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Some questions from newcomer
Hello All.

Brief introduction:

Me and my wife are lining in London UK. I work in IT. We are ready to get ourselves our own home. We are a lot into sustainability and conscious living as much as it is possible in a big city like London. We don't have any practical experience with permaculture gardening or cob building, but I will be attending couple of workshops and volunteering in 2015. We are still deciding whether to buy land in UK (Devon) as it's easier to get mortgage here, or buy land in Spain from our savings (and be mortgage free)

Please excuse me if any of the questions I am going to ask have been asked before, and sorry for any grammar mistakes, as although I lived in UK for a while now, English is not my native language so here goes:

Questions:

1: What is better suited for wet and cold UK climate, cob or straw bale?
2: I know every situation varies, and it's impossible to give a cost, but I need some rough beacon, even if it is very rough. Imagining we will be doing cob, 2 bedroom single storey house, mainly using friends and volunteers, but obviously hiring some contractors for some work, especially plumbing etc. What price are we looking at?

That's all for now, I might have more later though thanks for reading.
(1 like)
Hi Yuri,

Welcome to Permies...

UK or Spain...two very big differences in environments to give a good answer to...

1: What is better suited for wet and cold UK climate, cob or straw bale?


Cobb is a vernacular form for the U.K. so that would be a given choice. SB is however very much catching on and easier to do (subjective view) than Cobb for the DIYer.

2: I know every situation varies, and it's impossible to give a cost, but I need some rough beacon, even if it is very rough. Imagining we will be doing cob, 2 bedroom single storey house, mainly using friends and volunteers, but obviously hiring some contractors for some work, especially plumbing etc. What price are we looking at
?

Cost is not even possible to judge at this point.

Cobb will be more than SB in most cases but not always. Infill systems with a timber frame are superior to structural systems in many ways.

Regards,

j
Thanks,

By "Infill systems with timber frame" do you mean something like that?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/smallape/sets/72157627258859306/page3/
 
Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Yuri,
Cost is not even possible to judge at this point.


Thanks,

Ok, let me rephrase it. Is it possible to build a decent 2 bedroom cob house with no previous experience but a lot of enthusiasm for £50k?
If you're building in the UK, the problem won't be the money to build, but the permission to build. I don't know the laws in Spain so can't comment on that.
 
Burra Maluca wrote:If you're building in the UK, the problem won't be the money to build, but the permission to build. I don't know the laws in Spain so can't comment on that.


Is that so? There are a lot of historic cob houses in Devon and Cornwall, wouldn't it make a difference?
I know how hard it is to get planning permit in UK in general, but does it make a difference if house is made of cob?
(1 like)
Hi Yuri,

Once there is a location in mind, I recommend to folks to do the preliminary research for whether a building style is applicable and allowed by officials. Quite often a "no" can be turned into a "yes" if the questions are asked in the correct way, and/or good "pre planning" has been done.

Yes there are modern, naturally built cobb styles being built in both the U.K. and in Spain...not everywhere mind you, but it is being done and the numbers are growing. Cobb is a vernacular system in both areas in a number of forms.

Cost again, without a completed design and location selection is going to be hard to pin down. It could be as in your range, give or take half that, or a lot more, or even a lot less...skill sets, what the land has to offer, etc. etc. all will affect the square meter or square foot price of a turn key project.

As for infill systems...below are some generic examples in general and some from Japan as well...

Cob infill timber frame

木舞

Regards,

j
Thanks a lot Jay,

So what are you saying is that it is much easier to get planning permit for cob infill in timber frame, than usual cob building?

By the way, eventually we decided to move to Spain rather than building in UK. Spain is cheaper and warmer!
(2 likes)
 
So what you are saying is that cob infill timber frames are much easier to get planning permits for, than just a cob building?


Absolutely, in most cases, as this now becomes a non-focal point for many building officials as it no longer plays a critical role in holding the roof up or the building from falling down. This is now part of the insulation and/or thermal mass. Which brings us to the point of "good" (or perhaps a "slight of hand" magic trick) in the way we communicate with officials. I have witnessed folks go in with very adversarial language that basicly attacks or condescends to the officials with comments like, "....why can't I build this way...its better for the planet..." or "...I want to build with only natural materials, and nothing out of a store as much as I can..." Both of these can be huge red flags for officials and building councils. They may very well not understand, and/or fear that someone is "experimenting" with building something that is not safe, will draw down housing values in the community, and/or have other unknown ill effects. Some simply do not want to deal with being challenged or moving outside their comfort zones of understanding.

I have seen positive conversations with officials about "mass wall super insulated cellulose" wall infills for a timber frame and the added value to the community for such high end architectural forms. When the conversation, in the same community not a year before was, "what do you mean I can't build a straw bale house?"

Just a year later it was done. The difference? Language and approach to how the project is presented to the building professionals. I don't like many of these rules and regulations that are forced upon us, yet at the same time, as a professional design builder I am also really worried about many of the "self builder projects" and their very obvious lack of experience in designing and building sound structures. There are as many "experiments in architecture" being built out there in the world of cob, straw bale, earth bag, etc, etc, as there are actually good design in sustainable and enduring architecture. The later should be the goal not the experiment...

Also remember, it is great to dream and plan for all manner of things, but when it all boils down to actually doing the work, don't get blinded by the "romance" of a building style.

I would conservatively state that more than half the "natural builds" I see going up are a matter of "romance" not a solid and well thought out choices in what is the best or least effort in a vernacular design for the location. If you have to ship clay, straw bales, or other resources thousands of miles to a build sight...it probably isn't the best choice. The least distance a material has to travel and be handled, the easier it will be to facilitate the build. So if you have stone, use stone, if you have earth use earth, yet at the same time balance this out with good solid structural design, the project's available skill sets, timelines of need, and other factors. If someone can take ten years to build something, it will in most cases be much better than someone the believes or needs to have a structure up in just 3 to 6 months.

Remember..."Often for the "self builder," fast building is money spent foolishly, and time taken to build puts money in the bank..."

Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards


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