Building an Affordable Home From Earthen Materials

A guide to building an affordable home from earthen materials, including the pros and cons of adobe, cob, rammed-earth and soil-filled tire techniques.



A cob cottage in Oregon, with cob garden walls and outdoor fireplace.
A cob cottage in Oregon, with cob garden walls and outdoor fireplace.
PHOTO: NIGEL VALDEZ
Cob proponents Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley.
Cob proponents Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley.
SHAY SALOMON
Habitat for Humanity workers build an adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Habitat for Humanity workers build an adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
COURTESY SANTA FE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Children help build what will eventually be a cob playhouse.
Children help build what will eventually be a cob playhouse.
DAN CHIRAS
This
This mudcat made by Kiko Denzer demonstrates the sculptural potential of cob.
KIKO DENZER
This adobe home sits in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.
This adobe home sits in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.
COURTESY LAURA SANCHEZ
Earthbag construction is easy to learn.
Earthbag construction is easy to learn.
DAN CHIRAS
Used tires packed with earth can be laid like giant bricks to form walls, which are then plastered.
Used tires packed with earth can be laid like giant bricks to form walls, which are then plastered.
DAN CHIRAS
Earthbag construction lends itself well to curves and arched features.
Earthbag construction lends itself well to curves and arched features.
DAN CHIRAS
The author's passive-solar home in Colorado combines rammed-earth and straw-bale techniques.
The author's passive-solar home in Colorado combines rammed-earth and straw-bale techniques.
DAN CHIRAS

















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