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COB in southern AZ  RSS feed

 
Aj Brown
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Hello everyone,

My husband and I live in Cochise county AZ which has really good regulations for alternative building. There is a large population of straw bale and adobe homes in the area but we are leaning towards cob due to limited funds. We have property and have not built anything yet. We hope to start with an oven and then move on to a small studio sized 'apartment' to practice.

We've read and have books and have learned a lot but is Arizona a good place for cob (I know it sounds silly but if its so great why aren't there more cob houses?)
Also, if we go with cob, would we have to purchase the hay or use grass from our property? (if we have any grass!) If hay needs to be purchased, what type?
Also, what suggestions would you have for a root cellar? I like to ferment and can things and am wondering the best way to store these items in the AZ heat! Mind you, we have some crazy monsoons so I wouldn't want my cellar (if it was underground) getting flooded.

Any other comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! We're working to be as self reliant, frugal, and DIY as possible.
Thanks!!!
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi AJ...and first...A big welcome to Permies.com...thanks for joining!

There is a a great deal of good info here on cobb and related natural building...Take the time to look around. Also, the next time you're up in the 'Stronghold' say hello...I spent part of my youth there and still have family in AZ...

We've read and have books and have learned a lot but is Arizona a good place for cob (I know it sounds silly but if its so great why aren't there more cob houses?)


Hmmmm...sorry I am going to tease you just a little.....

Just reading books isn't enough...especially when many of the books are...well...lets just say not complete and/or more a documentation of someones experiments in cobb and learning about it themselves than actual decades of experience...There are few folks here in North America that have ever really "studied" the vernacular that is "clay architecture," on a global scale and publish anything that is not at the PhD level...

So, what I am about to say may actually surprize you just a bit...

The oldest cobb in this country is in AZ... starting at over 1000 years with contemporary European styles starting at around 1500's...after those folks from the Iberian peninsula arrived with their horses and small pox...

The highest concentration of cobb architecture in a very singular and ancient form is in the South West and more "clay architecture can be found from Southern California to Texas than anywhere else, I believe one could find in North America. I would say AZ has probably one the highest other than New Mexico...

AZ and NM probably has some of the finest earth architecture practitioners in the country (if not world) and traditions going back over 1000 years or more...

You are absolutely surrounded by cobb...but...they don't call it cobb...

See if you can figure this riddle out then let me know what it is that is all around you and probably the most germane and appropriate building material for your region other than stone and timber...

So once this is all though about a little more...I would be glad to help with any guidance I can in designing and facilitating your build...so just let me know what your are thinking or have questions about...

Regards, and again, welcome to Permies,

j
 
Aj Brown
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I'm not sure as to the answer to your riddle but it seems that there is adobe and straw bale. We even asked at the building department (they have alt building permits) and even they were unfamiliar with cob. So either people are building it and not getting permits, or there just arent many cob houses here. I've only been here a year and straw bale seems to be the way most people go.
 
Aj Brown
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Also, since someone was kind enough to send me a pm, the reason we are leaning towards cob and not adobe, it bc were trying to avoid the brick stage and, me being very creative, am looking for a bit more creative freedom and yes im aware books and blogs are ppls experiences but we're doing what we can. We want to attend a workshop before we get started on building.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Aj...

Sorry for the "riddle." I just couldn't help myself as this (especially out West) comes up often and I am always shocked. I have even had relatively knowledge "natural builder" types say things like..."...I can't believe there isn't more Cobb in the south west...?"

WHAT? Its all over the place! Yet that isn't fair of me to think this so dismissively as I sometimes do...It is a matter of perspective and I have been in this game pushing 4 decades and that gives me a rather different view and puts me "long in the tooth" on the subject.

So...clay based architecture (a.k.a Cobb as it has generically become known in English)...is a style of building, but also is recognized now as..."clay based architecture" in general by many faciltiators...As such it comes in so many forms I could write page after page of the different modalities...

Of these Cobb or Clay systems we have:

(note: take any of these words, or kanji and place in a google image search should give some great viewing, reading and many more questions...I am sure...)

Adobe
Slip Clay Straw
Slip Clay Wood Chip
Tabya
Bousillage
Colombage
Taipa
Bajareque
土壁 (Doheki=daub)
土塀 (Dobei=earth wall)
ETC...Etc...etc...

and the list just rambles on with all kinds of wonderful "cobb" (clay architect) methods...

I also agree that SB (straw bale) has rocketed to the top in many areas of the southwest. I like SB, yet don't think it is always the best approach, nor often facilitated as well as it could be. I also own that I am very biased against most "structural" SB builds. Being a traditional Timberwright and a student of..."vernacular folk architecture," I insist that the architecture I am involved in facilitating should last a minimum of 500 years without much intervention. Some "structural" SB will achieve this...unfortunately many will not, and there are no structural SB that will ever be as strong or enduring as the types with a timber frame structure of "bones" as part of the building system. This can also be said of Cobb (Adobe) and the most enduring "cobb" systems have "wooden bones" with the matrix of the system either exposed or interstitial.

I am glad to give any assistance I can AJ to your project. I make my living doing this kind of work and my free time (as it is a passion of mine) is teaching and helping folks with all manner of natural architecture. I think you have a great adventure ahead of you...and in a very special and magical place!

Regards,

j
 
Aj Brown
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Totaly understand J but as life may have it, we may not stay in az but move to northern Idaho! But I still desperately want to build with cob! Could I still do cob in northern idaho? I know the conditions arent optimal as they are in az.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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YES!!...you can use clay based architecture (aka cobb) in any location practically if the soils yield an appropriate clay...The free forming styles can be a challenge in more humid locations over time and why I have begun recommending the insulative properties of the "slip clay" systems. Each building site will reveal their own unique challenges and gifts......good luck!
 
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