‘Mud house’ rising in Bayambang
By Yolanda Sotelo
BAYAMBANG – You may visit the site and dabble in mud for an hour or so, so you would get the feel of natural building process.
This was an invitation from independent film maker Christopher Gozum who is building his dream house – a three bedroom bungalow type in a village of this central Pangasinan town.
Gozum is constructing a house using mostly sustainable materials like bamboo, river stones, coconut lumber and cob (a mixture of soil, water and hay), sawdust, and lime.
“This is a cob house,” he says of the rising structure which looks incongrous in a neighborhood where houses have contemporary architectural designs. “We are using materials that are abundant and readily available in the locality.”
Its as old as time, Gozum, says of cob building.
“’Cob’ is actually a very ancient technology. The cob houses in Europe and America managed to survive through the centuries and they now fetch substantial amount of money,” Gozum explains.
The technology is being revived by environmental activists and sustainable architecture advocates who wanted to go back to “natural building,” Gozum says.
And it just seems natural for this film maker to build a mud house. After all, he founded the independent film company Cine Caboloaan, which is “committed to producing films about the Pangasinan province and its people in the homeland and in the diaspora.” His films included Anak Banwa (Child of the Sun) a story on Pangasinan province and which used Pangasinan language, and Lawas kan Pinabli (Forever Loved), an experimental documentary on “darker side” of OFWs’ life in the Middle East.
His passion for advocating the preservation and promotion of Pangasinan language and its culture extends to building for his family a house with mostly organic materials.
He calls the house “Abong na Ilalam” or house of imagination, and posts the construction activities in his Facebook account as he invites those interested to learn about cob, or mud, building, to come for a “workshop.”
“Learn how to build an inexpensive house using local and natural materials like mud, sand, bamboo, rice straw, cogon, boulder stones, lime and wine bottles. With with your own hands and feet, and with your imagination and heart,” his post reads.
Building with earth materials has been long practiced in Pangasinan, with most churches and old buildings made of bricks.
“But making bricks is not sustainable as you need plenty of wood, which means cutting down trees, to fire the bricks. With cob, you only need the sun for drying the mud and rice straw mixture,” he says.
Gozum hired three experts on cob building from northern Luzon who, while working, teach local workers on the technology.
But this is a sort of modern cob house, as unlike the very ancient cob houses which used cogon grass for roofing, Gozum decided to use galvanized iron sheets more practical reasons. He likewise used concrete posts instead of lumber to spare the trees that would have gone into the construction.
Gozum uses concrete and hollow blocks for the foundation, and saves the earth dug (also from the septic tank) to be a component of the cob. The hollow blocks would later be covered with river stones for a natural appearance.
“Around 97 percent of the wall would be made of cob. Only the walls of the bathroom and the part of the kitchen where the sink would be put, would be concreted,” he says.
During the Inquirer’s visit, the second week of the construction, the house’ frame was already standing, with the wattle, or woven strips of bamboo and coconut lumber that would serve as wall panels, already in place. Some workers were busy with sifting the soil; others were mixing the earth, rice straws (which were soaked overnight) and water with their bare feet. Others were daubing the cob into the wattle.
“This is just the first daub,” worker says. A finer cob would be daubed next, and the finally, the eight-inch thick walls would be plastered with lime that would protect the cob from elements. A half-meter awning or extension of the roof would surround the house also to keep rain at bay.
The floor would be made of cob, too, he says, and would be painted with acrylic which is water resistant, so the floors wont turn muddy.
Gozum says aside from being inexpensive, cob houses are healthy because they are made of natural materials. They also leave less carbon footprints because it uses less materials that are industrially-produced like cement.
And for a filmmaker like him, cobs offer good acoustic inside. “I would be using one room to edit my films, so I would need a room with good acoustic that the cob walls provide,” he says.
As a further pitch for cob houses, Gozum says one feels a kind there is a kind of serenity inside which cannot be had with houses made of concrete.
Around the house, Gozum has planted indigenous trees like banaba, balinghasay, sablot, botong and Philippine ipil.
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