The first building in the country to be made from an upgraded version of cob material has earned an award for its visionary approach to sustainable construction.
The CobBauge Building, at the heart of the University of Plymouth campus, is a single-storey structure enabling researchers to fully assess the performance and capabilities of the new walling material.
It will also enable the technique to be demonstrated to researchers and students, as well as others who may want to deploy it in the future including building designers, contractors, housing associations and policy makers.
The building, completed in 2022, has now earned the award for Best Commercial Sustainable Construction project at the Plymouth City Council Building Control LABC awards.
Steve Goodhew, Professor of Environmental Building
Professor Steve Goodhew
Professor Steve Goodhew, Professor of Environmental Building and CobBauge Project lead, said:
“Over the past five years, the CobBauge project has transformed the approach to monolithic earthen architecture in the South West of the UK and the north of France. The project’s six partners have worked tirelessly to bring an ancient and environmentally beneficial walling system into the 21st  century. This award is a further validation of that work and we are excited to see how the advances we have made can continue to drive innovation in sustainable construction.”
The award is the latest accolade for the CobBauge Project, which was supported by more than €4million in funding from the Interreg (Channel) and involved partners from the UK and France.
These included Builders for Society (formerly Ecole Supérieure d'ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction (ESITC)), Parc naturel régional des Marais du Contentin et du Bessin (PnrMCB), Earth Building UK and Ireland (EBUKI), Université de Caen, and Hudson Architects.
The project was a winner in the 2019 RegioStars Awards, in the category devoted to sustainability, and then shortlisted in the Research with Impact category of the 2022 Green Gown Awards, they were awarded the RISE award for Field and Laboratory Research and were a finalist in the CIOB awards for Sustainability.
In addition to researching and refining the updated cob technique, the project has now resulted in the construction of three buildings.
As well as the one of the University campus, a prototype building was built with its unique dual layer system in Normandy and a residential building is currently being completed in Fakenham, Norfolk.
More than 30 training videos have been produced by two project partners, EBUKI and PnrMCB, to ensure that interested parties can access the fundamental skills needed to build using the new techniques.
The partners have also published seven journal and conference papers, with many more currently being prepared.
The CobBauge Wash-up event took place at Builders for Society in Caen, France during March this year. Over two days, it included the presentation of results from the prototype buildings in the UK and France. Each partner presented on the completion of each stage of the project.

CobBauge: offering an ultra-low carbon alternative to concrete

Cob houses have existed in the south of England and northern France for centuries, however the construction industry had previously been unable to create a cob material that meets new thermal and structural building regulations.
The CobBauge project, led by the University of Plymouth, has sought to change that and demonstrate that the ancient technique – which involves mixing earth and natural fibres with water – has a role to play in the future of the construction industry.
Close up of cobbauge - The cob mix focusing on the soil
Thermal image of Plymouth taken by Matthew Fox, Environmental Building Group - Special Commendation in Visions of Sustainability 2015

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