Let’s say you have a group of friends who want to build sustainable homes near each other. Maybe you want to build an ecovillage or something similar. Communal structures with shared facilities for toilets, showers, cooking, laundry, Internet access and group meetings are a great way to cut housing costs. For example, everyone doesn’t need their own washing machines in a group housing situation. It’s far more practical to buy quality machines and make them accessible to the group in a central location. Obviously this saves everyone a lot of money. This approach has the added advantage of increasing interaction among members. You could chat with friends as you fold laundry and your children play together.
I’m working with a group now who’s planning this exact same thing for a sustainable community. They want to build domes, roundhouses and vaults that look slightly different, but still look good together. They’ll probably be very small and simple without bathrooms or kitchens. Eliminating infrastructure costs will greatly reduce the over all cost of construction and keep home size to a minimum. The homes they’re planning could be built for around $1,500 – $2,000 if they’re diligent about scrounging recycled materials and do all or most of the labor. Notice how one thing leads to another: fewer kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and Internet connections means less complex design, and smaller, less expensive homes that are simple enough for DIY owner-builders. It’s a win-win situation for the families and the environment.