What is “COB”?

“COB” is a mixture of clay, sand, straw (or some other long strong fiber) and water, traditionally mixed by foot, in community and preferably to music (speeds the mixing). It has been and continues to be the world’s oldest, cheapest, most sustainable, healthful, durable and beautiful building material, allowing the builder(s) to quietly and happily create a personable unique home which can last 100’s to 1000’s of years and cost a fraction of conventional building.

“Cob” is the finest building material on the planet: fire-proof, rot-proof, mold-proof, rodent-proof, wind-proof, sound-proof and earthquake-resistant (see the Cob ShakeTest). It lasts forever with a good foundation and a good roof that protect it from standing water and overhead rain. It breathes and releases moisture continuously and creates a balance between outside and inside humidity and temperature so there is always a comfortable equilibrium for human beings living in cob houses.

One of “Cob’s” finest qualities is its ability to hold heat from daily sun exposure which it releases as the temperatures cool down at night, warming the inside spaces. This happens if the location and site placement or exposure of a cob house is done correctly to benefit from the Sun’s daily arc. The only disadvantage of cob is that it cannot withstand submersion in floodwaters and is not ideal in super cold climates where much of the year has little sun or other temperate/cold climate locations that are shaded, where it cannot take advantage of passive solar benefits. Everywhere else, it is the #1 building material in the world, in my opinion. I wouldn’t live inside of any other building material!!!

Morisha & Aziz doin’ the Cob Dance Senegal-style

“Cob” is an Old English term for “loaf”, like a loaf of bread. In French it goes by “bauge” and in Senegal and Guinea they call it “banco” and “potopoto”. The Germans call it “wellerbau” and the Latin countries like to call it “adobe” and “barro” even if technically adobe is a very different technique. Some people think it’s corn cobs. Though I have yet to see a house built out of corn cobs, anything is possible in the natural building world!

“Cob” building can be a solo or community experience, or a mixture of both. It is surely a meditation and very healing as clay removes toxins from the body and shaping and sculpting clay are deeply satisfying expressive and bonding therapeutic activities. In community friendships are born and deepened as people feel relaxed and connected to their Source and each other while stomping in the mud, tossing and catching cobs, focusing on a sculpture and mixing plaster with their hands. This is the aspect that fills me most, in particular when teaching international workshops. Just look at the Gallery of Photos & Videos of our cob workshops and you’ll see what I mean.

There is no comparable gift to spending time in a “cob” structure. It is a quiet refuge for your Soul, especially if kept free of electronics and electricity, and allows one to feel rejuvenated and cleansed by Mother Earth. I wish this opportunity for everyone: to be able to design and build their own simple or elaborate dwelling from nature’s finest, most durable materials, and make it a unique reflection of their Soul, to cherish and enjoy every day.  Trust me I am living in my recently-built 2-story cob house in the Azores and feel blessed every day for the comfort and joy it brings me!