Photo Essay: Building a Handmade Cob House

Self-sufficiency does not happen in a day, a week, or even a year. It takes time and effort.
cob interior wall

Brian Liloia had never built anything before he took on the task of building his own home.  See how he turned a mixture of straw, clay, and sand into a uniquely cozy place to live.

Click here to play the slideshow.

Photos courtesy of Brian Liloia

Finished HouseUnplugged in Missouri: Meet Brian


I live at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, an intentional community in Northeast Missouri devoted to sustainable living. We have a few ecological covenants that members agree to live by, but beyond those guidelines (one states that all energy must come from renewable sources, and another that says all lumber must come from reclaimed or sustainable sources), it is up to members to decide how they want to live. There is nothing stating that members must eat only local food, or that they can only drive some number of miles in a vehicle per year – members make choices based on their own ecological values, under the umbrella of the ecological covenants.

To live sustainably, in my eyes, means to live a lifestyle that can continue forever, to use resources that are immediately available, and to avoid causing deep and irreparable ecological harm. Since I can’t make my own solar panels or wind turbine or deep cycle batteries, I’ve decided to live without electricity in my cob home. I am interested in crafting a lifestyle that is self-sufficient, not dependent on resources from afar, and does not include things that I cannot make for myself. Unfortunately, electricity will never be generated without having some ecological impact in its creation.

Self-sufficiency does not happen in a day, a week, or even a year–it takes time and effort. It requires looking at the world through a different set of eyes than the ones our progress- and wealth-driven culture have given us.

My electricity usage is clearly not zero (I am typing this on a computer, after all), but I have cut down on my need for it significantly. Ultimately, it’s important to realize what is possible (and probable) with the goal of living a no-impact lifestyle. Do light bulbs and computers and power tools fit into a sustainable future scenario?  You be the judge…


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