THE three little pigs didn’t quite have it right, it should have been clay, straw, sand and water – mixed. Or at least that is the message from the Boghill Centre in Kilfenora, which is about to host a course on cob building.
“Traditional building methods such as cob building are gaining popularity, offering affordability in both the construction and the ongoing heating requirements, a low carbon footprint, not to mention the fact that anyone can build with cob,” said Kim Harrison of the centre.
The word cob means lump or rounded mass. It is made by mixing clay with straw, sand and water, which is then trodden onto the wall in a process known as cobbing.
This ancient building material has been around since prehistoric times and was even tackled last year on Channel 4 building programme, Grand Designs.
“Cob and other forms of earth building have been used in various climates all over the globe, including Ireland. It has a long life-span even in rainy climates so long as the structure has a tall foundation and a large roof overhang to shelter the walls from driving rain,” Kim explained.
Cob building is very low-tech, requiring only simple tools but a large amount of time.
“Unlike conventional modern buildings with heavy cement blocks, cob is a very democratic building material. You can pick up large or small handfuls of the mixture, meaning that anyone can join in, the elderly, small children, it’s not the exclusive domain of well-muscled young men,” she continued.
“The really nice thing about this material is that it is easily sculpted, so you don’t need to have any hard edges and space-wasting corners. Your creativity is unleashed as you shape an aesthetically pleasing structure, curving and undulating in whatever way you wish,” Kim added.
Cob also has good humidity regulation and sound insulation, plus it is non-toxic and non-allergenic. It requires little energy to construct compared to modern building methods and materials and sourcing the materials locally means it has a very low environmental impact.
The thick walls, usually around 24cm, have a high thermal mass, which means they have the ability to store heat within the wall and release it very slowly.
This year, the Boghill Centre is launching a cob building programme. The first structures to be built will be two small huts, constructed as part of a series of educational workshops for people wanting a hands-on learning experience.
They will be test projects for much larger future plans – the building of an ecological living centre made out of Cob.
Boghill Cob building weekends start this Friday to Sunday offering hands-on experience in the construction of a small cob building, including windows, doors, glass bottle facades and a living roof.
More information on the events, which also run from March 26 to 28 is available from www.boghill.com or by calling 065 7074644.