This time, I want to show you how building naturally truly is in harmony with how humans have lived for most of our existence.
First, let's take a quick peek inside the typical North American (NA) home's outside walls today, starting with the innermost layer:
- Paint (doesn't have to be toxic but usually is)
- Drywall/plasterboard (gypsum is mined and the slurry dried with natural gas; paper is milled from trees)
- Studs (usually milled and kiln-dried wood but can be metal)
- Insulation (fibreglass is natural but heated to 1450º C; polystyrene is plastic/petroleum)
- Vapour barrier/plastic (toxic and made from fossil fuel)
- Pressed wood chips/plywood (the glue that holds everything together is toxic)
- Siding (usually made of plastic but could be wood or metal)
- Paint (exterior paint is often toxic)
Now let's look at Fast Cob!, starting with the innermost layer:
- Paint (this is optional, milk-based and completely natural)
- Plaster (I use cow manure and clay in equal parts; again completely natural with no heat required)
- Cob (sand, clay, and straw; the water dries out naturally)
- Plaster (if I bother, I use a natural plaster again)
So how does building naturally help the planet?
For the building phase, it would be more accurate to say it doesn't harm the planet, unless you consider displacing harmful practices helpful. But since very few trees are killed to build a Fast Cob! home, it could also be argued that more trees live and therefore help the planet by continuing to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Fast Cob! doesn't need electricity or fossil fuels, making it ideal for any location. Of course fossil fuels make it easier and faster (like everything else) to get the material you need (sand/clay/straw for the walls, rock/cement for foundations, wood/beams/metal for roof), but when the oil runs dry, we'll still be Fast Cobbing!
But what makes Fast Cob! really stand out and help the planet is the heating/cooling aspect of it and the inherent recyclability of it.
About half of the very significant amount of energy used in each NA home is for heating and/or cooling.
Cob homes naturally absorb and release heat. They are a thermal mass more than an insulating mass, although you won't feel a draft through a cob wall. So when there's heat in the air, the walls suck it up and when the walls are warmer than the surrounding air, they release the heat, warming up the inside of the building.
This is most noticeable in the hot summers here. It is always cooler in cob buildings than being outside (unless you're in the forest;). In the winter, cob buildings allow for less wood burning since they release the heat they store when the fire goes out (assuming you are using a wood stove to heat). Waking up in a reasonably warm home is possible without oil, gas. or electricity! I wake up to 16º C all winter long without having a fire through the night. And even in the hottest part of summer, I never need air conditioning and rarely a fan (which is solar-powered).
Add a greenhouse to the south side of your building and you can take a month off of your heating needs in both the Spring and Fall! I've already had a no fire day and night and it's not even March yet...unfortunately, Global Warming has to take some of that credit.
But with a smart, south/SE-facing design, passive solar will heat your home for free whenever the suns shines. Helping the planet can really help you, too!
Recycle? Who doesn't love to recycle? We've become experts at it and most households recycle much more than the garbage they produce.
Well if you're a recycler, you're gonna love Fast Cob!
There literally is ZERO waste with Fast Cob! Sure, you're going to spill some sand and clay here and there, but all of it can simply be put on another tarp for the next round of Fast Cob! brick making. Or left on the ground to build the cob subfloor...cob floors are gorgeous and if done right, you can tap dance to your heart's content with nary a mark left.
What if we zoom ahead 400 or 500 years from now? What do we do with the cob buildings that have just started to crumble? Use the material to rebuild, of course! Can't say that for any of the material that goes into a typical NA home today, unfortunately.
The easiest wall I ever built was from the wall that fell over. As embarrassing as that sounds, I was so grateful because not only did I learn (the hard way) to take tarping more seriously, I rebuilt that wall stronger and faster than ever before. All the material I needed was right there!
Even the waste from trimming or the bits that fall off the wall when you're putting on bricks can be recycled or simply left to meld back into the earth. If the human species is wiped off the earth by Climate Change (likely because not enough people switched to Fast Cob!):, all our cob building will gently become one with with earth again, back where it came from.
Conventional building practices produce garbage from 10-15% of the materials brought onto site. That includes nails, insulation, plastic, rebar, milled wood. These have and sometimes still do contain lead, asbestos and other hazardous substances.
Not so with Fast Cob! Not only can you build your dream home without going into debt, you can build with a clean conscience and without the hassle and expense of throwing a large portion of your expensive building materials into the dump. Any "waste" on a Fast Cob! building site gently melds into the earth without costing you an arm or a leg.
Next time, we'll look at health and beauty...it's not just for humans anymore! As you can read from the list of materials above, Fast Cob! buildings are truly healthy buildings, now and for hundreds of years to come. And this health and beauty is hand sculpted from the ground up...I can hardly wait to share more you!