350 SQ. FT. (PALAPA) (elevation) (large plan view) Benjamins version


1. The cob revival encourages small personal shelters characterized by beautiful organic lines, recycled glass set directly into the cob, sometimes with the bathroom (and kitchen) functions outside the house to reduce the house size and for esoteric, ecological considerations. The goal is a beautiful hand built "natural" house using a higher percentage of local/natural materials (earth, stone and straw), and a lower percentage of energy intensive manufactured materials such as concrete and dimensional lumber. Often, the cob is combined with stone foundations and straw bales walls.

2. This design uses straw bales (two string) in the walls, curved, loosely placed, surrounded, contained and sculpted in Cob. Although cob can be used to set the glass without a framework, in this design conventional windows are suggested to assure good cross ventilation. Cob, adobe, rock, or frame can be used to form the low, curved, partition walls which create the closets/storage. The design is very small (320-350 sq. ft. inside) to keep construction costs down and reduce the conditioned area. The walls are radically curved (because they can be) with a long south face for passive solar gain, angled back to the north to reduce winter snow build up.

3. The roof is supported on a cental post (as likely a carefully selected deadfall tree with graceful limbs). On the perimeter, the roof could be supported directly on the irregular straw bale/cob walls to create an undulating organic roof line or on a perimeter ring set on exterior posts creating a more regular cone shaped roof. The possibility exists for a round loft centered on and partially supported by the center post. The entryway is well protected with room for a couple of outside chairs also under the overhanging roof.

4. As a concession to the inside or outside plumbing debate, the bath functions are located outside the thick straw bale/cob walls with access from inside, taking advantage of the space created under the roof by the radically curved walls. Climate permitting, the shower could be partially formed with glass block, and an unconventional rear exit can be added through the toilet room. Shown is built in seating with storage under in the "living room" with a cob fire place also build in with wood storage under the seats. A round "kitchen" table surrounds the central post. A futon on a raised, built in bed provides storage under. An optional curtain partitions the "master bedroom" and access to the bath and walk in closets).

5. As many cob structures, for now, will be built outside code jurisdictions, this design is suggested with a thatch roof over a heavy bamboo roof structure. Consider building the roof first, providing yourself a protected outdoor living area (palapa), then raise the walls...later...much later...if you still want to. Enjoy your house while it is still a Palapa.

6. Please feel free to add any comment, critique, or question you may have relating to this plan. Take as much space as you need. Your input is encouraged and will be added to the comments section. Thanks, Robert

7. Comments from Benjamin..Sept. 1, l999.
I've been toying with one of your designs - the 350sqft Palapa - for the last few days. I really like it but have the problem that 2 key features for my needs have been left out - a laundry and a study. So I've sketched up my alteration to this plan - it's about the same size (berhaps a tiny bit bigger) but with all 5 circular areas the same size. The left closet gets turned into a kind of larger walk-in-robe with clothes racks either side and a tall, skinny set of drawers in the middle. This would serve both people (I'm young & married so am designing for 2).

The right side closet would become a storage area/study/bookshelf/pantry which is closed towards the bathroom side and open towards the living area. There's no fireplace cos I'd heat with (hydro-)electricity (I live in New Zealand). A circular desktop could be secured by ropes and pulleys and pulled up to the ceiling when not in use and dropped down when required. This design allows for the much greater general storage space that I know we would need. For the laundry, I'd simply fit a washing machine (& perhaps dryer for winter) into the outside corner between the kitchen and the walk in robe.

There might need to be a simple half wall or something to protect them from the elements. A big advantage with having the laundry outside is that you can take clothing straight from the washing machine and hang it on the clothesline - very simple and saves work. I have always liked the idea of having a clothesline loop on pulleys so that you can hang up some clothing and just move the clothesline along - and you can do it all from underneath the roof overhang! Brilliant!

Of course I'd add some other personal design features like a living roof and a greywater system. The house would have a ceiling somehow insulated by straw and in the space between the ceiling and the roof you could fit water tanks of fresh & grey water and perhaps even a hot water tank... The whole house would be rotated a bit so the living room and the adjacent circles face into the sun.

So yes, I really like that design and will probably get you to draw it up for me when I get the chance to build (it'll be a few years yet...)

(please type your comments here)

For more information on Cob Construction see Key Concepts

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