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Cob to code in Oregon?  RSS feed

 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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Does anyone know anything about how code applies to cob houses in Oregon - especially prior examples that can be used, what someone would need to know, or what office to contact to be able to ask questions? Does anyone know any engineers or architects that have experience with a cob house and can sign off on the plans in the area (and what they charge)? We are looking into buying property in Oregon (Willamette valley or anywhere west of that; good forested land with a creek), and knowing if any certain county looks well on cob or is stoutly against it would help us in choosing land. We would hate to purchase 10 acres and then find out that we can't build a cob home on it!

So if anyone knows about local codes pertaining to cob, or has an email of someone I can ask about it - that would be very helpful!
 
Paul Cereghino
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No specific answer to your question. This is our local project trying to track and build this kind of information. I'd look for similar organizations in Oregon. If I recall there has been more work in BC... with testing related to earthquake stability.

http://www.ecobuilding.org/code-innovations
 
Jami McBride
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I've been busy and out of touch this last year, but before I got busy the 'cob code' for Oregon was cob is not legal - However, straw bale was added to the possible building codes. At that time composting toilets were not legal either, however after paying for septic approval ($) one could get an outhouse permit to make code, then add your own compost toilet after the fact.

I would pick a county, say Douglas County, and call the building department, and ask about cob, slip-straw and straw bale building permits.....Or contact an architect of natural building.

Douglas County Building Department
Room 106 Justice Building
1036 SE Douglas Ave
Roseburg, OR 97470

541-440-4559
Fax: 541-440-4297

There is a real good natural-building architect down in the Medford/Ashland area. He knows how to get stuff to qualify for the local building permits.
I forget the name, but Coenraad at www.housealive.org can get you the name (that's where I got it).

Sorry I cannot be more up to date. I've gone from research and theory to putting into practice, it's keep me off-line walking the talk

 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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Jami McBride wrote:I've been busy and out of touch this last year, but before I got busy the 'cob code' for Oregon was cob is not legal -



Cob not legal to code (even with engineer approval?)? Can anyone confirm this? Or deny (has anyone at all had cob approved in Oregon)?
 
Robert Ray
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This might be a place to inquire.

http://www.cobcottage.com/category/image-galleries/cob-pictures/cob-buildings-cob-cottage-coquille
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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I asked them, and they said that they don't have permits for their buildings (they probably slide through with the 'under 120zqft and it's a shed' rule). But I want to build a full house, so...
 
Jami McBride
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Yes, last time I checked all cob was built renegade (without permits).

I have emailed Conrad at housealive, and left a message with the building department - but haven't heard back from either yet.

However, I still believe it is not permit-able, insurable or finanecable at this time.... sorry.

I'll post back should I hear anything else.

BTW - some people build as you say 100 sf sheds for each 'room' of their house and connect them with breezeways. Just another possibility.
 
Robert Ray
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ReCode is a sustainability group they might know.
http://www.recodeoregon.org/
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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I sent them a message!
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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Jami McBride wrote:
BTW - some people build as you say 100 sf sheds for each 'room' of their house and connect them with breezeways. Just another possibility.


I'd worry about heating that sort of structure... You'd have to build a rocket heater for each room, I'd think. I'd hate to be in a warm bedroom, but then have to go to a freezing kitchen or icy bathroom! Unless you know of a way to insulate said breezeways... but that would probably take them out of the 'non-permit-required' breezeways, I imagine...
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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http://ecodes.biz/ecodes_support/free_resources/Oregon/11_Residential/PDFs/Chapter%201_Scope%20and%20Administration.pdf


See the right side of the page, 'Owner-built exempt'.

Can anyone give me more info on this? Does that mean that I can use cob so long as I build it myself (which I intend to)? Or what requirements are given to 'owner-build' houses?
 
Jami McBride
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I just had a call back from the Douglas County Building Dept. and they said no permit offered for cob at this time.
I asked back in 2005 if I could build a pole building and then in-fill with cob. I got a verbal might be possible.

You can check with other counties, especially around the Portland area.

And I would seek a natural-builder architect/engineer who knows the regulations in application.

Regarding the link you provided - it's been my experience that what is written and how it is administered are two different things.
So do your do diligence
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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I just read another post, referencing that Klamath County at one point (prior to '09) gave out an experimental permit for a cob house. That's more promising - if anyone knows anything about that, details, I could really use the info!

Frustratingly, I am not currently IN Oregon, so I can't just go to the permit offices of different counties and ask around about cob. I know they would be more open to the idea in person (sitting down, showing photos, explanation) than over the phone, and I don't want to botch my chance.
 
Robert Ray
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Sahara,
One more link to try, if you haven't already, it seems there is a Sustainable Green Bulding Coordinator for the State. Straw bale construction in our county has to be infill perhaps infill cob would be acceptable?

http://www.bcd.oregon.gov/green.html
 
Sahara Sjovaettir
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Thanks - I'll contact them too!
 
Derrick Gunther
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I recently talked with the building department in Klamath County, Oregon. They said that they have approved multiple straw-bale houses and one cob house. The catch is that you have to get a licensed engineer to stamp (approve) your design plans. Basically, they said that anything that isn't common practice could be approved so long as an engineer signs off that it will be structurally sound. Also, the state or Oregon has energy efficiency standards for residences, so you have to take that into account (no living year round in a yurt, for example).
 
Nichole Davis
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Per R101.4 of the Oregon Residential Specialty Code, the intent of the code is to ensure the the safegaurding of public welfare through
affordability,
structural strength
means of egress
stability (seismic activity)
sanitation
Light and ventilation
energy conservation
and protection of life and property from fire, flood, and other hazards associated with a built environment.

Also R104.11 says that the provisions of the code are not to prevent the installation or use of alternative materials or to prohibit the use of any techniques or methods that are not prescriptive to the text. However the building official may require that you have tests done to prove that your alternative method, technique, or material is at least as good if not better than what is already in the code at ensuring those things listed above in the intent as listed in R101.4.

So to get a cob house permitted, you need to either have tests done to confirm that cob meets the intent of the code in all the areas listed in R101.4, OR you can get an engineer to stamp their approval of your design saying that from an engineering standpoint, your design is safe and meets the intent of R101.4. I think most people go with the engineer because it's probably more affordable and quicker to get the design from one person rather than getting tests done on the material for all the areas listed in R101.4.

There is a form in at least some of the jurisdictions, Clackamas county for sure, to apply for the use of an alternative material or technique.

Hope that helps.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Adding a bit to Nichole's excellent details, Paul and I visited a cob home in Washington state that was approved and given a certificate of occupancy by the local code enforcement agency. The owners told us they thought it was the first in Washington State. If I recall correctly, the owners spent thousands on an engineer to get the plans approved, with a key factor being that it required wood/stick framing for the structure in order for it to pass code.
 
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