A: A well-designed and detailed mud house will have no problem keeping up with your weather. There are mud houses on the coast of Ireland and Wales that have been dynamited by North Atlantic storms for 500 years and are still in good condition. Of course, they have been maintained and repaired if necessary. There are also mud houses in Denmark, New York (from the 1800s) and many other cold and damp places. There are considerations for making an earthen building durable in such a place, such as a high waterproof foundation, wide roof overhangs, and good details around windows and doors to prevent water from entering the walls. You can read these and other recommendations in « The Hand-Sculpted House » by Evans, Smith and Smiley. There are several ways to integrate insulation into a piston wall (clay wall). One way I recommend is to place 4″ insulation between two layers of pistons to create a highly insulated cob wall. This is how adobe walls are insulated and it works very well. Click here to see how I design an insulated mud house.
To solve this problem, CRI launched a project to test the structural and thermal properties of low-density cob mixtures produced by replacing lightweight aggregates such as crushed pumice for sand and increasing straw content. Even these measures will be insufficient in colder regions. A research project called CobBauge, based at the University of Plymouth, England, has developed ways to insulate mud walls by wrapping them in lighter mixtures of clay and natural fibers such as hemp and straw. Further research and testing in this area will be essential to ensure that mud homes can be built legally and efficiently in North America and other temperate regions. Q: I live in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, with a tropical climate. What worries me is that we have tropical cyclones with winds of up to 120-200 km/h and heavy rainfall. Would a mud house withstand these tropical cyclones? (By the way, thankfully, we haven`t had this strong tropical cyclone in 10 years. But they are present in the Indian Ocean every year from November to April.
What if this happened on the island? City officials have confirmed that the shed is the first licensed cob structure they know of in Berkeley. The construction department required the project to include seismic compliant metal reinforcement, and the structure has a conventional concrete foundation. Claudine Désirée, known locally as « Santa Cruz Cob Queen », is the proud creator of Santa Cruz`s first legal cob house. Cob is a natural building material made of earth, sand and straw, and mud houses have been around since at least the 15th century. Because cob buildings are flame retardant, resistant to seismic activity and inexpensive, Désirée says they should also be the future of life in California. Q: I live in North South Carolina and would like to build a mud house. I`ve been reading a lot of cob experts lately, and when they mention codes, they reassure readers about the (relative) ease of building codes in Western states, but I`ve heard little about how to do it in an eastern state. Where do I start to find out if I can build a mud house here? I don`t want to buy land if I can`t build on it, and I don`t want to risk not getting a permit. As I do not have the field, I would feel weird to go to professionals to ask them for codes without a construction project. The building managers are not there to catch you.
Do not consider them as your enemy that you must deceive and undermine to get things your way. Do your best to befriend all the building officials and inspectors you work with. You may not agree with everything, but most of the time, the differences can be minimized and equalized by helping them educate them about what they may be missing. Some other ideas to protect the building from wind-driven rain: planting tall trees near the building on the side the wind comes from, or a sacrificial wall that would take the weight of the weather and keep it away from the house. Perhaps you could build the house in the wake of an existing building, grove of trees, hill, or other landscape feature. Another possibility, if the wind is predictable from one direction, is to use a more weather-resistant material or surface on that side of the building, such as a glass greenhouse or concrete wall. Your construction department might be quite skeptical when they hear that you want to build a mud house. Don`t complicate the process further by coming up with a fantastic design that is too complicated.
Unless you can support it with proper structural design. But if you`re a new builder, build on your experience level. This will make everything more fluid. But don`t be afraid to call in an expert if necessary if something is beyond your understanding or experience. Building construction is usually a team effort anyway. A: I wouldn`t consider New Zealand to be a « cold » climate. The cob should be fine as long as the exterior walls are thick enough (say, 16-24 inches) Your plan sounds good in the overall concept. As for the drainage of the interior walls, the main thing is to keep the soil moisture from everyone who enters the bottle. If you have very good deep drainage ditches around the outside of the building, you shouldn`t have to drain the interior walls too. But it couldn`t hurt.
Another popular method of building in land, straw bale construction – for example, for the construction of the Shorebird Park Nature Center in Berkeley – is now, after years of advocacy, recognized in the building code. A: I don`t know your area very well, but I`m sure there is clay soil in some parts of the Mojave. For example, I know of spike projects in the Joshua Tree area, and I`m pretty sure there are historic adobe buildings in other parts of the area. You may have to search a bit to find a good soil. Chapter 8 of « The Hand-Molded House » walks you through several ways to look for clay when it`s not easy to find right away. While many builders are lured into cob construction by the promise of cheap materials, they don`t realize labor is expensive and without spider code, the approval process takes time and money, Fordice said. There are cases when you don`t need a permit for a building at all and can just build whatever you want. This is common in rural counties (except the Northeast, California, probably other places too) and for buildings with some footprint, usually 12×12 (if there are no utilities). Q: I am a student from the Philippines who is very fascinated by mud houses. We experience tons of typhoons, earthquakes and other disasters every year. What can you recommend if I am building a mud house, given that my home is very sensitive to these forces of nature? Should there be a specific design on the structure? Tong and Massey, along with Anthony Dente, director of Verdant Structure Engineers at Berkeley, followed the Alternative Materials and Methods Requests (AMMR) process.
The procedure is intended for experimental builders who want to demonstrate that their materials or practices comply with the intentions of the building code. After Désirée left Santa Cruz in 2014, her students and friends continued Cob`s legacy and related educational efforts. Two of her students, Miles Taylor and Tree Rozelle, founded MuddBums in hopes of filling a void left by Désirée in the Santa Cruz Cob community. MuddBums offers hands-on cob building courses or « working groups » in Central California. The building code does not specify whether construction with cob pistons is illegal or not. For many people, they first had to get a permit to build with the piston. They had to hire an engineer to help them develop their plans.