(posted with persmision of origional poster)
But yes, cob houses. Cob is a mixture of clay, straw and sand that is what those old houses that you'd picture dotting the olde English countryside are made out of. Corn cobs are not involved (although, you could throw them in the mixture if you really *wanted* I suppose). The method that I am mostly interested in involves digging a foundation and filling it with rock and gravel to provide drainage. I would likely have a poured adobe floor. The materials are mixed in a pit or on a tarp with the feet (Yes, finally a good use for my Italian grape-stomper feet!) and then formed into loaves which are tossed or handed to the people working on the walls. Unlike adobe, where the clay is dried into bricks, then built with, cob is sculpted into place and then dries. This allows for great flexibilty when building, you can put in niches and built in benches (one cool idea I've seen is where the firplace vent is routed under a bench before going outside for toasty seating) and all sorts of things. You have to plan ahead for wiring, one common method is to put in pipes to run the wires through, since you can't just punch a hole in the wall and if you want wall art, you have to plan that out to for the same reason. As much as I love the idea of a traditional thatched roof, I don't think it is very feasable throughout most of the US, so I'll have to look into roofing some more.
This method of building is *much* cheaper than a traditional stick built home and longer lasting than a manufactured home. It is also healthier. Modern lumber is treated with formaldahyde and other nasties and so is insulation. Another appealing thing is that it takes less skill to learn how to do and it's something that, given the time, people can do for themselves. Codes and permits can be problamatic in some areas, but really, many of those probably aren't places I'd want to live anyhow...
<img src="http://www.davidsheen.com/cascadiacob/cob0540.jpg" />
<img src="http://www.davidsheen.com/cascadiacob2005/cob2k523.jpg" />
<img src="http://www.cobcottage.com/files/images/michael.jpg" />
Added for poor_skills: One thing I like really like about alternative building methods is that they can help put owning a new home (or any home for that matter) back into the reach of people that might not otherwise be able to do so. Getting the land is still an issue, but generally it's cheaper to buy land without a house on it. Permits are still an issue too unfortunately, but this does at least cut out the bulk of contracting and labour costs (you may still need help on the wiring and plumbing, although, you can make the wiring much more simplified and likewise with the plumbing. Also, for people with chemical sensitivities or those who just like to live in a cleaner environment, traditional houses can be built with natural materials, however, it tends to be *very* expensive. I am currently taking an introduction to natural building materials class and several companies offer really good workshops, but the internet and local libraries are great sources of info as well. Just some food for thought, since I know this stuff isn't always common knowledge!