If you’d like to play with your own floor plan layout ideas give my free Print & Cut Worksheet a try. You just print it out with your own printer or have it printed at Kinkos on cardstock like I did. Then cut out the shapes and play with floor plan ideas.
Ziggy began construction in April of 2008 and moved in on July 11, 2009, but the story didn’t end there. He quickly learned what worked and didn’t work with his original design and made changes to make the home more comfortable. For example a novel bed design heated by a rocket stove didn’t work out as expected – so Ziggy got out his pickaxe and shovel and replaced it with a tiny wood stove before the winter snows came.
The lessons folks like this learn through their explorations can help us all make better choices for ourselves. I’m really greatful to those that share their experiences through blogging and who take the time to put it in print.
You can buy this cob building book online at Blurb.com. Be sure to use promo code “NEWBLURB” to receive a 20% discount.
Ziggy (Brian Liloia) let me know about an upcoming work exchange opportunity coming this summer at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Ziggy and a few others are building a 350 square foot cooperative kitchen.
It will be built with a roundwood timber frame structure and straw bale and cob walls. Those who partake in this project should get some good first hand experience with several truly sustainable building techniques while being fully immersed in life at Dancing Rabbit. Thanks again for the tip Ziggy!
David Reed will be hosting an intensive 10-day cob/earthship workshop in Hempstead, Texas starting October 1, 2010. The workshop will show you everything you need to know about building your own cob home. Participants should plan on bringing their own accommodations (tents, RVs, trailer, tiny houses) for camping-out at this off the-grid community. On the 6th of October the participants will take a break and visit The Blackwood Educational Land Institute, an ecosystem and living classroom for sustainable living.
This post was sparked by a comment from Steve, one of my long-time readers. In a nutshell, he suggested that people would be much better off living in handmade homes than living in machine-made prefabs.
Like most people, modern prefab designs grab my attention. I suspect that it’s their product-like polish and our learned weakness for nifty consumer gadgets that incites us to be drawn to shiny prefab designs. So naturally when I see a shiny design concept that looks like it has potential my initial reaction is to share with my readers.
But I must completely agree with Steve on the issue of metal boxes, we deserve better. Prefab homes aren’t really all that sustainable considering that they are made from a bunch of factory-made components. I actually chortle to myself every time I run across a luxurious modern LEED-certified home on display over at Dwell and Inhabitat. I just can’t see how tons of glass, steel, and engineered lumber could possibly add up to an environmentally friendly housing solution.
To be quite honest, I think the whole LEED-certification thing is a joke. I just don’t see how these hermitically sealed high-tech boxes can be considered sustainable architecture after adding-up the impacts created by all the factories and mining operations necessary for producing the prefab parts.
Which leads me to a construction method that, in my humble opinion, blows away any new-fangled LEED-certified concoction… earthen homes.
The folks at fair companies have been making a lot of great videos that focus on sustainability and simple living. This video was filmed in North Carolina at the Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, which is dedicated to exploring ways modern humans can learn to coexist with our natural habitat. In other words, find a way to live sustainably while taking into account the potential impacts of climate change and rising energy costs.
On this 350-acre farm is a small village with three canvas Yomes that encircle a shared outdoor kitchen. They are also building a small cob house which you’ll see in the video below.
When I first read about Ryo Chijiiwa’s tiny cabin on Tiny House Blog I was fascinated by the adventure this fellow was on. He quit his job at Google, traveled America, and is now working to setup a more comfortable place to live on the remote property that he recently purchased in northern California. You can read about it on his blog, Laptop and a Rifle.
But what I’ve been obsessing over for days is a simple solution that someone like Ryo could theoretically implement for a little money and a lot of sweat equity, an earthbag tiny house. Below is my earthbag daydream for simple sustainable living. The main room of the house is 12′ by 16′ and the bathroom is just 6′ by 6′.
While the World Hands Project is currently going through internal re-organization I was happy to find that during past workshops they’ve helped people down in Mexico build some simple homes from shipping pallets.
Instead of using some kind of manufactured insulation they’ve actually been packing the pallet cavities with a cob like mixture. I imagine that this doesn’t add much structural strength but it would add some thermal mass and insulation qualities to the walls.
I’m not sure I would recommend this approach (mixing structural wood and dirt) since it might invite termites or rot over time but it does seem like a novel way to approach pallet house construction. I’m curious to know how these homes hold up over time. (Update: See the comments for more info on using pallets and cob and wood together)
To learn more about the World Hands Project and potential future workshops visit their website. World Hands Project
Ziggy’s cob house at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is complete. He’s also posted a lot of detailed information about the construction process, cost, and sweat-equity required to build such a house on his Building a cob house blog. The house is about 200 square feet and includes a reciprocal roof and rocket stove. Ziggy estimates that it took about nine months of full-time work to build the house. His total cost was about $4000 but $1000 of that was labor so you could actually build this house for $3000 if you did all the work yourself. Take a look at Ziggy’s cob house, aka GOBCOBATRON.
I was contacted recently by Michael Thompson a fellow I follow on Twitter, and a self-taught rammed earth expert. He and I share a passion for low-cost building techniques. He asked me to do him a favor and whip up a 3D drawing of his rammed earth wall former hat will serve as course material for his rammed earth workshops. It only took about an hour to draw it up. It’s amazing how simple the former is and how with some sweat equity dirt from a building site can be transformed into walls.
For £99 you can attend one of his 2-day rammed earth building workshops in Norfolk. You’ll learn about soil suitability, footings, design, ramming techniques, bond beams, window openings, and more. By the end of the class you’ll know what you need to get started on your own rammed earth shed or tiny house. Continue reading to see more views of my drawing, the SketchUp file itself, and a video that shows how it’s used.
I was recently contacted by Ray Cirino who is the creator of these clever little eco-pods. There are actually three styles but this little one is my favorite. He builds them from mostly recycled and reclaimed building materials including old salvaged billboards. Ray plans on bringing one or two pods to the Water Woman Festival (October 1-4, 2009). I would also not be surprised to see these available for sale within the next year.
I really like the ingenuity of the fellow behind the website naturalhomes.org. This is the website dedicated to houses built from natural materials like cob, adobe, straw bale, stone, dirt, and so on. You’ll find examples of natural homes from all over the world. Some are big but many are tiny houses. Oliver Swann, the fellow behind the website, has been busy putting together all sorts of cool ways of exploring the world of natural and tiny homes. Here are a couple of good examples of what I mean.