This study was performed by Kathy Bevers and Per Kielland-Lund as a requirement for Environmental Control Systems I, Fall 2003, at University of Oregon. We decided to explore the thermal characteristics of cob buildings, as cob is a building technique with obvious advantages (low cost, simple construction, large thermal mass), while it also has potential weaknesses (low insulative value). It is a technique that is experiencing a revival, but there is a lack of research on its characteristics and its appropriateness as a building technique in various conditions.

We found our hypothesis in The Hand-Sculpted House by Ianto Evans: Heat flows through cob at the rate of an inch per hour. To test this hypothesis, we spent two weekends at a 120 square foot cob cottage at Maitreya Ecovillage in Eugene, Oregon. We installed temperature sensors at one inch increments in the cob wall, fired a wood stove for 12 hours, and gathered data at 10 minute intervals for a total of 54 hours. The data showed that the peak temperatures at the various depths in the wall were staggered, with deeper sensors recording peaks later than shallower sensors. The time lag was equivalent to a heat flow rate of 2.7 inches per hour. This is a significantly higher rate than our hypothesis states, but may partly be explained by an indoor temperature during the heating period that was significantly higher than typical indoor temperature (90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to typical indoor temperatures of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit).

home | abstract | intro | hypothesis | methods | data
analysis | conclusions | appendix | acknowledgments

Cob Comfort - a study of heat transfer through cob walls
Kathy Bevers | Per Kielland-Lund | Arch 591 Fall 2003 | GTF: Sara Goenner