Building Materials going "Brown"

There’s more to building materials than just wood, and Miguel Elliott is hoping to raise awareness of that with the debut of his documentary, “Earth Building: Adobe is Alive!” on Saturday, Feb. 12 at Boulevard Cinemas.

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What: Miguel Elliott and Mudstrawcity Films present the documentary “Earth Building: Adobe is Alive!”
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 12
Where: Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C St.
Admission: $10 general, $5 children
Information: 762-7469.

“I wanted to let people know that natural building is happening and that it’s alive and well, and possible right here in Petaluma,” said Elliott. “I also wanted to remind people about the kind of adobe natural building heritage that Petaluma has. The soil we have here is rich and fantastic for building.”

Elliott’s business, Living Earth Structures in Petaluma, specializes in building structures out of a mixture of sand, straw and clay, called cob, a material also used in Petaluma’s historical adobe structures.

Cob can be used to build all sorts of things, from homes and benches to ovens and art. It differs slightly from adobe in that it is not made into bricks.

Elliott was first inspired to learn more about adobe structures after seeing General Mariano Vallejo’s adobe when he was 10.

Many years later, while he was working at an alternative high school in Eureka, he decided to tackle his first cob project with students.

“I had heard about cob and had seen a video about building with the earth,” said Elliott. “I showed that to the kids and said, ‘Let’s build.’ We dug a hole, got the clay, sand and straw and started stomping on it and doing our little mud dance. We built a bench and it turned out to be a fun, sculptural thing. I thought, ‘This stuff is amazing!’”

He spent the next 10 years learning more about cob and traveling to Argentina, Guatemala and Thailand, where he helped build homes in the wake of the devastating 2004 tsunami

Cob Sound Chamber