-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Cob-building thoughts

Both Dave and I have read through (or at least flicked through) the book all about cob-building called "The Hand-sculpted House". There are some interesting ideas in it provided you can get past all the hard-core hippy moralising. For instance, there are several pages explaining why you should never trust government or banks, and instead should touch up your friends/family for loans since "they won't mind if you are late making payments". It even says you should ask first for 5 year loans with no interest! Yes, and I'd like a new car too.

Anyway, once you get past all that, there are some inspiring ideas in the book. Here are the key things we took away from reading it:

* Cob is fireproof, so provided you also have a fireproof roof, then it is very good at withstanding bushfires.

* Cob lets you embed glass shards straight into the wall so you can not only use up broken glass pieces, but you can have really creatively shaped windows. This would be a way to get the gaudi-esque natural feel; perhaps it would be good for the garden room?

* With cob you can easily have tapered walls, thinner at the top, so it gives you a psychological feeling of more space

* Idea of building a thermal mass cooler into the wall (this is from p34): "Our house has no electric refrigerator. In our Oregon rainforest climate, in-the-wall refrigeration works well. A 3-shelf closet cut right through the north wall at eye level keeps perishable foods in good condition. It opens by a small wooden door about the kitchen counter and the outdoor face is fly-screened. It's interior is gypsum plastered directly onto the cob, and it has a ceramic tile floor. Even in summer, with temperatures in the 90's, milk covered with a wet cloth will keep fresh for 3 days. Fungus and bacteria are inhibited by dry air and drafts so fruit and vegetables stay fresh, as higher summer temperatures are counterbalanced by much better airflow than in sealed electric refridgerators"

Some of the ideas aren't specific to cob:

* Idea of using mirror backed glass anywhere you want a view but still want privacy. Perhaps this could be good for the secret garden if the bathroom were to look onto it?

* Idea of designing a house around activities rather than rooms. I think this is partly what we're doing anyway but hadn't thought of it in such black and white terms before. Then, once you've worked out what activities there are for which you need space, you can see what needs to be near to others (and I guess too what might be able to be shared). And that kind of "bubble diagram" gets you partway towards a floorplan

* Idea of building a house at different levels, taking advantage of the slope, with steps from one room to the next

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