A little shed built of earth for FESTA

News News & events

23 Oct 2013

Hours of stomping mud barefoot have not deterred sustainability minded Architectural Studies students at CPIT. The team of 14 is on a mission to create enough earth mud bricks to build a shed at Agropolis, a sustainable city farm being created for the Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA) on 25 to 28 October.

Students studying the Sustainability Rating Tools and Natural Materials elective are very keen to show New Zealand that earth construction is a viable option.

“It’s about knowing the materials you can use. A lot of people think of earth, or cob, houses as hippy style, but they can be done in a very contemporary way,” Freddie Paynter said.

“What’s important is showing people what can be done; that it’s not a mud heap,” Ken McKerracher added.


CPIT Architectural Studies student Aaron Coster and tutor Kerry Mulligan admire the collection of handmade earth bricks that will be used to create an earth construction shed for inner city farm Agropolis at FESTA.

The students said that more people were talking about sustainable design and natural building materials, with clients sometimes leading the way.

“It is the new thing and our graduates are expected to step up,” CPIT Architectural Studies tutor Kerry Mulligan said. Last year the department created a cob pizza oven at the Pallet Pavillon; this year they got a little more ambitious. “We want to show people a cob house is not a Hobbit hole. It’s not going to fall down when it rains.”

The shed will be 10sqm and conforms to the NZ standards for earth construction – that such a standard exists perhaps indicates the growing popularity of the material.

The sustainability elective also aims to give students a deeper understanding of various green design rating schemes and to develop critical thinking about what the systems are actually rating. As graduates these students will be better informed to guide clients in making choices about sustainable design. And that’s good for everyone, the students maintain.

“Yes we have to do it for the earth. I know it sounds cheesy, but what will this place be like in 100 years if we don’t?” Freddie said.