MAKING THE BUILDING CODE WORK FOR COB
The Uniform Building Code (UBC), used in most areas of the Western United States, does not currently recognize cob as an approved method of building. Consequently, to get a building permit, anyone wishing to build with cob in areas governed by the UBC must either ignore the code or shoehorn their cob design into something that is not cob. This situation also holds true in most areas in which other building codes are in force. Avoiding the building code may Work for some cob builders, For millions of other potential cob builders. avoidance is not an option. The code is a barrier between these people and what they wish to build. This is a problem that must be solved if cob is to become a widely accepted means of building.
The solution is obvious: CHANGE THE CODE!!!!
The best way to do this, to change the code and make it work for cob, is to create a new section for the cone which deals specifically with cob. This will allow building departments to use the code to recognize cob and deal with it on the basis of what it actually is. There is a process for amending the current code that is available to anyone. One simply submits a proposed code amendment to the ICBO. All such amendment proposals are reviewed in an annual process, and if the claims made or implied by the proposed code change can be substantiated, the amendment will be accepted, and will become a part of the next published code (new editions occur at approximately three-year intervals). The key to success is the ability of the proposal to survive the scrutiny of the review process.
To write a new cob section for the UBC, a program of basic research must be undertaken. Cob as a structural system needs to be subjected to a rigorous series of accurate tests which measure the nature, strength, and performance of cob as a building material and technique. A set of realistic cob construction standards with hard data to back them up can then be developed and used to form the basis of a reliable and believeable cob section for the UBC. The purpose of this testing will not be to negate any of the hard-won empirical knowledge about cob we now have, but rather to put measured truth to it. Nor will such testing deny the spirit and magic of cob. It will simply deal with the hard fact that when cob can be factually shown to withstand the various forces that affect buildings it can then be accepted into the building code.
For a cob testing program to be acceptable to code authorities it needs to be done within a sanctioned testing facility. Adequate funding is critical to making this happen. A relationship with a nonprofit organization interested in helping make a cob code happen needs to be established. sources of funding need to be found. I have drafted a PROPOSED COB TESTING PROGRAM as a beginning vehicle in the search for funding. Can you help to make this happen? Do you know of possible funding sources that would be interested in cob or sustainable natural building? Are you or do you know of a structural engineer or building official who is interested in earthen construction? Or do you know any other people who might be interested or want to help? If any of this speaks to you and you would like to become involved please contact:
COB CODE PROJECT c/o John Fordice 1828 Fifth Street Berkeley, Ca. 94710, (510) 549-1033 phone/fax