Hello. I’m looking to build a house in Walsenburg Colorado (6,171 ft. elevation). There are several natural/alternative techniques that I am considering:(straw bale. earth bag. sip’s. ICF. aac.) I am wondering which one of these would get the highest overall score based on the following list of my MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA: 1. Cost/ease of construction- I have a VERY small budget, and would like to save as much labor cost as I can by doing much of the structural erection by myself….but, I have very little construction experience. So an easier technique would be beneficial. 2. Cost of materials- 3. Energy efficiency- Very important, as my very low monthly income makes it essential for me to have very low energy bills. 4. Low maintenance/durability.
Thank you for your time. Jeff
Jeff, Take a trip over to Crestone and look at the dozens of earthbag, scoria bag and strawbale houses there. Visit some job sites, watch for a while and talk to the workers. Some of these structures are for wealthy clients, some are built dirt cheap. Focus on the dirt-cheap ones. The details and advantages and disadvantages would take a whole book to explain. But seeing the buildings yourself being built is priceless.
Two obvious contenders: 1. scoria bag (roundhouse = super easy) and 2. strawbale with roundwood post and beam (local wood poles) with wood siding. Hire an unemployed carpenter a few days if necessary for the difficult parts.
The scoria mines are just south of Crestone on the NM border. Some of the best bales in the US are available from Alfred Francis in Alamosa. It’s easy to get a firewood permit and cut poles in the national forest. Find a local sawmilll for the rest of the wood. To sum up, you are in an area where natural building is very popular and resources are easy to obtain.