This cottage was built by Michael Buck in Oxfordshire, England, over the period of a couple years. It’s a delightful building, brightly lit by its many windows, and with a satisfying, organic form. It also cost £150 to build.
He wanted to build the house for zero cost, but Michael needed a little more thatch than anticipated for the roof. He also had to buy some nails. The cob, of course, cost nothing.
My material of choice for building a house will forever be cob: cheap, local, fireproof, quiet, and beautiful. I worked many years as a potter and find cob easy and intuitive to work with, but I suspect many non-potters might feel the same. Straw bales and earth bags are lovely but foreign – cob connects directly to the sand castles and mud pies we shaped as children. Its simplicity and strength are remarkable.
Cob consists of clay, sand, and straw (or other fibrous material). Depending on your materials and location, you could put a little earth in as well. Traditionally, cob is blended in large batches using oxen to trample the mix, or a tractor, or a group of people – or in smaller amounts, by you alone, depending on your situation. Weather decides the rhythm of construction, as each course of cob needs to be dry enough to support the next. It is used around the world in a variety of hot and cold climates, and wet places as well – simply build the roof out to protect the facade against storms. A cob house lasts.
There are several contemporary examples on the internet of multi-story cob buildings with powerful, renewable energy conveniences, but Michael Buck’s house is more my style. It’s simple, recycled, and full of handmade charm. His cob house is heated with a wood stove, has no electricity, and water comes from a nearby spring.
I wanted to show that houses don’t have to cost anything. We live in a society where we spend our lives paying our mortgages, which many people don’t enjoy. (Interview in The Daily Mail)
This is one of the possibilities with cob: sustainable independence. It can be a lot closer than we believe.
Be sure to visit Michael’s blog for more photos and a couple video interviews: Michael Buck, The Cob House