About Cob: A Building Material of Clay, Sand, Straw & Water

Monday, November 12th, 2007

722 W. Grand, Chicago, IL 60654  Map

Miguel Elliott

722 W. Grand

722 W. Grand

For this post we’re changing pace and not discussing a single building but a company and technique that can be seen in a variety of locations around town: cob. Miguel Elliott is owner of ChiCobCo, which has produced a variety of cob sculptures and structures, of which the most elaborate is the interior and exterior of the Butterfly Social Club shown here. Other projects include a community garden bench in Cabrini Green, a bench outside of True Nature Foods, and Elliott’s own Yoga Now studio.

For the uninitiated, cob is a building material consisting of clay, sand, straw, water, and earth, similar to adobe (language via Wikipedia). It is considered a green building material because it relies solely on local material and requires very little energy to produce. Like most archaic building materials, we haven’t seen much application of cob around Chicago. One barrier to use of these materials on a large scale is a lack of formal research on their structural capacity and fire resistance, limiting them to decorative applications. However, the use of this technique around the world shows that it is suitable for one- and two-story structures. I believe an important reason formal research hasn’t occurred for these materials is because there isn’t an organized industry or trade group to fund such research – production tends to be highly local.

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