Supporting an international research project

University of Plymouth
University of Plymouth | 2022 | Plymouth, Devon

Supporting an international research project

Plymouth University’s CobBauge Project is an innovative cross-border research programme that is investigating the use of an ancient building technique called ‘cob’. The programme is using the material to create four new cob mixes that will be thermally and structurally monitored to see if and how they improve household energy efficiency.  

The project, which has partners including the European Union, Caen Normandie University, Interreg and Earth Building UK and Ireland, runs until mid-2023 and aims to increase public awareness of how traditional building methods can be brought back into use. The results will be share with the construction industry, with a second phase concentrating on training over 500 builders in cob construction methods, and issuing guidance on cob mixes. 

Idverde won the contract by impressing the University with our previous experience, high standards of work and nature-based credentials. Our ability to deliver all the elements of the design using our in-house team was also a factor. And, as the incumbent maintenance team, it was in our best interests to build and handover a top-notch project. 

The CobBauge garden

Plymouth University wanted to transform the car park next to the new building into a garden that would complement it. There was a need for green space and seating areas on this part of the campus, and the University also wanted to provide dedicated planting areas for student use. All materials used in the build had to be recycled or sustainably sourced.  

Our work for this project involved excavating and removing of 150 tonnes of material, and importing a sub-base and various surfacing gravels. We also laid kerbstones and permeable surfacing, including wet-pour rubber surfacing, and creating planters to soften the landscaping.  

The site was extremely restricted in space. The CobBauge building, a totem pole, a glass canopy, a mural, several stone walls and a living wall all had to stay in situ and be protected during the works. The University is in Plymouth city centre, so deliveries had to be scheduled carefully to avoid congestion. The Cob building itself was being regularly monitored as part of the University’s research, which required controlled access over the work zone for researchers.  

The design stipulated the reuse of the existing granite kerbstones that were situated around the car park. We removed these and used them to create the facing edges of the planters. As part of the garden, the sculpture `Akin¬`2` by Rosie Sherwood was installed at the front of the CobBauge building. 

“We are delighted to have been part of this fascinating project,” said Danny Mitchell, Regional Managing Director at idverde. “Working on an area of cutting-edge research and using our nature-based solutions approach to build a sustainable garden as part of the project has helped us to see how reinstating new building techniques could make a huge difference to longer-term sustainability, and we are looking forward to seeing how the project progresses.”

Before and during

After (showing the finished cob building behind)