Culture Artist

Cob Equity

By Chuck Hall

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[January 19, 2008]  As we head into a new year and people begin their annual resolutions, some may be thinking about a new home in the coming year. Many parts of the world are experiencing an economic slump in the housing market. Homeowners are feeling the current mortgage crunch in many ways, and first-time homebuyers may be rethinking traditional financing for a new home, given the current difficulties in obtaining a home loan.

For first-time homeowners who want to go green in a big way, there is an alternative to shackling yourself to a 30-year mortgage. That alternative is to build a home using natural materials. For example, a home made of cob can be built using materials readily available on most building sites. Cob is simply a mixture of clay, sand and straw, similar to adobe, but stacked free-form without shaping it into bricks first. Once the cob walls are built, they are covered with a plaster to make them water-resistant and weatherproof. To learn more about this artful building technique, visit http://www.cultureartist.org/cob.htm.

A family of four can built a small cob home of around 800 to 1,000 square feet in a little over a year, working on the weekends. Cob is a labor-intensive form of building, but the work is a fun activity for a family. There's something about playing in the mud that touches the child in all of us! Granted, taking a year or so to build a home might be a long time for those of us accustomed to seeing a stick-built home go up in two or three months, but the advantage of cob is that since most of the materials can be obtained from the building site itself, a cob home is literally "dirt cheap." In fact, if you own a suitable building site, it is entirely feasible to pay as you go, so that when your home is finished, it is already paid for. Isn't it worth a year or so of your weekends to have a home built by your family and paid for once it's completed? Compare that to slaving away to pay off a mortgage for the next 30 years!

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Another advantage to cob is that since the building materials are about the same consistency as modeling clay, you can incorporate artistic touches yourself, if you have any sculpting talent. Rather than the square, boxlike look common to most stick-built homes, cob allows you to curve the walls and add interesting shapes to the final design. The result is a beautiful structure that must be seen to be fully appreciated. If you'd like to see some artfully designed cob homes, visit http://www.cultureartist.org/

If you lack the skills to build with cob, there are workshops throughout the world that offer classes. A partial directory of cob instructors and workshops is available at http://www.cultureartist.org/CobDirectory.htm. If you don't see a cob workshop near you, a simple Internet search will help you to locate one. Don't be discouraged if you can't find a nearby workshop. Cob builders are gypsies. They love to travel, so it may be possible for a teacher to come to your location for a workshop.

What if you don't want to build it yourself but would still like a cob home? Ask around. Many cob instructors offer workshops at various locations. Some would probably be willing to have a workshop on your building site. They get the fees for any students they bring with them, and in exchange you get a home that's made of natural materials. The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination!

If you would like more information on building a home of cob or other natural materials, e-mail me for more information at info@cultureartist.org.

Good luck and happy cobbing!

[Text from file received from Chuck Hall]

Chuck Hall is a cob builder and author. His latest book, "Green Circles: A Sustainable Journey from the Cradle to the Grave," is now available at www.cultureartist.org. You may contact the author by e-mail at chuck@cultureartist.org.

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