Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alternative Construction

Building with Mud and Steel Frames via No Tech Magazine

A Blast from the past: Tabby and Cob houses in England:

Years ago, I taught for a season in Southwest England. We lived in an old Anglo-Saxon town -- in a thatch and cob cottage. It'd stood for 500 years. Thatch is the thick woven straw that makes the roof. The walls are a mixture of clay and straw called cob, or sometimes tabby.

The material varies, as well as the name. Cob, or tabby, is a poor man's masonry. To make it, you mix a structural material -- like straw, corn stubble, or oyster shells -- with clay or earth. It makes a solid building material. In one form, we daub mud onto wattles. Wattles are twigs woven together.

Cob was probably invented by the Phoenicians. The Carthaginians learned it from them. The Romans learned to make cob from the Carthaginians. Later, the Romans invented concrete. After that, we find walls of concrete cob that still stand today. Cob went from Rome to Spain, and into Europe and England.

The written record of tabby and cob is confusing because it has to be reinvented in every land. Mud, clay, and all the filler materials occur in such variety that the stuff defies identification. In the early 1500s, building on Tenerife expanded rapidly. Tabby was the best low-cost building material. Records say that tabby workers who came from Spain didn't know what they were doing. In fact, it simply took a while to invent techniques for using local materials.

Building with plastic bottles in Nigeria via BBC:

Hundreds of people - including government officials and traditional leaders - have been coming to see how the walls are built in the round architectural shape popular in northern Nigeria.

The bottles, packed with sand, are placed on their side, one on top of the other and bound together with mud.

"I wanted to see this building for myself as I was surprised to hear it was built from plastic bottles," said Nuhu Dangote, a trader who travelled from the state capital, Kaduna, to see the house.

"They were saying it in the market that it looks like magic, that you will be amazed when you see it, that is why I have come here to feed my eyes.

"The whole world should come and look at it."

The real beauty of the house is its outside wall as the round bottoms of the exposed bottles produce a lovely design.

But for those behind the project, its environmental benefits are what are most important.

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