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Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Permitted Earthbag Dome Home in Florida

Florida earthbag dome gains building permit

Florida earthbag dome gains building permit


Breaking news: an engineer in Florida has just gained approval for the first permitted earthbag dome in Florida. They charged only $800 and are eager to do more green building in the future. They modified my Enviro Dome design to meet Florida state building codes.

GTC Design Group
Gary J. Gill PE
PO Box 187
130 W. Howard St.
Live Oak, Florida 32064
Phone: 386-362-3678

The owner is planning on making a blog to document the project, and help raise awareness and attract volunteers. Stay tuned.

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37 Responses to “Permitted Earthbag Dome Home in Florida”

  1. Linda says:

    Linda from Palm City, Fl here. [Patricia, u r 15 minutes down the road - Hi]. Looking for 5 acres in Fl w/hour-ish commute to ocean. Have been VERY interested in earthbag home. Disappointed to hear of higher costs, still hopeful of what the engineer mentioned might have to say. Have not researched yet but heard if u have “post & beam” structure supporting the roof – authorities care less about what your non load bearing walls are made of (exception being ratio of dirt/cement required. Insulated pitched roof would serve me for rain catchment & solar panels. I found no impact fees in DeSoto county & that u need know to ASK about additional (i.e. costly education fees) in others. Wetlands (state guidelines but has county input?) – need a “delineation” ($). Also to understand how many feet buffer required. I looked at Palatka -land cheaper but my opinion – paper mill makes toxic air for miles. Potential aquifer problems now & not too distant future. Water usage exceeds ability to replenish. Good article in National geographic. Google> N.G./’To Understand Water, Learn the Math’. Good map. I am mindful of water & plan rain catchment. While doing research for an aquaculture class – I had valuable chats with scientists from water management district and dept of agriculture. Have talked to some wonderful people. Informed on things I would not have thought to ask about & generous with their time. Appreciate the input found here – helpful. Linda

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Try contacting them through their website/blog.

      Yes, post and beam will greatly increase your chances of code approval. Use engineered trusses and concrete foundation and your odds of success with go way up.

  2. lisa starr says:

    Owen is correct. We just completed our coded dome home in Joshua Tree Ca and the costs came out to be a little less than stick frame for our county of San Bernadino. We built ourselves, no contractors, which also can incure other expenses regarding hiring labor re:insurance. You can visit our fan page on fb to see the project from the begining and possible find some info for your research. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bonita-Domes-Project/131821026865069?ref=hl

  3. Musoline Galibaldy says:

    how can you say that the cost is the same as building a regular home,,,also when I said levy county,I was talking in the country side,the codes are basely the same,,can you please advise,I seen lots and lots of comments about these type of houses,they all talk about $5000 to $15,000 the most one will pay to have one of these build,labor and material,I asked because I wanted to be sure.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      The codes will skyrocket the costs and likely wipe out all savings. You’ll have to pay engineering fees, high utility tap fees, permits, inspections, lots of extra concrete and steel, outrageous contractor fees, on and on. Don’t do anything until you do you a careful cost estimate. Get a book on cost estimating from the library and figure out all the costs. Then you’ll understand what I’m saying. This is why I gave up contracting and started focusing on natural building and moved to an area with no building codes. Not only have I saved a ton of money, I’ve been able to document and show others how to build dirt cheap. That’s not going to happen in Florida, sorry.

  4. Musoline Galibaldy says:

    any thing about this type of building in levy county florida,,,,also,whats the cost for a 1,500 sqft home,thanks

    • Owen Geiger says:

      The codes are very strict in Florida and so the cost will be about the same as other houses in your area. The big savings come from building in rural areas with minimal codes. This means you’ll pay about 5-10x more.

  5. Bren says:

    I live in central Florida and want to do an earthbag home somewhere near the Zephyrhills area. Does anyone have a contact number of a consultant on this type of building? It would be much appreciated.

  6. April Nichols says:

    Me and my husband want to buy land in the fort white area… How can I find out if its possible to build a sand bag home there?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Is that in Florida? Contact the engineer Gary Gill (best) or look up your regional building authorities in the phone book and pay them a visit. It helps to take documentation to show them.

  7. MG says:

    I would love to build an earthbag home in Florida and have been speaking to Calearth. They tell me this is not the first home that was approved for the state of Florida and that there are other earthbag homes already in existence. I’m draw on this issue now. I really want to build an earthbag home but a monolithic dome might be a better environmental choice or even a container home. The monolithic dome is even better for flooding, etc. Ventilation is not a problem in an earthbag home. Calearth shows you exactly how to vent these homes. I guess I have to decide on what is the best for me. Regardless of what I choose, it will be green.

  8. moonbagger says:

    Does anyone have a link to the E-bag site blog in Live Oak Florida?

  9. Lisa Starr says:

    THIS IS AWESOME!!!!

    • Owen Geiger says:

      It gets even better. The word is this engineer may do earthbag pre-engineering on projects in other states. You’d still need an engineer who’s licensed in your state to stamp the plans, but the total fee would likely end up lower than if your local engineer did everything. This is because Gary Gill has already done the research and knows what to do. (Most engineers are busy and don’t want to spend days reading up on something unusual.)

  10. Patricia says:

    This is great news, as my husband and I are looking in Suwanee County and near Live Oak as well….way out off the grid, if possible. Land in that area is very affordable, but you have to really keep an eye out and we hope to actually go to Suwanee County and look for sale by owner property. We live in St. Lucie County about 3 hours away. We are definitely going to try for an earthbag dome home. I want to keep an eye out for the blog….THANKS FOR ALL THE GOOD INFORMATION.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Keep us posted. We love hearing about people’s projects.

      Also remember that domes are difficult to waterproof in rainy climates, and can suffer from lack of ventilation in humid climates.

  11. Dustin says:

    Of course they want volunteers, who wants to pay for the labor of building an earthbag structure? :-p

  12. Dustin says:

    I’d really like to know more on the guvthugcosts. Sure, permiting was only $800. What about the Impact Fees? Usually, $6,000 is as cheap as that ever gets…

    • Owen Geiger says:

      The engineering cost was $800. Permits were something like $130. Can’t remember for sure. They didn’t mention any impact fees.

  13. Dustin says:

    http://www.gtcdesigngroup.com/contact_us.php

    This is their contact page. their office is smack in the middle of “downtown” Live Oak. They seem to be a firm that handles very large projects, and this may just be a sideshow for them…

    I haven’t gotten anything back from them for my request to be involved in any way, shape, or form.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Many firms like this do large, medium and small projects. They show off their big projects but also do smaller ones.

  14. Jerry Thornton says:

    Land prices in Florida is a grab bag since the great American recession. Foreclosures in all types of real estate. Lots are ‘dirt cheap’ if you can get the bank to short sell the lot to you. In my area, just south of West Palm Beach (about a mile from the beach) my house was listed in 2007 for $398,000 for a 920 sq. ft 1926 Key West cottage. I got it for $179,000 and it is worth about $33,000 now.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Wow, that’s incredible. That’s the bursting of the real estate bubble that turned homes into a casino type investment. Some people expect more downward pricing before the market hits bottom.

      Here’s a scary article that explains various forces in play that could push housing prices even lower.
      http://www.businessinsider.com/another-housing-collapse-is-coming-soon-2012-5

      From the article (many other good points like this one): “A growing number of prospective first-time buyers are reluctant to buy even though they can afford to. Their attitude is this: What’s the rush? I think prices are headed lower. And I like the flexibility that renting gives me.”

  15. moonbagger says:

    …Is the build site in Live Oak Fl?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Not sure. We should know more soon when their blog is ready. The owner seems eager for volunteers and so this could be a win-win for everyone.

  16. moonbagger says:

    Finally…I want one in N Fla!

    • Owen Geiger says:

      At that price ($800 engineering, plus low cost building permit and plans) this is affordable to most. Seems like finding land may be the biggest hurdle. Is land affordable in that area?

  17. Jerry Thornton says:

    Hats off to you Owen and Mr. Gill!

    This is super great news! Florida is a tough nut to crack!

    I live much further to the south and would be interested to see if Palm Beach county would approve this design.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Thanks. Contact Gary Gill for engineering approval and you’re almost assured of a building permit.

  18. LandTrees says:

    Super news – great effort! We know it is not easy to obtain building permits on these type of structures. We also went to a lengthy process to obtain such building permit and only obtained it after certain modifications on our original design.
    So thumbs up to the Owner and Engineer who went the extra mile – well done!
    We are eager to see the ongoing process and learn more in detail about this project.
    Great News!

  19. Dustin says:

    PAINT ME GREEN AND CALL ME GUMBY! I GOTTA SEE IT!

    I’m only 70 miles from there!

    No, really! Florida is freakin’ nazi evil with building code. I won’t believe it unless I can lick it. I am so going for a ride tomorrow!

    • Owen Geiger says:

      In a couple weeks or so they should have their blog ready. They’re looking for volunteers. Stay tuned for the details.

  20. Glenna says:

    I contacted architect firms across Louisiana with no luck on finding one willing to give me a approval stamp on a earthbag house plan. I was lucky enough to find a firm on the West Coast who happened to carry a Louisiana Certification. So, am glad to hear that some Southern architects are willing to give this building method a chance. Hope I can locate the blog and see the progress. glenna

    • Allie says:

      Glenna,

      I am also from Louisiana, and my husband and I would like to build an Earthbag home in the future. What firm did you use to get your stamp of approval? And if you don’t mind me asking, what parish are you from?

      Allie

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