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Consent for Cob House

Consent for Cob House

Posted 25 Jun '12 11:00 PM

Hi Folks,

I'm looking for information on small owner built cob houses in NZ and any advice on the resource consent processes involved.

It seems most of the projects I come across are done without permits as the consent process is so costly and terribly complex.

Does anyone have experience building with cob and or getting a building consent for the structure? Does anyone have experience using the earth building standards?

We'd also like to install a compost toilet and grey water recycling system - both owner designed and built.

Has anyone achieved this and had a council approve? Are there any councils that are more friendly towards such projects?

I'm feeling rather frustrated and discouraged with the seemingly endless rules and restrictions in the building codes and costly consent process.

Thanks! Asha

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 26 Jun '12 02:05 AM

Asha, your best bet would be to get in touch with Graeme North, he has designed and got permits for cob/instu adobe buildings in the past and seems to know the ins and outs of the rediculous restrictions. Also I would recommend joining EBANZ (earth building association of NZ), a good way of meeting like minded people and keeping up to date with local events, news and workshops.

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 26 Jun '12 11:45 PM

Thanks for the helpful info Just do it. I have been on Graeme's website and he seems like a good person to talk to.


Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 23 Feb '13 10:54 AM

as above join ebanz check out 'solid earth' do the workshop & any other that you can. go to the ebanz labour weekend house tours etc if your design conforms to the earth building standards the council has no choice but to permit. the only tricky bit depending on your design & how much passive solar etc. it may not pass thermally at first glance &you may have to get someone to do do a different calculation to prove compliance. i would suggest adding some lightweight/air entrapping aggregate ie sawdust pumice hemp herds to the cob mix along with lotsa straw good luck go for it we need lots more earth homes to set an example

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 23 Feb '13 10:56 AM

ps what part of the country are you looking at building in?

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 24 Feb '13 04:13 AM

Hi wyllie,

Thanks for the reply.

We want to build in the Far North up near Kerikeri. The building will be north facing with an insulated timbre frame roof, thus taking advantage of passive solar heat. We're in the design stages now and are considering our insulation options.

Like much of the country, the Far North desperately needs affordable, healthy homes - so hopefully we can eventually help to popularize the technique up that way.

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 24 Feb '13 08:00 AM

awesome take youve gone with graeme for the design it'l be great physically & harmonically. i am just about to start a renovation on an old shed, & we are going to try light earth mix for ceiling insulation. get back if you want details of how it goes, also if you want an xtra pair of hands when you build

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 08 Mar '13 05:27 AM

We're doing the design ourselves, but will likely consult with someone once we're ready.

Your project sounds interesting. By "light earth mix" do you mean like a clay straw slip, wattle and daub?

Thanks for the offer of help, it's more than welcome! We may organize a cob workshop so others can join in and learn the process. Unfortunately, looks like we won't get building until 2014 though!

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 13 Jul '13 09:47 AM

Hi ash. I've just been reading about your project on this forum and it sounds so interesting! My husband and I have just finished building an adorable cob sleep out. It's under 10m2 so no consent required. Such a beautiful building and very affordable... Will probably be around for longer than the main house on my father in laws property! Now my husband and I are getting plans drawn up for a straw ale house with cob walls inside. It has an 80m2 footprint with 1 bedroom downstairs and small loft bedrooms upstairs to utilise the roof space (1 1/2 story). I am not sure if it sounds like something you may be interested in but the architect we're working with is wonderful and has allowed us to potentially pass the plans onto others paying him only a small fee. I find part of what makes natural building unavailable to so many is the cost of plans (often about 20,000) ... So if we can cut this cost out, or massively down for fellow natural builders, it's got to help make it more main stream... I would think. Anyway if you would like go chat more about our project/your project/ natural building stuff just drop me a line! If we are in north And we would be happy to help you stomp some mud!

Cheers, Shaye

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 14 Jul '13 11:53 AM

would love to hear more about above build! & good on you for making plans accessable

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 12:26 AM

Hi Wyllie :)

Thanks for your message. Yes, we are SO excited about building our house, and even more excited about getting natural building out there! We have been obsessed ever since reading "The Hand Sculpted House" 2 years ago... Wow, what a great book!

Our strawbale house will be passive solar with earthen floors, bale walls for external walls (massive insulation), cob (or wattle and daub) on the inside for thermal mass to hold in the heat that is absorbed during the day. Having the mass on the inside insulated by the bales helps to regulate the temperature of the house. We'll have earthen plasters on the inside and a layer of cob followed by lime plaster on the outside.

The upstairs (held withing the 'attic' space of the roof) has 3 small bedrooms for kids, which opens up onto a large shared playroom. There is also a small bathroom. A long dormer window makes the space feel light and airy.

Downstairs there is a master bedroom, a bathroom, a 'conversation room' and a country kitchen. There is a porch surrounding the house and so the laundry will go outside under the porch at the back the house.

We're aiming to use as many reclaimed materials as we can and have got 5 solid rimu doors, a claw foot bath, a window and a few other bits and bobs so far.

We will also have a composting toilet system - it will look like a normal flush toilet, but the 'waste' will be sent to a tank full of worms to turn it into humanure. All greywater will be sent to a tank and dispersed in the garden.

Our budget is $150,000 - but we're hoping we can come in at less than that. It's hard to know because you get different figures when talking to different people. I think we could do it for less. I am looking forward to knowing the exact amount we build it for so we can say to others with confidence "You can build your own beautiful home for X amount". The idea is to have a house that is magnificent to live in, cheap to run and will last centuries with the correct maintenance... built for a heck of a lot less than a standard stick frame kiwi home. If we can do this, then I see no reason why natural building will not become mainstream.

Realistically building doesn't need to be as expensive as it is. When we simplify a home to what we really need (and cut out all the s***), so many expenses can be done away with... We built our little cob sleepout for $1500 and if you put 3-4 of those together, linked by little corridors, it would be absolutely fine for a couple or small family. A cute house that will last centuries for under $10,000. Makes so much sense! Of course that doesn't take into account labour as it's free when you do it! But hey, I'd rather be building with mud anyday than watching TV :P

How did your light earth mix for the ceiling insulation go? That is an idea that interests me!

Cheers, Shaye

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 12:30 AM

Hi Shaye,

Thanks for your interest. Like Wyllie, I'm really interested to know more about how your small cob build went. If you have anything you can share - blog, pictures, insight into the process, we'd love to see it! You could get Ecobob to do a feature on it, that would be awesome...

Interestingly, my husband and I are planning to do the same thing - the small 10m2 (cob or timber) and then a larger house (80-100m2) - a large A-frame single room space with loft and outdoor shower/compost toilet. It sounds very similar to your plans. We are very interested in the whole process and have opted to do as much as we can on the build i.e. from the design to actually building it. This saves a lot of money and from a personal and creative stand point there couldn't be anything better than designing and building your own home.

I am not very familiar with the cost of hiring an architect, but 20,000 seems very excessive - especially when our house budget is just a little more than that!

We're really interested in the natural building movement also and are keen to have help with our build and help others where and when we can. Thanks for the offer to stomp mud, I'm sure we'll be calling on you and Wyllie at some point in the next year or two.

Shaye & Wyllie where abouts are you guys located?


Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 12:41 AM

light earth build on hold awaiting finance, but ceiling probably wont happen due to worries about rafters etc being strong enough, but it is an old established insulation in russia & the like. what sort of frame are you planning, or are you going 'load bearing' strawbale & whereabouts are you guys?

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 12:51 AM

We are tied up in the northern hemisphere at the moment - trying to make our way back to "the land" in the Far North bordering Puketi Forest : ) What about you?

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 03:00 AM

Hi Asha,

Great to hear from you! It's always exciting being in touch with other natural builders :)

I emailed so many architects for quotes and $15,000-$20,000 was pretty much the average. I know.. eeek. Perhaps hiring a draftsperson would be cheaper? Having said that Asha - your plans sound VERY similar to ours... perhaps you could reuse them, or modify them slightly and that will cut costs hugely. Talks with our architect are that they will re-sell for around $1000. Food for thought anyway :)

It's such a good idea to build a little building first - we learnt SUCH a lot from ours... Firstly we learnt that building in winter can be VERY hard when you don't have an easily accessible building site. We also learnt that cob is super labour intensive - BUT - extremely easy to do and a WONDERFUL result! We also learnt that in summer it dries SO fast - but in winter it dries really slowly! In summer we would go 20-30cm up in a days cobbing... wait 2 days for it to dry... and then do another layer. In winter we did our final layer of cob and it is still drying... I expect it might take until summer. So we're waiting on that before we finish it off with a lime plaster. Cob is beautiful though, such a friendly material :)

We're actually starting a website on our adventures in natural building... I've just designed the header image which has a picture of our cob sleepout, as well as me and my husband cobbing. I have attached it to this post, so lets hope it shows up :) Our website will be - if you want to check it out. I'll probably write the first post next week or so. exxxxciting (sorry, I really am a natural building nerd!).

We are located in Waitakere - West Auckland. I am originally from Zimbabwe, but my husband has lived out West his whole life.

Asha - are you subscribed to EBANZ (earth building association NZ)? I get their magazine every couple of months and the last issue had info on a cob bulding workshop which i think was going to take place up north. The focus was building an affordable cob home. It could be interesting to look into :) If you want the details, just let me know.

Fun Fun!

Cheers, Shaye

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 03:00 AM

Oops, I forgot to attach the image - I'll try again...

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 03:03 AM

It showed up really small - so I've attached the original photo of our cob sleepout. There are plenty more photos but I don't want to spam this post!

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 10:35 AM

what a cutie! i love it! are you planning on putting on an earth plaster before the lime plaster? am just reading a really good book from the library 'building with cob a step by step guide' (along with rereading 'the hand sculptrd house') an english book with lots of great ideas nice plan for earth floor etc. look forward to reading your web. at present i am located in Levin

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 15 Jul '13 11:24 PM

Hi Wyllie,

There's no need to do an earthen plaster first before applying the lime, as the cob mixture is basically exactly the same as earthen plaster... As far as we have learnt and read... There is no chemical bonding which takes place between the lime and cob - it's purely physical (the lime gets wedged into little scrapes, holes, grooves, etc) - so as long as our cob layer is rough enough, it should be fine. We tried to leave it rough, although the temptation was to make it 'pretty' as we went along! We may need to wet it down a little and scratch it up a bit more.

Those books you are reading are excellent... I especially loved the hand sculpted house! The hand sculpted house is what prompted my love of natural building.

We're actually just getting a trailer made in Levin... we're building a tiny house on it, to live in while we build our strawbale :)

Cheers, Shaye

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 16 Jul '13 12:00 AM

What great little sleep-out. Thanks for all the good info, it's nice to hear from someone who's built/building in NZ.

I use the EBANZ website but am not a member and I don't get their newsletter, but thanks for the recommendation.

I have to confess I am a huge natural building nerd, too. The Hand Sculpted House by Linda Smilely & Itano Evans is the THE go to book. I read it cover to cover when it arrived and it's no small book. We also own Building with Cob: a step by step giude - another great book!

I see you're also interested in the tiny house movement, too! You two may already know these sites but I'll share them just in case you don't. I love these sites for all the great photos and stories:

Also, Lloyd Khan's books are amazing, more great photographs of tiny homes, hand built houses and alternative dwellings than you can imagine.

Let us know when you launch your website, I'm sure it will be a great resource.

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 16 Jul '13 04:34 AM

maybee we can catch up for a coffee/chat when you collect it

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 19 Aug '13 12:57 AM

hi we are living in the far north and plan to build an alternative home. leaning at the moment towards cob so anyone care to share ideas and advice on permits etc we are also willing to lend "hands on help/labour to anyone in the process of building... and if anyone knows of any courses please let us know thanks Phil and Michelle

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 19 Aug '13 06:13 AM

Hi Phil and Michelle,

Welcome! It's great to hear that you're planning an alternative building and possibly using cob. Are you planning on designing the house yourselves? Where abouts are you in the Far North? Seems the clay soils up this way will make great cob!

My husband and I are in the design stages and are likely to start building sometime next year but we're not certain of the time. At this stage, there's not a lot of advice we can give but if we organize a building workshop I'll be sure to let you know as we'll be looking for help and wanting to help others gain the skill/confidence to build their own.


Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 19 Aug '13 08:02 AM

Hi Asha Great, we would love to be involved if you run a workshop. We are just at the talking around the table stage at the moment, but very keen. Have a rough plan we have drawn up, but very open to ideas. We are in Houhora, approx 40km north of Kaitaia. Our original plans were to go with straw bale, but going with local product points us in the direction of cob. Phil and Michelle

Re: Consent for Cob House

Posted 19 Aug '13 10:46 PM

Hi Phil, Michelle and Asha,

So cool to hear you are all building natural homes :)

We are building a strawbale house in West Auckland towards the end of the year - it will have a big cob wall in the center of the house. Cob is actually really easy to build with and I don't think you guys will have any problems :) We built our little cob studio after a 1 days workshop with Graeme North ( - he runs workshops from time to time and if there were enough people interested, I'm sure he would run another.

If you have any questions, although we're far from profession yet, I can try answer :)

Cheers Shaye P.S. Have you read "The Hand Sculpted House" - an absolute gem of a book, about cob.
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