Summary: A bible of radical simplicity. A cob cottage is the ultimate expression of ecological design. Made of the oldest, most available materials imaginable, cob houses are not only compatible with their surroundings, the are their surroundings.
Authors: Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, Linda Smiley, published by Chelsea Green. 2002. 8.5x11, 346 pages, 230 figures, 100 photos. ISBN 1-890132-34-9. $35.00
A Cob Cottage might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that the authors refer to it as "an ecstatic house". They build a house the way others create a natural garden, using the oldest, most available materials earth, clay, sand, straw, and water and blending them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders sculpt their structures by hand.
Cob houses (or cottages, since they are usually efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.
The Hand-Sculpted House is theoretical and philosophical but intensely practical as well. You will get all the how-to information to undertake a cob building project. As the modern world rediscovers the importance of living in sustainable harmony with the environment, this book is a bible of radical simplicity.
You won't want to miss The Hand-Sculpted House:
Join the hundreds of people who are already building their own earthen greenhouse, courtyard walls, sauna, oven, cottage or house with cob, the easiest and oldest hand-building system.
EVERY COB BUILDING IS UNIQUE, but most require the same basic steps. The order of some of these steps is critical; others can be rearranged as desired. For a first-time builder, it can be very useful to map out the sequence of all construction tasks. Following is a sample sequence to help you think through your project to completion before you begin. The next ten chapters walk through each of these steps in great detail.
Acknowledgments Introduction by Ianto Evans What This Book Offers You About the Authors QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT COB
Ianto's Story Peasants and Farmers The Importance of Housing Yourself
Learning from Nature The Rise of Architects Natural Laws Learning from Conserver Cultures What Are Natural Materials Unprocessed and Uncombined Primary and Secondary Processing Component Assemblies Why Build With Earth and Other Natural Materials Health Psychological Well-Being Financial Empowerment Comfort Democracy and Empowerment Tradition and Heritage Durability Environmental Impact STEEL ROOFS IN KENYA The Natural Building Resurgence WHERE'S THE DUMPSTER
A Brief History of Cob WON'T BURN DOWN, BUGS CAN'T EAT IT, AND IT'S DIRT CHEAP by Kiko Denzer The Birth of Oregon Cob Cookstoves As Inspiration Our First Cob House Characteristics of Oregon Cob What Cob Does Best MASS COOLER Where Oregon Cob May Be Inappropriate Cob in Hybrid Natural Buildings COB AND STRAW BALE COMPARISON CHART
Building for Yourself THOREAU ON SHELTER Trading Money, Skill, and Time Cheap Housing for Those Who Need It Most Getting Free from the Trap Finding Inexpensive Places to Build EDWARD'S ALMOST FREE HOUSE Borrowing Money Checklist: How to Keep Costs Down Interview: Brigitte and Elyse's House
WATCHING EARTH TURN Some Cosmic Fundamentals A COSMIC QUIZ Let Your Home Reflect Cosmic Awareness
Choosing a Suitable Property Consider the Local Bioregion Spend Time on the Land Selecting the Precise Site Create a Master Plan Minimize Ecological Disruption Consider Soils and Drainage Determine the Microclimate Look for a Far Horizon Look for a Dominant Permanent Feature in the Landscape Build on Slopes If Possible Respect Your Neighbors TAKING TIME Testing Your Choice Dealing with Problem Situations Short of Sun No Trees on Site Noise INVISIBLE ARCHITECTURE Not Enough Privacy NOT A SITE FOR A COB BUILDING Interview: Eric Hoel's House
The Box Police WHEN THE MATERIALS DESIGN THE HOME A Currency of Pennies Cob's Natural Geometries FOR YOUR EDIFICATION Thermal Mass Essentials of Passive Solar Design Heating and Cooling Your Building Be Stingy with Glass, Unless Your Climate Is Mild Natural Lighting CATNAP RESEARCH IN A COB GREENHOUSE The Heart House
Intuitive Design Dispense with Convention Brainstorm a Lot The Site Was There First! Share Your Home with Nature Keep It Small1 Places, Spaces, and Rooms CURVED SPACES FEEL BIGGER: THE CASE FOR ROUND FEET Banish the Old Noun-Rooms Act Out the Dance of Your Daily Life Think Gloves Not Boxes Your Workplace Outdoor Rooms Orient to Earth's Tilt and Spin Make a Model Make an Outline Plan Adjusting the Time-Depth "I DESIGN OLD BUILDINGS"
Michael's Story BUILDING A COB COTTAGE STEP-BY-STEP
Raw Materials and Where to Get Them THE GEOLOGICAL HISTORY OF YOUR SITE Composition of Soils Determining a Soil's Suitability Sand Clay THE ISLAND WITHOUT CLAY Straw How Much Raw Material Will I Need NUMBERS ARE NOT SIZES Finding Other Building Materials Scavenging in the City Scavenging in the Country Tools A Cobber's Tool Kit Hand Tool Reflections by Jan Stürmann
Respect the Deep Ecology of the Site Don't Clear Any Trees Yet Work Slowly, Carefully, by Hand BACKHOE MADNESS IN CALIFORNIA Work Out the Best Routes for Deliveries Protect Sensitive Areas Walk-in Buildings Site Preparation Dig Test Holes Transfer Your Design onto the Ground Build a Full-Scale Mock-up jDrive in Foundation and Datum Stakes Finally, Begin Clearing the Site Erect a Temporary or Permanent Roof Interview: Site as Sanctuary
Site Drainage Rubble Trenches Other Drainage Techniques Digging Trenches THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD DRAINAGE Filling Trenches Foundations Building a Stone Stemwall Experimental Foundations
How Cob Was Mixed Historically Preparing Clay Soils for Mixing Testing Your Mix The Snowball Test The Crunch Test Test Batches and Test Bricks Mixing Cob on Tarps Notes on Tarps The Pit Method Using Machines for Mixing MUD, LABOR, PLEASURE Tips for Speed and Efficiency COB MIX TROUBLE-SHOOTING GUIDE Custom Mixes
Cobs, Gobs, and Blobs Trodden Cob Cob Loaves Gaab-cob Creating a Monolithic Structure Connecting Two Cob Walls THREE CONTAGIOUS CONDITIONS Wall Thickness Drying Settling Getting It Straight Tapering Walls Trimming Off Excess Tools for Trimming Pipes and Wires Incorporating Other Materials Reaching Higher Scaffolding Second Stories and Up How Fast Can I Build
Sculpting a Whole House Remodeling Built-in Furniture Corbelled Shelves, Arches, and Niches Starter Projects: Garden Benches and Walls LEARNING AND GROWING WITH GARDEN WALLS Earth and Fire: Cob Hearths A Heated Cob Bench Rumford Fireplaces jjA Lorena Cooking Stove An Earthen Bread Oven Mass Heating Stove
Keeping the Wall Strong above Openings Connecting Cob to Door and Window Frames Installing Nonopening Windows Replacing Broken Windows Window Placement Windows for Magical Light Windows for View Windows and Solar Gain Windows vs. Ventilators Doors and Doorways Half-Doors
THE PARTS OF A ROOF Roof Design The Shape of a Roof Building a Roof Structure Ceilings Roof Sheathing Living Roofs Thatch Metal Roofing Tiles, Shakes, and Shingles Roof Insulation Wool Straw and Straw-Clay
Mass Floors Preparation for a Mass Floor Poured Adobe Floors Tamped Cob Floors An Adobe Block Floor Oil and Wax Finish Other Materials Hydronics and Hypocausts Suspended Floors
Exterior Stuccos Don't Use Cement Stucco Interior Plaster Materials for Stuccos and Plasters INNER LIGHT Tools for Plastering and Mixing Preparing a Wall for Stucco or Plaster Earth Plasters GENERAL TIPS FOR PLASTERING ONE-COAT KAOLIN PLASTER Litema Clay-Dung Plasters Gypsum Lime-Sand Plasters Washes and Paints Limewash or Whitewash ALIS by Carole Crews Other Natural Paints Water-Resistant Finishes
Linda's Story Sculpting Sacred Spaces for Well-Being Intuitive Design and Magic Spots Intuitive Design Exercise WRITING IN A MAGIC SPOT Make a Model Cob and Health-They Belong Together Mud Dancing Cobbers' Stories about Delight and Quality of Life: Joan, Mike, Elisheva, Tricia Relationships and Cob Love Stories A Match Made in Mud: Misha and Elisheva Rauchwerger EARTH, OVENS, ART by Kiko Denzer A Mud Artist Soulmate
Appendix I: Common Errors in Cob Construction Appendix 2: Codes and Permits Appendix 3: Cob and Water Appendix 4: Cob and Earthquakes Appendix 5: Research Needed Appendix 6: Wildlife in the Home by Ianto Evans Appendix 7: Teaching and Learning
Keywords: Hand-sculpted, cob, cottage, natural building, Ianto Evans, Michael Smith, Linda Smiley, plaster, adobe, earth
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