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These ancient ‘cob houses’ may be the key to building cheap sustainable homes

Cob is made from a mixture of sand, clay, and straw.

Cob house, built with ancient techniques

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Do you find yourself staring at concrete walls, daydreaming about an idyllic life close to nature? Does the sight of drywall make you want to pack your bags, lock the door, and run off into the forest to live more naturally?

We get it.

Thankfully, you don’t need to abandon your entire life as you know it to break out of those modern walls. With cob houses, you can have all the comforts of home and the natural world.

What are Cob Houses?

The term “cob” refers to the building material and technique used to create architectural structures. Cob is made from a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. When mixed with water, these elements create a natural and durable building material that you can use to build walls without synthetic components.

The construction approach is nothing new. In fact, cob building dates back an astonishing 10,000 years. Structures built from cob hundreds of years ago have been found worldwide, in places like the U.K., Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and across the African continent.

They’re Earth-friendly and Instagram-worthy, but cob houses tick many more boxes, making them a desirable, practical, and sustainable option.

Long-Lasting

If you imagine an adult sandcastle, think again. Cob is exceptionally durable if built with proper shelter from the rain. Put simply, if you have a good roof, it will protect your walls. Over time, as your cob house weathers, you can apply a new layer of cob to give it a bit of a refresh.

Affordable

Cob building tends to be much more affordable because the natural materials required to create the cob can be easily purchased in large quantities or even found on your own land (you’ll need to perform some soil tests to ensure it’s suitable).

Fire-Resistant

The rate of climate-driven forest fires is rising, threatening more than the forests themselves. Cob is particularly fire-resistant, making it a solid choice in areas prone to wildfires or extreme weather patterns.

Unique

If right angles and low ceilings don’t inspire you, there’s good news: Your cob structure can be as curvy and spacious as you wish. Home builders often opt for curved walls and organic movement in the structure’s shape, matching the earthen nature of the materials.

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