UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the use of cob and/or straw bale construction in non-residential buildings Rezaiean-Asel, Armin; Lee, Joey; Lee, Kenneth; Nerpio, Justin

Abstract

The University of British Columbia (UBC) Farm regularly offers a variety of activities, learning experiences, and general community programs on its land and is therefore planning to construct a new “UBC Farm Centre” in order to meet the needs for additional space. The farm has decided to explore the possibility of building either a portion of the building, or the entire building, with cob and/or straw. In addition to conducting a triple-bottom line assessment, an analysis of three separate case studies was done to examine the successes and failures of previous cob and straw bale construction projects, before outlining findings from primary and secondary research. Primary research was conducted in the form of a survey that polled the views of over 200 individuals regarding certain questions that arose in the social consideration of cob and/or straw bale construction, discussed in more detail in section 5.0 of this report. As for secondary research, a number of academic journals and scientific reports were consulted when researching the benefits and drawbacks of using these alternative construction materials in the UBC Farm’s construction project. It was assumed that the cob and straw materials would be coming from a source near UBC and that the Farm would not be seeking cob or straw from any location outside of British Columbia. Another constraint that arose was that two of the case studies are of lodges, rather than purely non-residential buildings. The building principles involved in designing the infrastructures described in the case study section are similar to those that will apply to the UBC Farm Centre, due to size and purpose of the buildings. After the research was conducted and correlated, it became clear that both materials possessed a variety of environmental benefits versus traditional construction materials of wood and cement. They also proved to be more economically feasible, despite shorter life cycle than traditional construction materials, and provided positive social impact. Each material had its own strengths in terms of heat distribution, insulation, and other factors that will be mentioned in more detail throughout the report, but the final conclusion was to use straw bale for the exterior portion of the building while utilizing cob for the interior. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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