Building with Clay: In Consideration of Tiny Cob Homes

It amazes me that cob homes fare as well as they do in coastal climes but they do and have done for centuries in the British Isles. Made of clay and other natural materials, they are unique in that almost any shape can be made, given a sound design and well-structured supports. I began thinking of cob homes while driving through Coquitlam the other day. You see, I was astounded to see so many monster homes still being built. Face it, no matter how green your materials are, all positives are outweighed by mass and amount of energy needed to heat them.

I prefer small. Consider the homes of our ancestors; they did just fine and, what’s more, their homes had charm.  Today, while reading Rural Delivery, a no-nonsense farming  periodical from Nova Scotia, I came across a sidebar that interested me. The magazine defines permaculture ethics as “care for the earth, care for people, share the surplus, limit population, and reduce consumption.” Today’s blog isn’t an harangue against the evils of conspicuous consumption, though. Today’s post is a song…an enticing melody sung in honor of the tiny home. I live in a tiny home, all 670 sq. ft. of it, and I’m here to tell you that it can be done! Our home is a tiny jewel, graced with glowing maple floors, leaded glass, portholes, skylights and a gas fireplace. As E. F. Schumacher said, “Small is beautiful.” Here is a cob home that has postage stamp size footprint:

And a Slide show of it being built in Banat, Romania, plus nine more like it: ‘Natural’ Tiny House Top 10. In addition, here is a recipe for the slurry needed to build such a home. “Finishing the exterior with a more waterproof material improves the longevity of the cob house,” states Keith Allen in his article for eHow. He also cites The History of Cob, by Michael Smith. Lest we think it can’t be done ‘here,’ take a look at this sweetheart in Stanley Park in Vancouver. Smack dab in the middle of a temperate rain forest…

The following video shows footage of interns working on a cob home in North Carolina. The spokeswoman states that the clay used to build it was found within 50′ of the home. Of its natural ‘air conditioning’: 10 degrees cooler inside. If you don’t want to build your own, these people will do it for you; however, you can do-it-yourself for about $3,000 (2009, US dollars), as this young man did in Missouri. Chicken feed. But what would you  do with the 30 coats you currently have in your closet, you ask? Simple. You wouldn’t have that many! Eat your heart out, Antoni Gaudi!


About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
This entry was posted in Articles and Interviews, How-to-do-it, Video/Photos/Slide Show and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Building with Clay: In Consideration of Tiny Cob Homes

  1. Pauline says:

    Hi Jan,
    I’ve always been interested in building a really small house on a property somewhere away from the city. I would probably use wood though instead of clay. I would like to somehow connect it a tree. Would be so much fun to create I think. Small is Beautiful!

  2. Jan says:

    Hi, Pauline – – connected to a tree…I like that idea! I agree; it would be so nice to do something like this on a little patch of land. One reason I did this blog was to help with thinking outside the box. We’re used to thinking: buy land, dig well, lay drainage pipes and put in septic tank, etc., etc. It’s easy to forget that there are *many other ways of being* and they’ve been used for centuries. Yes, a little patch of dirt, far from the madding crowd… Jan xo

  3. Pingback: Earth plaster & clay slip for straw bale homes | JANE STREET CLAYWORKS

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