Building With Cob: A Step-by-step Guide


Cob building uses a simple mixture of clay subsoil, aggregate, straw, and water to create solid structural walls, built without shuttering or forms, on a stone plinth. This ancient practice has been used throughout Britain for centuries – in fact, the material is so strong and durable that it is currently in use for forty-five thousand houses in Cornwall, a county in southern England. Building With Cob: A Step-by-step Guide, by Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, covers everything from design, planning, and siting to roofs, insulation, and floors. It is lavishly illustrated with more than three hundred inspirational color photographs. The authors have recently been commissioned to build a thirty-classroom school in England in 2006; it will be the largest new cob construction project in the Western hemisphere.

House of 5 Dreams


House of 5 Dreams, by Jones Studio is a 30,000 square foot residence/private museum created to serve the needs of a pair of prolific art and artifact collectors. Knowing that much of their collection had been excavated, the decision was made to place exhibition space below the horizon and contained within 4-foot thick rammed earth walls. Above the gallery, a floating residential pavillion is spatially composed of translucent light.

Vote for Earth

The Association La Voute Nubienne is involved in a fascinating project with friends in France and Burkina Faso in the construction of vaulted earth roofed houses. The Nubian vault is an ancient architectural technique, traditionally used in Sudan and central Asia, but until now unknown in West Africa, which can accelerate appropriate house-building in the Sahel. The technique uses basic, readily available, ecologically sound, local materials (earth, water, rocks…) and simple, easily learned procedures. The major cost element is labour, so cash stays in the local economy. In Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo, trained VN builders are becoming independent entrepreneurs. Lots of photos, and a video, of AVN houses and other buildings (a church, a mosque, guest-houses…) can be see on their website.

Last month, they put in a bid to Ashoka (a global foundation promoting social entrepreneurship) for their Changemakers competition on “How to Provide Affordable Housing.”, and we have just been informed that we are amongst the 13 finalists shortlisted by a panel of five distinguished judges. Of these 13 finalists, 3 are to be chosen for the competition prizes by online voting, which must be done by October 16th. I’m writing to ask you whether you might spare a bit of time to have a look at this shortlist, and to vote for them (and for two other of the short-listed projects).

If they win one of the three prizes, the money will be used to finance the training of more AVN apprentices during the coming winter building season in Burkina Faso. And I can assure you that this is a very worthwhile, sustainable project : Nazira and I stayed in a VN guest-house in Boromo, Burkina Faso, last January, and can vouch for the quality and comfort of the buildings.

Each voter is required to cast votes for three of the projects – otherwise your vote is rendered invalid. (Ashoka say this is a good way of ensuring fair play, and has worked well in past competitions). The deadline for voting is October 16, 2006. The Changemakers Innovation Award winners will be announced on October 17, 2006.

This is where to go to see the short-list and to vote online :

10th International Conference on the Study and Conservation of Earthen Architecture

The 10th International Conference on the Study and Conservation of Earthen Architecture will be held in February 2008 in Bamako, Mali, West Africa. The conference is organized by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Ministry of Culture of Mali with the collaboration of Africa 2009, CRATerre-ENSAG , ICOMOS South Africa, and the World Heritage Centre, under the aegis of ICOMOS and its International Scientific Committee on the Earthen Architectural Heritage. Three hundred international specialists in the fields of earthen architecture, conservation, archaeology, scientific research and site management are expected to attend.