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1297 Sq Ft cob home - too big?  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Laurin
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I'm new here, and after much reading I think I'm going to be building a cob home. This is the one my wife and I picked out. http://www.dreamgreenhomes.com/plans/simplygreen.htm
Which was designed to be used with cordwood. Our property doesn't have woodlands on it, so we don't have access to much timber to be used in building a cordwood home. Thus, we are seeking to build out of cob. My question is this, given the nature of cob, and it's love of curvelinear structures - is the design we've chosen too ambitious? Please note that the current plan is to research through winter, gather materials, and build a small shed/outbuilding in the spring then start building the actual home the following spring. I'm doing it this way so I can learn without ruining my future home. How long do you think it will take to do a home like the one I've posted here? If this home is too big to be built with cob, what would you suggest? I don't have much choice in size, as I have three kids currently. Thanks in advance,

Happy building,
Jeremy
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I have friends that built a bigger one (at the time it was the largest hand-laid cob house in the US). They said the key was a commercial mixer, there was no way they could have stomped that much cob. They had an old (like WPA machine from the depression) batch concrete mixer that would mix the cob and drop it in wheelbarrows. This time they built their house of straw bales, and said they would never build a cob house again.

Other building options: Earthbag, straw bale, rammed earth. It really depends on the material available onsite and/or cheaply available and your climate.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Good Day Jeremy,

First let me commend you on the wisdom of taking your time and doing a smaller structure first. I specialize in vernacular timber, stone and earth folk architecture of the Americas, Middle East and Asia, particularly timber frames. Cob, and it's many types, is the oldest "infill method" and/or building material, other than plant plaiting or animal skins, in the world. My feedback on size, it all depends on you stamina, (heed R. Scott's advice,) this is very hard work. As a designer, when ever I see a "cookie cutter" building plan being sold I become uncomfortable. A building site needs to be considered thoroughly before planting a piece of architecture on it, especially one that is to work in concert with the surrounding biome; seldom is homeostasis reached with a "cookie cutter." You would be better off reading, learning, waiting, and designing your own home, than trying to make a "cookie" fit your needs. I will also admit, the building you shared does not hold to any of the "golden mean" of architecture, roof lines are out of balance, too low to the ground, etc., but that is my own bias, in as such, I like traditional architecture and have not seen too much of the modern stuff that surpasses what our elders did before us. Modern man spends way too much time "reinventing the wheel." Good luck and keep learning.

Regards,

Jay
 
Jeremy Laurin
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Good Day Jeremy,

First let me commend you on the wisdom of taking your time and doing a smaller structure first. I specialize in vernacular timber, stone and earth folk architecture of the Americas, Middle East and Asia, particularly timber frames. Cob, and it's many types, is the oldest "infill method" and/or building material, other than plant plaiting or animal skins, in the world. My feedback on size, it all depends on you stamina, (heed R. Scott's advice,) this is very hard work. As a designer, when ever I see a "cookie cutter" building plan being sold I become uncomfortable. A building sit needs to be considered thoroughly before planting a piece of architecture on it, especially one that is to work in concert with the surrounding biome; seldom is homeostasis reached with a "cookie cutter." You would be better off reading, learning, waiting, and designing your own home, than trying to make a "cookie" fit your needs. I will also admit, the building you shared does not hold to any of the "golden mean" of architecture, roof lines are out of balance, too low to the ground, etc., but that is my own bias, in as such, I like traditional architecture and have not seen too much of the modern stuff that surpasses what our elders did before us. Modern man spends way too much time "reinventing the wheel." Good luck and keep learning.

Regards,

Jay


Jay, I appreciate the response. I don't want to go with cookie cutter, but I don't see what option there is. We are in a permit/code heavy area and they require us to submit plans for approval. What would it cost to have someone like you come and design something that makes sense for the "biome" and keeps within the golden means of architecture. Traditional or not I don't care, as long as it fits our needs, but it has to be one story (wife thinks stairs make the house disconnected). Can you give me some pragmatic advice vs. "reading, learning, waiting and designing my own home" what exactly does that mean?

No disrespect intended but like I said we are somewhat constrained here due to the codes in our area and relocating is not an option we want to consider. Thanks for any response.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Jeremy,

I'm relatively new to this forum, and using my time here to help where I can and gather information for a manuscript on traditional timber framing methods. In as such I would love to be at your service where ever you find my skills aid you. I will take your last post and try to address each of your questions and thoughts. As we discuss your building plans, hopefully you will find the discourse facilitating your concepts for a well thought out home.

"I don't want to go with cookie cutter, but I don't see what option there is. We are in a permit/code heavy area and they require us to submit plans for approval. "

You are most correct that some areas are much easier than others when it comes facilitating a piece of architecture. With that said, it would be helpful to know where you are located so I can address any possible challenges that I may know of for your area. Then I can go further into details, if I am able. Even in some of the most burdensome areas you can still have owner/builder drawn blueprints and/or G.C. projects.

"What would it cost to have someone like you come and design something that makes sense for the "biome" and keeps within the golden means of architecture."

It all depends on your needs, location, and local demands, (environmentally and political-i.e. zoning.) Most architects charge a minimum of $15 to $25 dollars per sq foot for developed plans and the cost goes up from there to as high as $100. (I work in metric so I'm converting from sq meter concepts, numbers are approximations.) You may be able to find a locale design/build firm that will give you a package price, or you can develop the plans yourself and save considerably. It all depends on the level of involvement you would like to have or feel comfortable with. I work out of Vermont facilitating frames but I'm also brokered in other regions and have contacts across North America and outside the country.

"Traditional or not I don't care, as long as it fits our needs, but it has to be one story (wife thinks stairs make the house disconnected). "

There is much to be said for single story living, with that I agree. However, if you think there is a potential for resale at a later date, the site you have chosen may be better suited for multiple levels. More than half of all domestic architecture, now and through history, has had several floors. This grew out of the economy of heat, and roof space over living space. We can delve into that further if you wish, but for now I will assume you only want to consider a single floor living arrangement.

"Can you give me some pragmatic advice vs. "reading, learning, waiting and designing my own home" what exactly does that mean? "

Since I am not familiar with your level of understanding about domestic architecture I only meant that more you learned and the longer you could take developing you plan for a home, that happier you would be in the end. As I learn more about your needs the more I could possibly be of assistance.

Regards,

jay
 
Jeremy Laurin
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Jeremy,

I'm relatively new to this forum, and using my time here to help where I can and gather information for a manuscript on traditional timber framing methods. In as such I would love to be at your service where ever you find my skills aid you. I will take your last post and try to address each of your questions and thoughts. As we discuss your building plans, hopefully you will find the discourse facilitating your concepts for a well thought out home.

"I don't want to go with cookie cutter, but I don't see what option there is. We are in a permit/code heavy area and they require us to submit plans for approval. "

You are most correct that some areas are much easier than others when it comes facilitating a piece of architecture. With that said, it would be helpful to know where you are located so I can address any possible challenges that I may know of for your area. Then I can go further into details, if I am able. Even in some of the most burdensome areas you can still have owner/builder drawn blueprints and/or G.C. projects.

"What would it cost to have someone like you come and design something that makes sense for the "biome" and keeps within the golden means of architecture."

It all depends on your needs, location, and local demands, (environmentally and political-i.e. zoning.) Most architects charge a minimum of $15 to $25 dollars per sq foot for developed plans and the cost goes up from there to as high as $100. (I work in metric so I'm converting from sq meter concepts, numbers are approximations.) You may be able to find a locale design/build firm that will give you a package price, or you can develop the plans yourself and save considerably. It all depends on the level of involvement you would like to have or feel comfortable with. I work out of Vermont facilitating frames but I'm also brokered in other regions and have contacts across North America and outside the country.

"Traditional or not I don't care, as long as it fits our needs, but it has to be one story (wife thinks stairs make the house disconnected). "

There is much to be said for single story living, with that I agree. However, if you think there is a potential for resale at a later date, the site you have chosen may be better suited for multiple levels. More than half of all domestic architecture, now and through history, has had several floors. This grew out of the economy of heat, and roof space over living space. We can delve into that further if you wish, but for now I will assume you only want to consider a single floor living arrangement.

"Can you give me some pragmatic advice vs. "reading, learning, waiting and designing my own home" what exactly does that mean? "

Since I am not familiar with your level of understanding about domestic architecture I only meant that more you learned and the longer you could take developing you plan for a home, that happier you would be in the end. As I learn more about your needs the more I could possibly be of assistance.

Regards,

jay


Jay,

Once again, I greatly appreciate any and all help/advice.

Location: Erie County Pennsylvania (NW PA)
Land site: flat to rolling land, bordered by a small woodland (we don't own that)
Developing plans: Paying an architect $19000 ($15/sq. ft.) to develop plans is completely out of the question. Not to be rude, but that is more than I plan on spending overall, so to spend that on the plans alone is staggering. Having said that, what level of plans do I need to secure the proper permits? My building inspector has been open, thus far but has yet to see our plans, he just knows I want to build with an alternative material like cob. If the plans don't need to be "perfect" then I could probably work it out myself.
Single floor: While I understand that it adds to resale value (not a concern imo), and it has other benefits such as less roof to build (less cost); my wife is pretty firm on this point, she really doesn't like homes with stairs.
Building understanding: Ummm I guess I would say I am an amateur as I've never worked in construction, though I do have the assistance of my brother who is a plumber by trade and has worked with electric, carpentry and other aspects of building/repair. I've worked on my share of traditional construction (roofing, a bit of timber framing) under his guidance.

Thanks,

Jeremy
 
Jeremy Laurin
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Jay,

I also want to mention that I plan to build with the same philosophy of an Earthship (PV panels, gray water system, growing food, harvest water from roof).
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Jeremy,

I wanted you to have this before I retired for the evening: http://www.njefferson.com/ This is a very good friend of mine, (one I owe much to and a hello, for it has been too long.) Let him know I referred you to him. He may be able to help you directly or knows someone in your area that can further assist you.

Your location will allow, (the last time I consulted on something there) an owner builder drawn design. If it came to pass that you did want a timber frame for the support structure, we would develop plans for you as part of the package. Many architects and design build groups I work with don't care for the fact that we do this free of charge or at least at rate that is well below the industry standard but that just happens to be the nature of this wonderful ancient craft. As a timber wright, I have to make drawings any way from the concepts my clients share with me. With out those simple plans, I can not develop a frame or the story poles/beam maps to cut the timbers. If I have already drawn basic plans for the frame, why wouldn't I allow my client to benefit from those planes existence, it only makes sense. Often these basic plans, (we now use computers, as well as, our hand drawn concepts,) are more than enough to appease building/zoning departments.

Now one concern I have, and it is probably out of my own ignorance to your overall plan, your budget as I understand it is not to spend more than $19000 dollars for the entire project? That would be a turn key project for about $15.00/sq foot. That is so far out side of any possible design that I must be missing something. Fenestration and a single decent PV system would eat that much budget up. What did I miss?

I work in many different Asian design matrices, that I would love to facilitate your wife's concepts of single floor living. Many of the Japanese, Korean and Chinese domestic architecture is "single floor," in concept, and you seem to have more than enough basic skills to facilitate this project as long as you take your time doing so. Your brother will become a great asset to you as this unfolds.

Till later,

jay
 
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