CobBauge: Constructing UK’s First ‘Living Lab’

14th Oct, 2021

As part of an international research project headed by a collaborative team of researchers across the UK and northern France, the University of Plymouth is set to be home to the country’s first ‘living lab’ built using ancient, sustainable building material. The CobBauge project is suitably named after a mix of the English and French word for cob material which offers an innovative alternative to typical masonry materials which emit carbon, proposing to deliver a new generation of energy-efficient homes.

Services Design Solution is proud to have been involved in the pro-bono design of the University building and continues to lead research into sustainable construction methods as well as plans to monitor the laboratory in-use.

Cob itself is a combination of earth, water and fibre made with soil from the site which reduces the production of carbon dioxide and construction waste. Previously, it was used historically in the construction of houses and other buildings but does not comply with modern thermal building regulations.

This material epitomises the award-winning CobBauge project whose first phase – granted over €1 million from the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – required the University’s Building Research Group to explore solutions to create a unique type of cob, compliant with required standards. This new form is a denser yet light-weight mix which also reduces the need for energy-heating within buildings.

Now in its second phase (with €4 million funding), the project will see the erection of at least two full-sized buildings using the new material and the research focus will turn to investigation of building performance, using a variety of sensors to measure energy-use and analyse indoor air quality. As part of the latest phase, the University of Plymouth CobBauge building will begin construction this month ahead of its opening to students as a classroom and laboratory.

Professor Steve Goodhew explains:

“This is the start of an exciting new applied research phase for CobBauge, where we have an opportunity to put into practice the exciting findings from the laboratory. We will create a living lab and demonstration site that will become the centre of attention for a wide range of people – from construction professionals to built environment students.”

Project leaders include Ecole Supérieure d’ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction (ESITC), Parc naturel régional des Marais du Contentin et du Bessin (PnrMCB), Earth Building UK and Ireland (EBUKI) and Université de Caen.

Hear more from Professor Goodhew here: