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Is cob legal in Tennessee?  RSS feed

 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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Greetings, all you great Permaculturists!

I've got a problem...

I'm in the process of building an intentional community. I am in the very, very early stages. It's going to be at least a year before we buy land, but I need to get all the groundwork planned and laid out in the meantime. You can read my vision/plan here: http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2013/09/24/my-plan-for-an-intentional-community/

Here is my issue. The community will be in Tennessee. TN has a lot of good clay soil, just perfect for building cob and cob-hybrid homes. I know people have built cob homes in TN. However, many of these are "under the radar", so to speak, for a number of reasons. If I go in and build a large community, which is my goal, then I will not be very "under the radar". I want to do everything above board so that we cannot be shut down after we have a lot of infrastructure built up.

So here is my question... does anyone know of any cob homes built in TN with permits approving their construction? I have heard of them, but I have yet to talk to anyone who has actually done it or knows someone who has done it. It seems to be a I heard of someone, who heard of someone, who knew of a guy, who has a friend who built one... Not helpful!

Any help or direction would be fantastic!
Thanks so much!

Doc K
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
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Building codes usually prescribe how a building is built, not what you build it with. The building department will want to see plans that show you framing the walls up right with the proper fire stops and sheathing. The inspector will come out and make sure it is installed correctly with the proper lathing and weep screeds. Now what you choose to slop onto the lathing, be it stucco or adobe or cob or tabby, that's pretty much up to you. The inspector is not going to come out on cobbing day and look over your shoulder to make sure you have added the right number of bags of lime to the mix.

Same way with concrete work. They look at the plans and inspect the forming and amount and placement of rebar, whether there is type II, if there is plastic sheeting on the plans that it is indeed installed. They are not going to get on the line with you when you order your concrete and approve what type of mix you order.
 
Morven Glas
Posts: 5
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It's not anyone i know personally but i found a Christina Ott who trained under Ianto 14 yrs ago. I know I've seen Ianto's name more than once involved with all this. Ms. Ott lives in a cob house in Tennesse, I don't know if it's legal. She can be reached and perhaps you can pear over her fence at her house at 178 Birdsong Trail Woodbury, TN 37190 but i wouldn't walk up to starngers property out in the woods of TN. She works with barefootbuilder and email is info@barefootbuilder.com May even be able to call her directly at 850-982- 2597. Is that a TN number?

Laws are often done on a county basis as well so one part of TN may be different from another. Hope that helps.

 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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Are weep screeds used in cob building? I don't recall reading about them in the couple of cob building books I have read, but it has been some time since I read them.

However, I don't want anyone to think I am anything remotely clost to an expert. I have never built with cob. My father is a general contractor, and I spent many summers working with him, so I have a fair understanding of construction. I have full confidence I can build a home, not too fast, but it will be done right. I will be taking some workshops though, for sure, before building my own home.

I emailed the barefoot builder (Christina Ott) a few weeks ago. She responded right away to my initial questions, but never responded to any of my coding questions. She very well could just be busy right now... I'll let you know if she returns any of my follow-up emails. Also, just to be clear, I did tell her that I would be taking her workshop and likely looking to host a cob workshop (hopefully, quite a few) - I was not trying to bum her for free consulting.

I also emailed Alex Sumerall at ThisCobHouse. He has written an ebook called Cob to Code and is also located in Tennessee. I am waiting a response. If he tells me it is possible and he has done it, I will buy the book and let you know.

Doc K
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
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Hello John K.,

You are getting a bit ahead of yourself. First find out where in TN you are, then look at the local ordinances and enforcement criteria. Earth based architecture comes in may forms, if it is structural you could have issues, but if it is and infill (as John E. mentioned,) than it will be considered differently. Put that aside for now, as you don't even have land, and though I love earth architecture, without the land, the budget, and the resources (human, fiscal, animal, chronological) you have no idea what you are going to build, or should build. Good planning is great!!! but don't get ahead of yourself and out of sequence or you will just waste time, energy, and resources.

Regards,

jay
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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I don't disagree with you entirely, but the issue is that I am not in Tennessee yet. I am not even in the U.S. yet! I still have another year before I move back to the U.S. (I am serving in the military overseas... very ready to come home and be done with the military life!)

This community could work in almost any agricultural-zoned county space. I have chosen central to eastern TN. I personally love the idea of cob, but I am not stuck on that by any means. I do know that TN has a lot of clay soils throughout the state. I may get the one plot of land that has none. I will then use another appropriate building material. I get that.

What I am trying to do is make sure that I choose a county that is at least open to the idea of alternative housing. Straw-bale is more popular and can be approved a bit easier, I believe, as long as you build it as "straw infill" with timber framing and not a solely structurally supported straw-bale home - although that still may be possible in some areas. I see earth-based home building, especially structural, as the more difficult to get approved, hence my search.

In addition, I am a physician. I would really like to do research on the health benefits of natural housing. This is a big subject, and I would love to have a large pool of data from which to collect where I live (i.e. the community where I live) instead of having to get all my data through off site locations.

I have many, many other areas of study which I need to research to make this community a reality. This is just one slice of the pie.

Doc K
 
Sean Banks
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wherever an earthship has been built that's a good sign that the building regulations are lenient or non existent. I would check out the pockets of freedom map on the earthships website.....this will let you know of good locations to build without much hassle. Good luck
 
John Elliott
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John Kitsteiner wrote:Are weep screeds used in cob building? I don't recall reading about them in the couple of cob building books I have read, but it has been some time since I read them.



I just mention it because of my experience with the building department when I lived in Las Vegas. Most of the buildings in Las Vegas have stucco over sheathing, and they absolutely require a weep screed. (Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Must be because of all the torrential rainfall they get in Las Vegas. ) Generalizing that rule, there probably are other building departments where any mud that is thrown on a lath to harden up has to have a weep screed.
 
Brian Knight
Posts: 554
Location: Asheville NC
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Congrats on your aspirations and soon to be transition to civilian life Doc. There needs to be much more research into the health effects of our buildings on health and society. Scientific research is sorely lacking in this area.

According to NIOSH, building materials account for only 4% of a typical dwellings indoor air problems. Most scientists in the building fields are currently debating how many CFMs of outdoor air with mechanical ventilation make sense for the health of occupants and society. This should be the main criteria for evaluating the indoor air quality and overall health of a building.

I think natural building techniques could compromise indoor air quality just as much or more than conventional ones depending on the details. If the details are done appropriately then having natural materials is probably better. My main concern with COB in mixed humid climates like TN is that the lack of insulation could cause condensation in walls or to the interior surfaces.
 
Josh Ritchey
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Doc,

I'll have to PM you, we may have a bit to talk about. Meigs and Sequatchie counties have no building code based on my research and are quite close to Chatanooga which is a bit of a hippie cluster but a fiarly nice city, IMO.

There are some small earthship communities I've heard about in Sequatchie county.

Hope this helps, good luck.
 
charles micheals
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Josh Ritchey wrote:Doc,

I'll have to PM you, we may have a bit to talk about. Meigs and Sequatchie counties have no building code based on my research and are quite close to Chatanooga which is a bit of a hippie cluster but a fiarly nice city, IMO.

There are some small earthship communities I've heard about in Sequatchie county.

Hope this helps, good luck.


this is true about Sequatchie county. dont know about Meigs though. I live in a neighboring county and have first hand experience in the codes. Another county for the moment is Bledsoe county. which is also beside sequatchie. Also, I plan on starting on a hobbit house made from cob this year. about to build a test rocket stove in the back yard as soon as weather and work permits. the house will basically be like a apartment to initially move on the land. next year i hope to start on the main house. maybe .....

but yea, in summary, them counties currently have little codes. the important ones are there, but the redundant crap is not. although talks have come up a few times about enforcing stronger codes. wont be long before it passes and put into effect i am sure.
 
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