We are building a 2 story cob/straw bale home. As I am looking around the forum, I see most people are building small homes, but I am wondering if anyone here has built something over 900 sq feet (84 sq meters)? That is approximately the dimensions on the bottom floor, with the top floor being about half that. I keep seeing photos everywhere of larger homes, but I am having a harder time actually finding a permie who has built something slightly larger.
Is there a specific reason for this (other than just wanting to, of course)? Is there something important I am overlooking or possibly not considering? Aside from time and workforce needed?
Often private land owners/developers/HOAs specify minimum square feet like 1200 to maintain home values or an aesthetic that is being challenged these days with energy efficient and the tiny house movement.
From what I have read, there are many reasons for building a small home, especially with cob. Chief among them is the amount of time that a cob home will take. Cob might be able to be built during rainy seasons or winter time, but I am not sure. I have read suggestions to start small, and only build as much as possible during the summer season. So this could be one room that temporarily functions as a studio, if this is the only realistic possibility that fits in the time frame.
There are also people advocating more minimalist lifestyles, people designing for multi-function spaces, frugality, etc.
In another cob topic I wrote about The Hand Sculpted House by the Cob Cottage Company. They are advocates for smaller is better, and suggested the idea of starting on small projects that fit your summer timeline. They also push hand building, minimalism, etc. throughout the book. Even if you are not into those ideas, their design ideas and the practical building tips they provide are worth the read.
It seems that here in the USA, most cob structures are kept on the small side. If you go to Eire, Scotland, or Wales you can find larger homes, several hundred years old that are built of cob.
I think the main problems with it here are;
1) the necessary wood support structures
2) the thickness of the walls (needed to support the structure)
3) the obvious, time and manpower needed to complete such large structures
4) building code problems.
In Eire a two story cob house will have a lower wall thickness of at least 2 feet (62 cm) and slowly taper to a top of outer wall thickness of 1 foot (31 cm).
The corners, upper floor and roof would be supported by a Timber Frame, the doors and windows would also have wood frames with the cob used as fill in material much like the old Tudor wattle and daub style homes except that the structures would be completely covered with the cob.
Some of the houses in these countries that look like they are solid cob, actually have a core of stones, but the few I've seen that were cob, were indeed all cob over a wood frame setup. They also had Thatch roofs.
I've seen photos of one two story house in Australia that is around 200 years old and is 1200 sq. ft. plus or minus. It is cob over wood frame also but has been fitted with a modern metal roof now.
I think it is definitely a doable project, given you have enough manpower to complete it before the rainy season begins. or at least have it covered by the roof prior to the rains starting.
Holly, I wonder where you got with this? I'm also considering a cob/bale house for my family of three. I don't know if we'll go two stories or not, but we're definitely interested in something over 900 sq feet.
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