Kevin McCabe

COB BUILDING SPECIALIST

Dingle Dell

In March 2010 we obtained special planning permission under PPS7 for a large new Zero-carbon Cob House, Dingle Dell. This was the result of more than a year in the design and a great deal of upfront investment in preparing the planning application.PPS7 stands for the Governments Planning Policy Statement 7 about Sustainable development in rural areas. This is a complex document which has now been superseded by the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) The following is a short extract from the PPS7 ”Isolated new houses in the countryside will require special justification for planning permission to be granted …

Very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission. Such a design should be truly outstanding and ground-breaking, for example in its use of materials, methods of construction or its contribution to protecting and enhancing the environment, so helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas. The value of such a building will be found in its reflection of the highest standards in contemporary architecture, the significant enhancement of its immediate setting and its sensitivity to the defining characteristics of the local area.” Our design, which was a collaborative effort with input from several different Architects and proffesionals in the CSH, M&E, structural engineering as well renewable technologies experts, drainage experts and an ecologist, while also getting feedback from planners at our Local Authority. We endeavoured to meet all the criteria as somewhat vaguely laid out in this extract. We were only the second ever applicants under this category to receive planning permission without having to go to appeal in fact the planning committee were virtually unanimous in their support. This will be a truly ground breaking building, meeting code for sustainable homes level 6 (the highest possible level) and also meeting passive house levels of thermal performance, bringing cob to the cutting edge of UK domestic Architecture. We did not want to produce a tiny back woods ecobuild, we wanted to show you can have comfort, luxury and space for the extended family and running a business at the same time as harmonising with the environment, we wanted to make a bold yet sensitive and beautiful statement.

The scale of this enormous project is breathtaking. We have moved over 5,000 tonnes of soil and excavated over a quarter of a mile of foundations laid 15,000 lightweight blocks (many 350mm wide),as well 10,000 dense concrete blocks for the reinforced retaining walls. We have laid 27 loads of eco concrete (75% less cement due to the use of pfa a waste product from coal fired power stations). We have built 2,000 tonnes of cob which has gone into the outbuildings, as well as the main house and Annex. We did manage to get the 10kw pv system up and running and registered before the government deadline of December 12 2011, when Feed in tariffs for new build systems were drastically reduced. The gently rolling wild flower meadow roof (in which no single piece of timber had the same angle as another!), along with 2012’s incredible rainfall, have all contributed to the build taking longer than originally planned.  I now spend a lot of time earning a living fixing other people’s cob buildings whilst fitting in my own when I can.

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