CobBauge House, Fakenham

In an exciting UK first, Grocott & Murfit have constructed a pioneering low-carbon home that uses centuries-old ‘cob’ construction methods to solve 21st century sustainability problems.


CobBauge House, located in Fakenham, is the result of a visionary collaboration between specialist Norfolk builders Grocott & Murfit and sustainable design experts Hudson Architects. The three-bedroom contemporary bungalow is constructed from natural earth-based material ‘CobBauge’ which is the first ever Building Regulation compliant form of cob building. It’s based on a traditional method of construction that has been used in many cultures around the globe for centuries. Forming solid walls made entirely from earth, natural fibres and water, CobBauge is an extremely sustainable construction method. It offers high levels of insulation, impressively low embodied carbon and minimal transport cost and has been attracting great interest from both sides of the English Channel.


“The team at Hudson Architects had been involved in a European Union project to develop CobBauge as a construction method, learning from existing earth building traditions,” explains Daniel Grocott, co-Founder of Grocott & Murfit. “They had reached the right moment to take theory into practice on a residential project, but hit problems which prevented them starting on site. We were very interested in the project and volunteered the plot of land we had available in Fakenham”.


“We enjoy the learning process involved in delivering unconventional projects,” Daniel says. “Our team invest time and resources into investigating new techniques before starting on site.” Training in how to handle the CobBauge as well as careful testing of the clay, straw and hemp to be used formed an important part of Grocott & Murfit’s preparation.


“It’s such a humble, human material to work with,” says Project Architect Anthony Hudson, who took a leading role in delivering the CobBauge construction. “I have grown up in Norfolk and it’s lovely to be able to use the materials that are quite literally under our feet. People might think of earth building as raw and unsophisticated, but it actually performs better than building materials we generally use today with incredibly low embodied carbon.”


In addition, the depth of the walls and material properties provide excellent thermal mass which naturally regulates internal temperatures and the organic materials used form a fully breathable construction creating a healthy living environment. Beyond the CobBauge walls, sustainable principles are at the heart of every element of this ground-breaking property. The bunglalow is externally finished with a breathable lime render. Large triple glazed south facing windows maximise the benefits of natural sunlight and a gently sloped sedum roof promotes biodiversity. Deep eaves protect the wall construction from sun and rain and an air source heat pump heats the home.


“People are often surprised to find that this mud house has such a contemporary look,” Daniel says. “We wanted to show that you can build sustainably without compromising on finishes and detailing.”  Inside, it really is a home for modern living. In the kitchen is a sleek SeiMatic kitchen and high tech Gaggenau appliances.


“It’s been such a collaborative process,” says Anthony. “I am extremely proud that we have managed to build it and show that it can be done. There were hurdles along the way, as in any research project, but we now have the knowledge that the material works and the system is very low cost.”


Currently owned by Grocott & Murfit, the first CobBauge House in the world will soon come to market with Sowerby’s. “I hope this encourages more people to consider sustainable construction alternatives,” Daniel says. “The ideal homeowner would be someone who really cares about the environment and appreciates the health benefits of living in such a natural space.”