Build Your Own Home from Earth and Straw – Cob Building

cobCob building gets its name from the Old English term for “lump,” which refers to the lumps of clay-rich soil that were mixed with straw and then stomped into place to create monolithic earthen walls. Before coal and oil made transportation cheap, houses were built from whatever materials were close at hand. In places where timber was scarce, the building material most available was often the soil underfoot.

Today, building your own house is the exception to the norm, and it is almost unheard of to build with local materials. Instead, houses are built by specialists using expensive tools and expensive, highly refined materials extracted and transported long distances, often at great ecological cost. Industrial materials have many benefits — performance, predictability, speed and ease of installation — but they have in common that they must create a profit for the companies that manufacture them. The average number of members in U.S. households has dropped by more than half in the past 50 years. Yet, over the same time period, average home sizes have more than doubled. We are more comfortably housed than at any point in history, but practically enslaved by the payments (the word “mortgage” is French for “death contract”). Fortunately, we have other choices.

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