How would you like to chat with off-grid expert Nick Rosen? Well, this Coast to Coast interview is the next best thing to talking to him personally. This interview triggered ideas for about half a dozen future blog posts.

“Documentarian and journalist Nick Rosen discussed living off-the-grid, typically in alternative communities. This means living independently of the utility companies, and providing your own power, “but it does not mean living in the Stone Age,” he explained. “It’s about being more self reliant, being less dependent on the system, and realizing we have to look after ourselves,” he added. Rosen bought a hut and some land in Spain along the Mediterranean and was able to go off-the-grid using such things as solar panels and rainwater harvesting. His website offers an interactive section called Landbuddy for people to help each other go off-grid in their local regions.

Some 750,000 households in America have gone off-the-grid, and this trend is growing at 10-15% a year, he reported. He traveled to various parts of the country documenting how people and communities were successfully becoming independent. Interestingly, he noted that powerful groups like the Bilderbergers and Trilateral Commission sought to keep the old inefficient energy systems in place, to protect their investments, but the off-the-grid movement serves as an alternative to this kind of centralized power and control.”

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Nick Rosen Off-Grid.net


Comments

750,000 Households in America have gone off-the-grid — 36 Comments

  1. Mr. Geiger almost forgot….jusr received your DVD and it was very good plus and the Earthbag Building Guide is awesome. BOTH are very helpful in learning the best way to construct an Earthbag structure. Thanks. I’m still wondering about a real Hobbit home and I’m wondering just how you figure the size of forms for pillars on the exterior and interior walls plus the cross beams to hold solid cement roofs and amount the cost of it all. I thought of using earthbags for interior walls. Sort of building a building inside of the other. This may be over the top but, I’m really wanting to come close to the video of the Hobbit with a large amount of earth on the roof. The exposed areas in the front would be earthbags and partial fill would be earthbags. Got any ideas?

    • Thanks you. Please write a review at Amazon.com if you get a chance.

      You don’t need double structures. Earthbags are very strong (10x stronger in compression than wood walls, for instance.) Hire a local engineer to make the necessary calculations. The challenge is finding someone who knows about rammed earth, etc. Most engineers are not trained in these special fields and will want to add all sorts of extra concrete and steel to compensate for their lack of knowledge (they want to be sure it’s safe and prevent lawsuits). The best engineer at this time is Structure1.com.

      • Thanks again Sir on the tip to check out Structure1. I’ll be giving them a call on Monday. It’s impressive the services they provide.

        • They’re highly skilled and professional, and can ensure your plans are accepted by building officials.

          But there’s a major drawback to doing it this way. Building to code will skyrocket the cost. A $10,000 – $20,000 simple Hobbit home could turn out to be $100,000 or more due to all the codes and regulations. It’s not the engineer’s fault. Their fee is quite reasonable. The problem is they have to design it with lots of extra steel and concrete to meet the ridiculous standards set by codes. And it’s more than that. Minimum house size and room sizes, housing authority requirements, utility hookups, inspections, etc. all add to the cost. So don’t spend a dime until you get everything sorted out in advance.

          • I appreciate knowing this. Keep in mind…I’m going WAY off grid. That may not be a problem. My MAIN concern is the roof and what weight I’ll be able to put on top of it. My hope is about 8 to 10 feet with wild grasses growing. I’m waiting for a plan of the Hobbit home from New Zealand which shows basically the over view of the place and then, I was considering if “maybe” Structure1 could draw out the wall dimensions etc. They’ll have to be into the Hobbit for them to understand the whole thing. But, again my main concern is that roof.

          • Not sure where you’re building. New Zealand has very strict building codes.

            8′-10′ feet of earth is extreme and very unusual. You’ll definitely need an engineer and steel roof frame. The roof will become the biggest expense.

            That means you might want to consider domes. Domes can safely be buried with this much earth. There is no separate roof structure with domes. All loads are transferred down through the earthbags (which excel in compression) into the ground. If you absolutely want this much earth on top then domes would be a good option. Most structures this deep would use arches of some sort. Research culvert homes. They would allow you to build quickly so there’s less risk of water problems/soil collapse. You could finish out the interior to look Hobbit-like if you want. But trying to build an earthbag home deep underground is not very practical. It would take months and leave you exposed to the elements.

          • This is state side but, Peter Jackson who directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new movie The Hobbit has a store that the creators have built and they sell replica’s etc. They’re incredible craftsmen and artist This is an overview of the Hobbit structure. No details except the steps to the front door and the chimneys and if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know the design for the windows. It shows square rooms and long hallways and pantry areas, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms yahda yahda yahda. That’s why “if” Structure1 was involved they’d have to know the movies in order to create the rooms with dimensions. The front is partially exposed but, the majority would be underground. How much earth do you believe the DOME structure would hold? I wouldn’t want the dome itself to really stand out. A rolling hill would be okay but, no visual of it being part of the structure.

          • I’m not sure if they’ll do what you’re suggesting. Engineers primarily just crunch numbers to meet codes. They’re very busy. Most of their work is commercial jobs. The Hobbit house is very complex and would take a lot of time to imitate. It would cost a fortune to build if you have to meet codes.

            I don’t know of any limit on domes. Arches/domes are the strongest forms in nature. You could bury them deep enough so nothing protrudes above ground.

          • You’ve hit on a word that’s got my attention. You said arches AND domes are the strongest forms in nature. Am I correct in assuming an “Arch” is shaped like an everyday commercial roof? And, that you would build it using the same principles as you would a dome by extending it over the last bag by a quarter of so and working it up to a peak or a ridge line? I do so hope you were because THAT would be the answer to my problem concerning the roof. I’m anxious for your reply. THIS would allow the interior build to go more like my vision and I wouldn’t need a thing from Structure1 tho’ after what you’ve told me; I don’t think I could afford their services anyway. Thank you very much.

          • A dome is an arch rotated about a center axis. What you’re describing is called a vault. Read up on vaults. They’re tricky to do with earthbags, and large ones like you’re needing are not practical without a lot of steel and concrete. That’s why I was suggesting those culvert homes. You can buy strong steel culverts (vault shape) and the work would go very fast. You could fix up the interior at your leisure.

          • Thanks for setting me straight. Maybe I’m just barking up the wrong tree on my Hobbit home. Maybe I’m thinking too big. I believe I need to re-think everything. Perhaps a Hobbit home without as much soil or none at all. Putting the detail in the interior instead actually putting it all buried under 10-15 feet of soil. I suppose the idea was grander than the reality.

          • Taking on too much is a common mistake. We always suggest starting with a tool shed or other small structure to develop skills. There’s a learning curve to everything. Surfing for info is virtually free and the planning process will likely prove invaluable. As they say — plan, plan and plan some more.

            You might be interested in the TerraSante Earth Dome.
            http://www.terrasante.org/projects/earthdome.html

            The Earth Dome (now called HybriDome) is one of my favorites. It’s simple to build and very low cost. It’s built into the earth somewhat to stay cool. It has Hobbit-like characteristics, including a vaulted design made with rebar and recycled insulation.

          • I had wondered about the rebar and screen as a way of covering it and THEN covering it with soil. My thought was many sections of large rebar horizontal and vertical then about a foot of concrete. THEN covering it with the soil. Is this something that would hold up to 12 or better feet of soil? OR, again am I thinking too big? Maybe that rebar and concrete price would stop as well??

          • Sure. You can build most anything with enough concrete and steel. Think: army bunker. But most people can’t afford to build like that, and it’s not sustainable.

          • This was what I was trying to describe to you originally. I suppose I wasn’t very clear..my apologies. Using the concrete pillars and cross beams to support the concrete roof and the exterior next to the earth and using the earthbags where it’s exposed and open to the air on the front of the building. The interior would be built using the earth bags to make the rooms etc. By chance have you ever seen the movies The Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit? It was written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1932. Anyway, if you saw either of the movies you would see the Hobbit house and what my desire is. If nothing else, they’re very good movies. It would self explain the need for the concrete.

          • Sure, I’ve read the books and watched the movies. Your plan is based on concrete and steel. Earthbags would play little or no role as far as I can see.

          • Well, you know your right now that I think about it. Yeah…you’re right. Maybe I should just think above ground and create the illusion from the inside.

          • Building above ground reduces loads tremendously and makes waterproofing much simpler. The cost could be 1/100th, as in the Earth Dome example.

          • Thanks and the dollar figure is VERY helpful. Now, I’ve got another one for you. I’ve looked around the web and there’s a difference of opinion on just how big/circumference wise you can safely build. By the way, you’re being a big help in “re-calibrating” my thinking on the design/materials/cost. I sincerely appreciate this.

          • Can you be more specific? Domes? Roundhouses? Vaults? What materials? Above ground/below ground?

          • Haha…okay..haha Make that Dome, Above Ground, Earthbag.
            Between me fighting a computer who’s thinking on it’s own tonight and me trying to answer a simple question..I’m left to believe the computer is winning. I’m thinking “I” need a re-booting.

          • But domes won’t give you the Hobbit shape you desire. That’s why I thought you’d like the Earth Dome idea. The Earth Dome uses partially earth-sheltered earthbags with a rebar vault. You could use this general building system to build something almost exactly like the Hobbit house. And by the way, the Hobbit house from the movie is very popular, and so lots of readers will be interested in this concept. This would make a good blog post.

          • YES, YES the rebar yes…do you have pics yourself or can you recommend a site? OR, are you refering to the site you recommended earler??? That was a partial below ground. Very small depth.

          • The TerraSante Earth Dome (Hybridome) page has complete details.
            http://www.terrasante.org/projects/earthdome.html

            Note to readers: TerraSante not only designed a very clever and affordable design, they also pulled together excellent documentation so others can learn from their experience. So, please, please document your projects!

            Depth: You can modify this basic design to build something very similar to the Hobbit house. It doesn’t have to look like the Earth Dome.

          • I thought perhaps this was the site. I read online earlier; a gentleman swears that you use the same system of rebar then concrete, more reabar and concrete, more rebar and concrete and so forth until you build it up to about a foot and it WILL support…if I remember correctly about 15 or 16 inches of earth. And, it doesn’t use a support center beam of any kind. What’s your opinion?

          • Only a small amount of steel and concrete (called ferrocement) is needed for a vault like the Earth Dome. More steel and concrete will support heavy loads. No beams or center supports are needed.

          • Sorry but I forgot to mention that I DID give you high marks on Amazon, 5 Stars and encouraged others to get your info and the DVD. It was a simple thing to do and it was very honest. It was easy to do because it IS just that good. I’m a very satisfied and encouraged for the possibilities that your information and DVD provides on construction of my “Off The Grid” home.

          • Thank you very much. 95% of people don’t leave comments or ratings.

          • Does that mean 95% of the people 95% agree with you, Owen?

            (Sorry… couldn’t resist continuing the running joke.)

            Now that I have that joke out of the way…

            Owen mentioned earlier the value of building a small structure such as a tool shed first. I agree with this concept wholeheartedly, but would like to suggest taking the concept even further.

            With the advent of computers and now with software design tools such as Google Sketchup, many people are abandoning the time proven practice of building scale models of buildings.

            I suggest that building a scale model of your buildings, even a scale model of your first tool shed, can also be extremely helpful. Nothing like real hands on experimentation. It helps one understand many details about a structure, but it also helps someone see potential problems during construction.

            Besides, there is something very special about standing back to look at a finished structure and holding up your model in front of your face to compare the two. I can’t explain it, but seeing the vision in your hands and the realization of the vision on the land has a meaning beyond description. No computer generated rendering produces the same effect. I can’t explain it.

          • Modeling is very important, especially for first time builders/owner builders. See this older blog post about Creating Earthbag House Models http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/creating-earthbag-house-models/

            Kelly Hart recommends making small sand bags (scale model) to model home designs. This may not be needed for simple designs, but could prove extremely beneficial when planning innovative designs.
            http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/faqs/misc.htm#kit

            My YouTube channel shows how to build a ‘demonstration corner’ to learn the basics of earthbag building. Even assembling 10-15 bags will prove a big help in learning the basics. This approach is virtually free and no risk. http://www.youtube.com/user/naturalhouses

  2. The gentleman seems to know quite a bit and 750,000 and growing big time I suspect. Americans are beginning to wake up.

    • Yes, and those are just the ones living off-grid. There could be several million more who live similarly but still connected to the grid. Crime, pollution, high costs, overly restrictive codes, loss of jobs, etc. are driving people toward more sustainable lifestyles in rural areas.

  3. Note: I posted the video about 8 hours ago and just realized it was the wrong one. Sorry about that. The current video is the correct one.

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