They love Mud!

Photos by permission of Mudgirls Natural Building Collective
Mudgirls with a finished building.

Information courtesy of Mudgirls Natural Building Collective website

Level 3

Who are the Mudgirls?
They are a group of women on the west coast of B.C.
And they build whatever you want.  They use local, natural
and recycled materials for their projects.  They say, “We love mud!”
They build cob cabins, ovens for outdoors, and benches.
They build fences, garden sheds or houses.
If you like playing in mud, cob building is for you.

Read the PDF. Try the exercise.


Cob Houses
A cob house is made of clay, sand and straw.
The mixture is “kneaded” or mixed like bread dough.
You can mix it with your feet.
Or you can use a cement mixer for a big project.
The clay acts as the glue.
The sand makes the mixture strong.
And the straw lets the walls bend or stretch after it gets hard.
Cob is very easy to work with.
This means you can build just about any shape.
You can add color to the mud for the outside.
So, you won’t find many cob homes that look the same.
And you don’t have to keep refinishing the outside of the home.

Some cob houses in Wales are 500 years old.
People used clay because it was free.
They could find clay nearby.

Where are the Mudgirls?
People can hire the Mudgirls as a group.
Or the women will organize working groups
to help someone build.  The Mudgirls live and work
in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Saltspring Island and Denman Island.
They also work in other places around Vancouver Island.

Learn for yourself
The Mudgirls Natural Building Collective
also gives workshops. For example, people can learn
to build straw bale walls. Or they can learn
to build a small cob house.

What is a straw bale house?
Straw bale houses use bales (large packages
tied with rope or wire) of straw from barley, wheat,
rice, flax, rye or oats to build the outside walls.
Then workers cover the bales with 3 layers of plaster.

Good things about straw bale buildings
Building with straw helps the planet in many ways.
For example, straw is a waste product.
It is usually burned or composted in water.

Straw bale houses can be almost any shape.
They are cool in summer. In winter they are warm.
Straw bales are good insulation. Heat does not escape in winter.
Because of the thick walls, the houses are also quiet.
Insects and mice do not like straw bale walls.
The plaster on the walls is an inch and a half thick.

Straw bale houses are safe
Straw bale houses use 47% less lumber than wood houses.
They are more fire resistant than wood frame houses.
The straw in the walls is very tight or compact.
So, there is very little oxygen.
Fires don’t burn well without oxygen.
Try to burn a phonebook. It takes a very long time to burn.

Other good things
These straw bale houses are ten times better
at holding up the roof and other parts above them.
These houses last longer. There are straw bale houses
in Canada and the U.S. which are 100 years old.

In Canada, the “average” cost to build a house
is $120 per square foot.  A straw bale house will cost
about 20% more to build.  But it costs 20% less to heat one.

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