Interview: A Cob House Can Be Just As Luxurious And Comfortable As Any Conventional Home
In a digital era in full swing, one American has chosen to build cob homes and teach others how to live in a healthy environment. Alex Sumerall hopes that this grassroots movement will in time evolve into a living style that will draw more and more people seeking to make use of nature’s vast and accessible resource – earth. We have talked to him about his passion to mold these green homes and how people are starting to relate to these ancient building techniques in a high-tech era.
Why cob houses?
Earth has been used for thousands of years to construct buildings with. It is a material with a long list of benefits. Its good for the planet and its good for our health. I started my interest in cob as a way to build myself a non-toxic home for less money and without the need for a mortgage. My hobby eventually turned into my business, This Cob House, where I focus on educating people on the construction methods of building with earth. I primarily teach cob and rammed earth techniques. So far I have worked mostly in the Southeast United States helping others to build and consulting on projects. Cob and earthen building materials make a lot of sense for this region and I hope to see its use grow in the next decade here.
What are the main arguments you use in convincing someone to move into a cob house, especially now, in the digital era?
Cob, and earth as a building material in general, has many benefits. Today, many people want to build “Green” and be energy efficient. Cob is perfect for this. A cob home has a much smaller ecological footprint than a conventional home built today, cob homes are more energy efficient due to its thermal mass and natural indoor temperature regulation. With housing costs continuing to rise, I think cob homes are becoming a better option for people. If you can put in the time to learn how to build one yourself you can save a tremendous amount of money in the long run. In the United States, cob homes can only be built in the rural countryside usually, but this is not as much of a problem for people today since we have the internet.
You say on your blog that cob has only recently started raising interest among Americans? Why are people now more interested in such homes than they were before?
More and more Americans want to live outside of the cities and get more close to nature. I think a cob home can help people to do this and feel more connected to nature in this way. The old dreams of living in fancy homes in the cities is being replaced with a dream for a more pastoral, self-sustainable life in the country. As these feelings change, I think the interest in cob homes continues to grow.
We have noticed a growing movement in America, with people turning to nature, either by moving into tiny mobile houses or building cob or straw bale houses. Does it all come down to financial reasons or are we all re-discovering Mother Nature amid a more alert and tiring rhythm of urban life?
I think a lot of people are waking up to the realities that we’re facing in this country. You can’t buy as much for your money as you used to and living expenses continue to rise. Sometimes the only real answer is to simplify, and that’s what a lot of people are trying to do.
Romania has used cob and adobe for centuries. Yet, people in the cities are now wary about building such a home for fear this may impair their personal image. Does that stand as an argument?
There have been many poor examples of cob homes (and other types of earthen homes) coming out of the Natural Building movement. They have painted a poor image of what a cob home is. The average person doesn’t want to live in these types of examples. If we want earthen buildings to become mainstream then we need to start presenting buildings that will be accepted by people. Its a matter of funding and proper planning. There are no limits on what you can do with earthen buildings. They can be just as luxurious and comfortable as any conventional home or building today. They just have to be build right.
Give us some details about the costs, please. People always ask about the price, no matter what type of house we present.
Everyone wants to know the cost of a cob home. This question is too broad to give an accurate answer. Generally, you will spend about the same amount of money as you would for a conventional home. However you will get a better quality building for your money. If you really want to save money then you need to be involved in building it yourself. You will save a lot of money if you do the design and labor mostly yourself.
You can read about similar green houses built in Romania by clicking on this link.