cob building books

The Best Natural Building Books, comprensive guide on how to build with local and sustainable materials such as Cob, Earthbag, Straw Bale and More

Are you are planning to build your off the grid natural house, leave a green footprint on the planet?

Or you want to experiment with organic materials and build something smaller? Or maybe you are just curios and passionate about architecture.

Check our list of the best natural building book and find your next project.

You might also be interested into: the 11 greatest books about permaculture

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain affiliate links (as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases).

1. The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

by Ianto Evans, 2002


Ianto Evans is an applied ecologist, landscape architect, and teacher. He started building with cob and other natural materials in the 80s and he has experience on six continents.

But the real question is: can you build a cob house from reading this book? Well, the answer is absolutely yes.

It’s a complete guide, great illustrations, both theoretical and practical information.

A must read for those who aspire to live in a comfortable off the grid natural house.



2. Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer, 2004


Another masterpiece about natural building. Earthbag Building is a technique developed from historic military construction and temporary flood-control building methods.

The amazing thing is that it is inexpensive, as you only need sacks filled with organic material.

This book is filled with details, pictures, cost, graphics and it tries to answer to all the possible questions a beginner can think of.

A superb natural building book.

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3. The Straw Bale House

by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen and David A. Bainbridge, 1994


With a construction costs as low as $10-per-square-foot, the straw bale building technique is another amazing natural resource.

This book is a complete guide on how to build a straw bale house, at the same time the narrative storytelling is very inspirational.

A perfect guide for beginners, from foundation to roof.



4. Essential Sustainable Home Design: A Complete Guide to Goals, Options, and the Design Process

by Chris Magwood, 2017


A good book full with useful information to help you plan your sustainable house.

What are the heating option available, what is the efficiency of each technique, carbon footprint, ecosystem impact and so on.

If you are not into a specific natural building technique yet and you are looking around for new ideas this book will give you a lot to think about.



5. The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction

by Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton, 2012


Another great guide for those who are planning to build a natural house or want to integrate an existing structure.

Divided in chapters covering every essential topic, from  site analysis and materials to acoustics, budget, insulation, protection against fire and insects and much more.

Wisely written by natural building designers.



6. The Cob Builders Handbook: You Can Hand-Sculpt Your Own Home

by Becky Bee, 1998


The Cob Builders Handbook provides basic cob building techniques.

Simple and easy to read, it is ideal for beginners. It lacks of actual photos, at the same it has a lot of drawings and it is cheaper than other building books filled with pictures.

This book was written more than 20 years ago and it is still one the best natural building books. At the end of the day, the technique has been the same for thousand of years.



7. The Barefoot Architect

by Johan van Lengen, 1981


A complete guide on how to plan and construct rural towns in tropical climates. From houses to public toilets to water powered wheel.

A complete compendium, over 700 pages, of indigenous building techniques from Latin America, written in the 80’s and still considered the Bible for natural building in poor countries.

Written by former UN worker Johan van Lengen, The Barefoot Architect is still used as a practical and inspirational guide by many volunteers around the world.



8. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction 

by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa, 1977


An holistic approach to building good cities, fun to read but not a simple book.

Written between the 60’s and the 70’s, some of the urban problems and solutions they identified might be dated.

Still a classic in the natural building books if you are a collector.

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9. Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods

by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan, 2005


One of the cheapest book in this list (still over 700 pages) Building Green is a complete guide to build your house, homestead tools, a place for your animals and more.

Different materials are explained; cob, straw bale, timber frame, cordwood  among others, making the guide less geographically specific.

And, not less important, full of step by step pictures, 1,200 close-up pictures to be precise.



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