“First off I want to thank you not just for your website but all the information you have made easily available on alternative building. I am currently in the Army. I’ve been in Iraq and am now stationed in Afghanistan for a few more months. In both of these countries I’ve watched people with no education and nothing more then a mud puddle and some straw build houses that can withstand explosions and multiple high powered bullets without falling apart — something houses in America can’t do.
I was always amazed at how easy it was to break a house and for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to build my own house that will last. I’ve spent the last year or so looking into alternative building methods. A few months ago I found out about earthbag building and was very interested. As I’m sure you know the military more or less builds using sandbags in combat zones so this form of building is something that is very familiar to me and something I know a bit about.
My question is I’m now at the point in my life where I plan to get out of the Army and move back home to north Texas with my wife. I have the opportunity to use some of the money I’ve made over here to buy 10 acres of land outside of city limits. I’m wondering if there happens to be any thing I should worry about as far buying land to build an earthbag home goes. I know if I buy building plans from you which I plan to do I can get them approved for the building permits I need but I didn’t know if there was any thing else I should be looking for when it comes time to buy the land. Thanks, and keep up the great work on your blog. Websites like yours give me hope for the future.”
Thanks, Joshua. I suggest buying land where there are few if any building codes. I hear there’s lots of land like that in Texas. The building codes can jack up the price of an 800 sq. ft. house from $4,000 to $80,000. No kidding. I’m working on a design now that will cost somewhere around $5/ft. using pallets, dirt and juniper poles.
So it’s way more than just the engineering fee (which isn’t that bad, really) — it’s the crazy codes that require extremely costly building methods like lots of extra steel and concrete that will really cost you.
Also, look for land with water, trees and good soil for gardening. An old run down farm house could be a hidden gem if it has good soil and a good well. Trees on the land will enable you to heat with firewood for almost free. I suspect fuel costs are going sky high, especially if war breaks out with Iran, and so the cost of food and everything could skyrocket. The key is being self sufficient and eliminating buying stuff from town.
Check out our blog post on juniper and cedar poles. These are the sort of resources that can save you a ton of money.
Earthbag is almost identical to the houses you’re describing in Afghanistan and Iraq. My friend was over there so I know how they’re built. It’s essentially cob with stone added. Earthbag is even stronger because the soil is tamped, there’s barbed wire, gravel throughout the mix, etc. Check our blog for bullet resistance of earthbags and blackpowder cannon tests.