Cob Building - Go Ahead, Call It a Comeback

For hundreds of years, those living in Ireland, England, and Wales mixed dirt, straw, sand and water to make mud walls, which when compacted and placed on a foundation formed a type of dwelling called cob buildings. Industrialization brought the widespread use of stone, wood, brick and steel in many buildings in these areas, and the traditional techniques of cob building for some time fell by the wayside. However, during the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence in interest for cob building techniques - much of this interest stemming from the building style's claim as one of the most affordable eco-friendly building methods around (cheap as dirt one might even say). So, why hasn't cob building been plastered all over the TreeHugger pages or the U.S. Green Building Council's site? Well, frankly, most of the building in the cob revival have been downright ugly, compared most often to Hobbit homes or mushroom palaces. Cob building's mainstream comeback might be in the works, though. Cob building methods are starting to be used in buildings that (gasp!) even look cool. First it was buildings such as the incorporation of cob into houses such as the Cobtun House, which was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architect's sustainability award a couple years ago. Now, plans are in the works for a contemporary green home in Victoria, British Columbia, that will be "the first code-approved, load-bearing, high-occupancy two-storey cob house in North America." But, just because the 2,150 square foot house uses building methods borrowed from a few centuries ago doesn't mean the rest of the house will be stuck in the past. Plans call for solar and wind power, a wall of south-facing windows, and even a dedicated plug for an electric car. All of these amenities, in addition to materials, engineer's drawings and labor (their own estimated at $20/hour) cost a very reasonable $97 a square foot. Green buildings on the cheap, who would have thunk? ::Via Globe and Mail