Chelsea Green Publishing

The Hand-Sculpted House

Pages:384 pages
Book Art:8 pages of illustrations
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781890132347
Pub. Date June 01, 2002

The Hand-Sculpted House

A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

By Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley
Illustrated by Deanne Bednar

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
June 01, 2002


Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage,cobb, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as "an ecstatic house."

The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable--earth, clay, sand, straw, and water--and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.

Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder's imagination.
Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what's missing in our lives. Cob comes as a revelation, a key to a saner world.

Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest.

Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.


Ianto Evans

Ianto Evans is an applied ecologist, landscape architect, inventor, and teacher with building experience on six continents. Cob is traditional in his homeland, Wales. In addition to teaching ecological building, Ianto has consulted with USAID, the World Bank, the Peace Corps, and several national governments.

Michael G. Smith

Michael G. Smith teaches practical workshops and consults on cob construction, natural building, and permaculture. He is the author of The Cobber's Companion: How to Build Your Own Earthen Home and co-editor of The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources.

Linda Smiley

Linda Smiley teaches workshops on cob, sculpting sacred spaces, intuitive design, and natural plasters and finishes. With a background as a recreational therapist, she specializes in helping people use natural building as a tool for personal transformation and healing.


Building a Cob Cottage Step-by-Step excerpted from Part II: Building the Cob Cottage

EVERY COB BUILDING IS UNIQUE, but most require the same basic steps. The order of some of these steps is critical; others can be rearranged as desired. For a first-time builder, it can be very useful to map out the sequence of all construction tasks. Following is a sample sequence to help you think through your project to completion before you begin. The next ten chapters walk through each of these steps in great detail.

* Select your building site very carefully, for best exposure to winter sun and for good drainage. * Decide in advance roughly what spaces, shapes, and features you will need, both indoors and out, based on the scale of your own activities. Make many sketches and models. Keep the building as small as possible. If you need more than 400 square feet, consider phasing the project to complete the most essential sections first. * Work on a scale model of the building, including site features such as trees and slope. * Decide the wall plan in detail, especially where doors connect the indoors with outdoors. Design the roof at this point, including the roof and how it is supported. Make a full-sized mock-up of the building on the site. Spend time in it, and imagine what it would be like to live there. * Assemble on-site all building materials you will need for enclosure, including glass, lumber, rocks, hardware, pipes, wires, and so forth. Gather your tools, scaffolding, and water storage. * Check your soil, and assess by making test mixes and test blocks what needs to be added for the best cob mix. Measure your proportions and calculate the amounts of sand, clay soil, and straw you will need. Plan out and prepare mixing spaces close to the building. * Arrange delivery of sand, clay soil, and straw as needed. Store deliveries close to and uphill from the building, in locations that won't impede work. Make sure straw is stored under cover, off the ground. * Stake out your design and finished levels precisely on the site using many strong, firmly driven stakes. Adjust for the last time. * Clear and level as little as possible. Grade away from the building so that water runs away on all sides. Set aside excavated soil for gardening or making cob. * Dig drainage and foundation trenches, lay in drainpipe, insulation, plumbing, and wire connections; backfill trenches immediately with drain rock. * Build the foundation stemwall, setting in door frames or frame anchors and joists if floor will be suspended. Leave openings for utilities and water lines in and out. * Tamp the subfloor, lay several inches of drain rock, and, if you will be using an earthen or other mass floor, lay the floor base coat. * Frame the roof, either on permanent posts or on temporary posts that will be removed when the walls are complete. You may also wait until the cob is nearly finished before framing the roof. * Experiment with cob mixing techniques -- for speed, ease, enjoyment, and different numbers of workers. Concentrate on gradual improvements. Apply your mix, probably at first by fork, trodden, then using "Gaab cob" or cob loaves. Sew it all together solidly with your fingers or a "cobber's thumb." Try to raise all the cob walls at the same rate. * Make sure you build vertical or tapered walls; don't leave big bulges or hollows. * Pare each new part with a machete or handsaw before it gets too hard, leaving it ready to plaster as you build. * Set pipes, wires, outlets, junction boxes, and so on into the walls as you build. * Build in windows as you go. Bury "deadmen" in the walls, wooden anchors to which you can later attach door frames, shelving, countertops, and so on. * Sculpt built-in furniture, bookshelves, niches, and alcoves. * Let the walls dry and settle somewhat, then build loft or second-story beams, joists, and ledgers directly into the cob if the wall is loadbearing. * Locate roof deadmen one and a half to two feet down from the rafters. Complete the walls. * If the roof is on, you can now enclose and heat the building. If not, now is the time to build the roof. If the roof will be heavy, allow the cob to dry throughout first. * Do final ceiling work. * Finish interior built-in woodwork, counters, cabinets, interior door frames, and plumbing fixtures. * Apply interior plaster. * Lay a finish coat on floor. Seal an earthen floor with linseed oil and beeswax. * When interior plaster is dry, apply natural paint, lime wash, or alis. * Plaster the exterior, if desired. * Have a big party! Invite everyone who helped you build.


The Greened House Effect

The Greened House Effect

By Jeff Wilson

With greater public awareness of the need for energy independence, the issue of how we can make our existing homes more resource efficient is becoming ever more critical. Residential buildings make up a large fraction of our energy needs, largely due to heating and air-conditioning. So it's no longer enough to simply do the small stuff, like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, or turning down the thermostat at night.

In The Greened-House Effect, author Jeff Wilson brings his twenty-five years of construction experience and knowledge of home building to bear on making our current houses cleaner, greener, and healthier. Think of a deep-energy retrofit (DER) as a "home makeover" - one that represents a significant investment, but that saves money from the get-go by capturing the energy you "drop on the ground" every month, every year, through inefficiency, poor design, or simply living in a typical older home.

Using his own family's DER of their 1942 home as a prime example, Wilson weaves a readable narrative at a practical, hammer-and-nail level. He presents the solutions to our building and energy problems, making them seem possible for average homeowners and small contractors by offering the right set of information, skills, and materials.

More technical information is presented in sidebars and graphs, and numerous color photos illustrate the process, including:

  • Testing the energy efficiency of your home and learning where improvements need to be made
  • Issues of local building codes and regulations
  • Financing and paying for a DER
  • Major components of the DER, such as roofs, exterior walls, basements, and home systems

Wilson's building experience, along with his lifelong passion for energy issues, all come together to form an inspirational, can-do approach to making our neighborhood, our community, our nation, and our world a better place - one home at a time.

Available in: Paperback

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The Greened House Effect

Jeff Wilson

Paperback $29.95

The Passive Solar House

The Passive Solar House

By James Kachadorian

Revised and Expanded Edition - Includes CD-ROM with Custom Design Software

For the past ten years The Passive Solar House has offered proven techniques for building homes that heat and cool themselves, using readily available materials and methods familiar to all building contractors and many do-it-yourself homeowners.

True to this innovative, straightforward approach, the new edition of this best-selling guide includes CSOL passive solar design software, making it easier than ever to heat your home with the power of the sun. Since The Passive Solar House was first published, passive solar construction expert James Kachadorian has perfected user-friendly, Windows-compatible software to supplement the design process explained in the book by allowing homeowners/designers to enter the specifications of their design and see how changing a variable will affect its energy efficiency.

This is the building book for a world of climbing energy costs. Applicable to diverse regions, climates, budgets, and styles of architecture, Kachadorian's techniques translate the essentials of timeless solar design into practical wisdom for today's solar builders. Profiles of successful passive solar design, construction, and retrofit projects from readers of the first edition provide inspiration to first-time homebuilders and renovators alike.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Passive Solar House

James Kachadorian

Hardcover $40.00

Adobe Homes for All Climates

Adobe Homes for All Climates

By Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree

The lay-up of adobe bricks is an easy, forgiving way to achieve a solid masonry-wall system. Contrary to stereotypes, adobe is perfectly adaptable for use in cold, wet climates as well as hot and dry ones, and for areas prone to earthquakes. With its efficient use of energy, natural resources for construction, and minimal effort for long-term maintenance, it’s clear that the humble adobe brick is an ideal option for constructing eco-friendly structures throughout the world.

The book is ideal both for first-time do-it-yourselfers and for experienced adobe builders seeking to improve their craft. Drawing on the experience of more than fifty major adobe projects since 1993, Adobe Homes for All Climates describes Adobe Building Systems’ patented reinforcement and scaffolding systems, showing readers how to construct adobe homes more easily and safely, and with superior strength, durability, structural integrity, and aesthetic appeal, as compared to earthen homes of the past.

All aspects of adobe construction are covered, including making and laying adobe bricks, installing lintels and arches, conduits and pipes, doors and windows, top plates and bondbeams, ideal wall dimensions, adobe finishes, and other adobe construction components, such as the inexpensive use of scaffolding. These methods will produce a premium product that will meet and often exceed inspection standards.

Equipped with this manual, you will be able to obtain a building permit, make adobe bricks swiftly, and confidently lay them up. You will be able to beautifully finish your adobe walls with earth plasters creating stunning colors and outstanding light effects and create a beautiful, energy-efficient home that will last for generations to come.

Available in: Paperback

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Adobe Homes for All Climates

Lisa Schroder, Vince Ogletree

Paperback $34.95

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

By Stephen Hren and Rebekah Hren

Solar power, once a fringe effort limited to DIY enthusiasts, is now fast becoming mainstream. Many home and business owners are curious about solar electric and solar thermal systems, and wonder how to go about getting a clean energy generation system of their own. The vast majority will hire a professional installer to do the job. But what should they be asking of these installers? What system makes the most sense for their home or office: solar electric, solar hot water, solar heating, or some combination of these?

A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office explains the options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers-the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.

The market for solar systems has been growing at an exponential rate and strong tax credits ensure continued growth even in a sluggish economy. Many of those who would like to catch this undeniable wave of the future are held back by widespread confusion. A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office clears the air, allowing property owners to move forward with confidence to make their homes and offices more comfortable, environmentally sound, and secure against wild swings in energy prices.

Available in: Paperback

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A Solar Buyer's Guide for the Home and Office

Stephen Hren, Rebekah Hren

Paperback $14.95