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Cob

QUALITIES: Cob, Cobb or Clom is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, some kind of fibrous or organic material (straw) and earth. Cob is fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive. It can be used to create artistic, sculptural forms and has been revived in recent years by the natural building and sustainability movements. In technical building and engineering documents such as the Uniform Building Code, cob may be referred to as an "unburned clay masonry" when used in a structural context. It might also be referred to as an "aggregate" in non-structural contexts, such as a "clay and sand aggregate" or more simply an "organic aggregate," such as where the cob is an insulating filler between pole and beam construction. The thick walls provided excellent thermal mass which is easy to keep warm in winters and cool in summers. Walls with a high thermal mass value act as a thermal buffer inside the home. The material has a long life span even in rainy climates, provided a tall foundation and large roof overhang are present. Its about 1/3 as strong as a standard concrete block. Its at least 1 Newton per square millimetre. Cost depends on site accessibility and how much adjustment is required to the onsite sub-soil but usually the cost of the cob itself including labour and materials is significantly cheap. Cob is a remarkably durable material provided it is treated correctly. In practice this means keeping it dry. In the matter of applying renders it is strongly recommended that lime render(is the first coat of lime applied to the external surfaces) is used. Portland cement in contrast traps moisture behind the stonework, which does result in the erosion of the masonry. In extreme cases it can eventually lead to total failure of the cob i.e. collapse. The answer is to stick to either no render at all or a lime putty based render which have been used literally for thousands of years. The same applies internally, either lime or even better earth plasters work best.

PROCESS: Cob was made by mixing the clay-based subsoil with sand, straw and water using oxen to trample it. Recommended Innovations: tractor to mix the cob itself, and adding sand or shillet (a gravel of crushed shale) to reduce the shrinkage. The earthen mixture is then ladled onto a stone foundation in courses and trodden onto the wall by workers in a process known as cobbing. Recommended Innovations: Use ramming machines to tamp down earth.(1) Using a very small amount of water a stiff lump of mud is shaped into an enlarged egg approximately 12-18 inches long and 6 inches wide. These cobs are laid side by side, pressed together, and then another layer on top of them. After 3 or 4 courses the sides are smoothed over and the process is repeated until the desired height is achieved. Construction is to be done during the summers NOT during the rains; or winter months unless site is covered. Warm sunny weather required. The construction would progress according to the time required for the prior course to dry. After drying, the walls would be trimmed and the next course built, The walls of a cob house were generally about 2-3 feet thick, and windows were correspondingly deep-set, The straw is used to hold the mix together in its early wet and very plastic state, In this way after a short drying period in can be pared down to the required shape and form. This is done either with a sharp spade or mattock then the surface is dressed up with a heavy mallet and can even be finished with the bare hand.

DISADVANTAGES: You need a relatively big site because if you try to use the material off the site, which you always can to a

(1) 300 pounds per square inch (PSI); this is the standard in earthen material building codes. About 4 inches to 6 inches (10 cm to 15 cm) of soil is shovelled into the form at a time. Ramming can either be done by hand or by machine. A hand rammer should be about 15 pounds (6.8 kg), and it's usually a piece of steel attached to a pole. Professional rammed earth builders use machines that are hooked up to air compressors. The air pressure does the work of tamping down the earth. When you first start ramming dirt, it makes a dull sound, but when it's adequately tamped, it will change to a ringing sound. Once the earth is ringing, then you can add the next 4 to 6 inches of soil. It is possible to ram too much, which will cause stress on the wooden form.

greater or lesser extent, that still means digging a hole somewhere to mix the cob in. To do it efficiently you need to get machinery around the building, as you do with any building I guess. The volume of material. Thickness of walls. Another challenge to scaling up cob is the skills gap. That it is mixed wet means in a thick wall it will take some months (depending on site conditions usually 6-9 months) after building, for the walls to finish shrinking. Most of the shrinkage will occur in the height of the wall, this means in practice waiting around a week of good weather between each lift (a lift being two feet or so in height) before it is sufficiently dry and strong to take the next lift. Therefore three months is ample time, to build a two-story building. Although the roof structure can go on a week after the wall plate height is reached its best to wait about six months before fitting windows and door frames, otherwise here is a danger of the reveals either side of the opening shrinking and then the lintel crushing the window frame. This means it is usually fifteen months from start to finishing a cob house.

ADVANTAGE: Yes, there is a skills gap, but I think that could soon get filled. It actually isnt that difficult to learn. Its also very strong compressively The humidity store of earth walls, they can easily absorb moisture from the atmosphere and release it again when the air dries out thus resulting in overall higher background humidity than a typical new building. This is much more comfortable and healthier to live with not drying out airways resulting in less susceptibility to throat infections such as colds. Aesthetic of form, colour and texture and an automatic blending with the local environment (as long as your subsoil is locally sourced) Typically a cob house will use approximately 20% less energy to heat compared with a typical modern house

meeting the same building regulation insulation requirements. The actual cob work with the aid of modern machinery, for example: a JCB3CX (tractor) is surprisingly cheap. Cob is a remarkably durable material provided it is treated correctly.

Links: http://www.buildsomethingbeautiful.co.uk/page/materials/ http://www.channel4.com/programmes/granddesigns/articles/all/east-devon-suppliers https://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/201401/can-earth-building-scale-mainstream-2-kevin-mccabescob-citadel http://www.davidsheen.com/firstearth/interviews/mccabe.ht m http://www.ebuk.uk.com/grand-designs-cob-house/