Bringing cob into the 21st century

A team of researchers from the University of Plymouth have reinvented ‘cob’ transforming it into a material fit for contemporary architecture.

Historically used in southwestern England, Wales and in France, cob is an ancient building material made from a combination of soil, water and organic fibres such as hemp and straw. Many cob-based buildings still stand today, and the material is a low cost and sustainable alternative to brick and concrete as it is constructed from locally-sourced natural materials which do not need to be chemically altered. 

The Plymouth research team led by Professor Steve Goodhew have created a new material called ‘CobBauge’ which traps heat better, bringing the historic material up to thermal standards for modern-day housing. To create CobBauge, the team used the same ingredients found in traditional cob, but bound the materials together differently, using two different types of cob — a lightweight version set inside a denser one. 

Goodhew's team believes that constructing buildings with CobBauge would significantly reduce carbon emissions and construction waste as the material does not need to be heat treated (unlike traditional bricks which improves their mechanical properties). Also, the tightly packed chemical structure of the material makes it thermally efficient and buildings constructed from it would need to be heated less. 

The next step for the researchers is to create a building out of CobBauge to determine its thermal performance, energy efficiency and how the material weathers in various environmental conditions over time. 

To view more about the material, visit the website




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