connection between the main wall and the buttress and their foundations.

–  –  –

A two-story house is more economical and efficient because the foundation • and roof are the most expensive energy consuming parts of building. When you increase your living space by building vertically, you use fewer materials in the roof and foundation.

Heat goes to the upper story. If you are like me and you like to sleep where it's • cool and where it's easy to get to the bathroom, you might want to put the sleeping place downstairs. If you have plumbing it will be easier and quieter to keep it all on the lower story.

You'll need lots of lumber for constructing the floor of the second story. Stairs • take up more space than you think on the lower level.



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