Cob (19)

Cob House Wrapped in a Geodesic Dome in the Arctic Circle

Life inside the Arctic Circle is by no means easy, unless you’re a Hjertefølger. We first heard about Benjamin and Ingrid Hjertefølger four years ago when they began building Nature House, a three-story cob house wrapped in a solar geodesic dome. Located on the island of Sandhornøyna in northern Norway, the ultra-green home was designed to enable the family of six to eek out a sustainable existence despite challenging climatic conditions — they even grow most of their own food. Inhabitat recently caught up with the Hjertefølgers, who have now lived in their home for three years, to learn about their challenges and victories.

The Hjertefølgers, which translates to Heartfollowers, live in Nature House with their four children — they’ve added one to their number since Inhabitat last wrote about them. After constructing their cob home topped with one of Solardome’s single-glazed geodesic domes with the help of friends and neighbors, the family moved in on December 8, 2013.

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Natural Building Colloquium – High Desert, Southern California, Oct. 17–22, 2016

5438538_orig-2Focusing on the West Coast and Southwest, Quail Springs is an educational and land stewardship nonprofit organization dedicated to demonstrating and teaching holistic ways of designing human environments, restoring and revitalizing the land and community, and facilitating deeper understandings of ourselves and one another through immersive experiences in nature. The 2016 Colloquium organizing team consists of the whole Quail Springs team, Sasha Rabin*, Tammy Van, and Rebekah Hacker.

The gathering will give focus and priority to the building and builders of the west coast and southwest, U.S. We ask that all people attending the colloquium have some experience with natural building. This is not the event for the novice builder. That being said, we value the fresh eyes and perspectives, and enthusiasm that comes with a newness to the field. We will strive for a balance of experienced attendees, while also encouraging the next generation of builders…

*Sasha’s beautiful cob house will be in Small Homes.

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Cob House in Northern Spain

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Dear Lloyd & Co,

I’ve been an admirer of your work since I came across the first Shelter book years and years ago. I wanted to send you a link to a self-published book that we’ve just brought out about our natural building & ecological learning project here in Northern Spain.

Our cob cabin was already featured on Lloyd’s Blog

The book’s available here: www.abrazohouse.org/… It’s in English and Spanish, free to view online or download. If you like it, share it or give it a mention on the blog!
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English Farmer Builds Hobbit House for £150

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At a time when housing rates are hitting the roof, an English farmer has gone and built a house for almost nothing. 59-year-old Michael Buck spent a measly £150 ($250) to construct a small, yet cozy house in the garden of his Oxfordshire home.

The former art teacher drew plans for the house on the back of an envelope. He didn’t need any special planning permissions since it was classified as a summer home. Buck spent two years gathering natural and reclaimed materials for construction. It took him an additional eight months to construct it with his bare hands; he didn’t use any power tools at all.

To make the base, he learned the ancient technique of cob from a book. The technique comes from prehistoric times and involves a mixture of sand, clay, water and earth. Clay-based subsoil is mixed with sand, straw and water and then ladled onto a stone foundation. Workers and oxen then trample upon the mixture — a process known as cobbing. The layers of cob gradually build up and harden over time.

For the 300 sq. ft. floor space, Buck rescued the floorboards from a neighbor’s unused skip. He retrieved the windscreen of an old lorry and converted the glass into windows. The walls are painted with a mixture of chalk and plant resin. The roof is a simple wooden frame thatched with straw from nearby fields.


Text by Sumitra
Photos by Michael Buck

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Natural Buildings: Photographs by Catherine Wanek

A natural building

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Since discovering straw bale construction in 1992, Catherine Wanek has traveled widely to spread the straw bale gospel, and documenting traditional and modern examples of natural building. She co-edited The Art of Natural Building in 2002, wrote and photographed The New Strawbale Home in 2003, and wrote The Hybrid House in 2010. Her photos are featured in Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter.

Shown above, Thierry Dronet built this fairy-tale hybrid of straw bales and cordwood masonry, topped with a “living roof,” as his workshop and stable for two horses in eastern France. Bale walls act to retain the hillside, with a plastic sheet barrier and a “French drain” to wick away moisture. Time will tell whether this practice is advised.
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A Living Living Room – The Farmhouse at Hickory Highlands

the living living room

My wood-artist friend Duncan, tells of the temple builders in Japan. They go to the forest to find the temple. When found, ceremonies are performed amidst the trees. Then the builders relocate the temple from the forest to the population center. I consider myself (and likely delude myself) creating on that level — finding the house in the forest, asking permission, seeking willingness, then moving the house from the forest to the brow of the hill.

30 years ago, I was gifted a scroll from Japan by a friend who studied there. It depicted dozens of people moving a huge log with rollers, ropes and oxen. In turn, because of his interest in Japanese woodworking, tools and culture, I gave the scroll to Duncan who kept in on a low table in his temple office with other treasures of wood and art and spirit.

A room with a wooden ceiling, curved in a soft barrel vault, emerged from a deep place in my heart. With this internal picture, I went for a walk in the snowy, hickory woods, searching for this room. Because hickory trees grow straight and tall, the likelihood of finding a curved one for the ceiling was slim, and two beams with the same curve pushed the dream into the realm of unrealistic. But dreams are to pursue, explore, manifest.

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Solar Tiny Container House Built with Cob

Living in a tiny container house may not be for everyone. In a country where the average house size is 2400 square feet, most people could not imagine being in 160 sq. ft. or less. But creating a comfy, functional container home became an obsession for one person. Christoph Kesting, creator of The Container House in Guelph, Ontario, sold his own home to finance the 18-month project.

It comes down to the basics. Everyone needs shelter, food and water. In the modern world that translates to four walls and a roof, somewhere to sleep, a way to cook your meals, clean running water, a place to wash yourself, and a method of disposing your waste. Everything else is a luxury. Kesting and a group of volunteers worked together to transform the former shipping container into an environmentally friendly tiny home.

The Container Home is structured with mostly recycled or repurposed materials and gets its power from a large solar panel on the exterior of the box. Its structural design maximizes sun exposure with two large French doors. The home is also designed to be partially buried into the side of a hill to help with temperature control.

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Welsh "Hobbit House" Faces Demolition

Welsh Hobbit House

Sent to us by Conor McBrierty :

A young family is making a last-ditch effort to save its cherished “hobbit house” from the bulldozers after planners deemed it had to be razed.

Charlie Hague and Megan Williams used natural materials to lovingly build their roundhouse tucked away in southwest Wales. But the pair, both 27, applied for planning permission only after moving in with their newborn son, Eli, in 2012.

Though many local people did not even know the small building was there, planners ruled the house did not fit in with the surrounding Pembrokeshire countryside and decided it had to go.

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Cob Home with a Reciprocal Roof

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Les Tit’B Libres is a group of young French artists living communally in handmade structures, such as this cob home with a reciprocal roof.

See more of their free lifestyle at titblibre.garagepunks.com.

To build a reciprocal roof, we first install a temporary central pillar on which the first chevron is placed. The height of this pillar depends on the roof pitch.The following rafters are then placed to support the one on the other. The last chevron place above the penultimate and below the first one. They are then attached to each other and the central pillar is removed. If only one of the rafters breaks, the whole structure collapses. Read More …

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Willow's Wagon

Willow's wagon

Craftsperson Willow De La Roche was featured in Tiny Homes on the Move. She built Willow’s Wagon in 2011, and has a new company Artisan Homes UK that builds alternative small living spaces, such as gypsy caravans, shepherds wagons, tree houses, boat conversions, as well as earth-bag and cob houses. Read More …

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The Laughing House

Laughing House

Tiny Homes: Laughing House

From Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter

Lloyd Kahn’s book, Tiny Homes, featured Linda Smiley’s Laughing House, located in Oregon at the Cob Cottage Company. Linda is a director of Cob Cottage Company as well as a master cobber and therapist. She teaches Sculpting Sacred Spaces, Interior Design, and Natural Plasters and Finishes.
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Uncle Mud's Tiny Cob House

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I built a cottage for the local suburban farm outside Cleveland, Ohio. It took 2.5 of us and some weekend volunteers about three months to build. It is 200 square feet plus a bump-out window-bed and a 100-square-foot loft. The round poles and lumber came from the firewood pile on the property. We had an Amish miller come out with his trailer band-saw and slice up the bigger logs into live-edge boards for the ceiling and window bucks.

The walls are insulating clay-straw. The windows came from the local Habitat Restore. The interior is plastered with tinted drywall compound. The floor is local clay and stones sealed with hemp oil. The heat source is a small rocket mass heater. The chimney goes back and forth through the clay floor to heat it and keeps the building warm long after the fire is out.

…We used the clay — excavating to dig a swimming pond just behind the cottage. This summer we will do a two-week cottage building workshop at the same site for anyone who wants to learn how to build their own. Email Info@unclemud.com for more information.

–Chris McClellan
aka Uncle Mud

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Uncle Mud's Rocket Stoves

Hey Folks,

rocket stove bench

We have been working on some fun Rocket Heater projects. You might have seen the 8″ with a big cob bench that heats our 1600 sq. ft. uninsulated barn apartment even though our renter managed to blow the cleanout caps and crack the barrel seal by trying to start it with gasoline — I think it would have killed him if it had been a regular woodstove. I had been told that an autoclaved concrete core would disintegrate but its holding up pretty well in year two. Read More …

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