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Essential Cob Construction
A Guide to Design, Engineering, and Building
Cob – a mix of clay, sand, and straw – is one of the most popular and well-known natural building methods. Yet cob is often difficult to permit and can be used in inappropriate ways due to a lack of sound engineering and design information. Recent research and a newly developed building code promise to make cob building more accessible than ever.
Essential Cob Construction sets the new standard for cob construction. Incorporating rigorous, up-to-date engineering and building science and decades of practical lessons learned, coverage includes:
- Appropriate use of cob in different climates and contexts
- Thermal performance and moisture management
- Structural and architectural design considerations, including fire and earthquake resistance data from extensive laboratory testing
- Hands-on cob construction, including mix design, testing, manual and mechanical mixing, wall building, strong connections with foundations, roofs, and other structural elements, and finishing options
- Building code development and the permitting process for cob
- Planning, budgeting, and quality control
- The complete Cob Construction Appendix of the International Residential Code.
Essential Cob Construction is required reading for engineers, architects, designers, contractors, and owner-builders working with this ancient, aesthetically pleasing, low-carbon building material.
Anthony Dente, PE, is a licensed engineer and principal at Verdant Structural Engineers, which has designed over 200 natural builds and engages in low-carbon building-material development. As VP of the Cob Research Institute, Dente was lead engineer for the Cob Construction Appendix of the International Residential Code. He lives near Berkeley, CA.
Michael G. Smith co-founded the Cob Cottage Company in 1993. Over 30 years he has taught hundreds of hands-on workshops on cob, straw bale, earthen plasters and floors, and many other natural building techniques. Coauthor of The Hand-Sculpted House and The Art of Natural Building, and author of The Cobber's Companion, he lives in California.
Massey Burke is a natural materials design-build consultant, educator, and co-director of the California Straw Building Association. She has worked with cob since 2005, and focuses on removing barriers to scaling up natural, climate-positive building methods. A contributor to The New Carbon Architecture, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area, CA.
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