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Mudgirls collective cobbles together eco-friendly homes

04/06/2015 03:00 EDT | Updated 06/06/2015 05:59 EDT
The tale of the Three Little Pigs has told generations of children that houses made of straw are no good, but a group of West Coast women is challenging that assumption by building homes out of cob.

Cob building is an ancient technique that has been making a comeback since the 1990s. Cob is an earthen material that is made of mud, sand and straw.  

The all-women collective Mudgirls has been building cob houses that resemble Hobbit homes on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands since 2005.

"I became a Mudgirl because I really wanted to build myself a house, and I realized that having a 30-year mortgage just wasn't a thing I wanted to do," said builder Clare Kenny.

"The housing industry is such a wasteful industry, and not having any money just makes you really resourceful."

Kenny said cob is so sculptable that it can also be used to build furniture. Walls made of cob can also incorporate other recyclable materials such as glass bottles and driftwood.

Sustainability meets feminism 

While sustainable development is part of the Mudgirls' mandate, empowering women with construction skills is also important to the collective.

"Traditionally, back in the day, they would use animals to stomp (the cob) all together — just, you know, run your ox back and forth across it," said Kenny.

"Now we have women who are strong like oxes and we stomp it with our feet, and you just put it wet on the walls and sculpt it up."

Kenny believes there are many merits to a cob house, but she says there aren't many around B.C. because cob isn't part of the supply chain.

"You can't go to Home Depot and buy them — they're around you, they're under your feet, they're everywhere, but unless you're interested, you might never hear about it," she said.

"Once you do get interested, you realize how easily it can happen."

This story is part of a series produced in Vancouver about alternative housing options across Canada

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