A key aspect of natural building is learning out how to best utilize minimally processed, locally available natural materials and salvaged materials to meet your needs. This includes using good site and climate building techniques in the design of the home. What works best in one location will likely be different than another location. Be sure to study ‘best practices’ that have evolved over the centuries for your specific area. Things such as roof pitch and overhangs, choice of materials, height of stem walls, percentage of solar glazing, ventilation details etc. are all very important.
With these things in mind, the following design is just a general suggestion. I’ve chosen a hybrid approach using several different materials to improve efficiency and make things more interesting. This points out how no one building system is perfect for all situations. It’s good to know numerous natural building methods and combine them appropriately for top efficiency.
In the following example, cost reduction is a major consideration. Ideally, the shell of a small/tiny home could be built for around $1,000-$2,000 using the suggestions outlined here. Of course this assumes few or no building codes that would prohibit or skyrocket construction costs. See this article on Counties With Few or No Building Codes if you haven’t seen it already. Look for places in rural areas where other natural builders are already building sustainable, low cost structures. Ecovillages like this one in Argentina are good places to check out. (See $1,000 house in video at 4:05)
Summary of building ideas for a $2,000 DIY one-story natural home:
– Approx. size: 12’x20’=240 sq. ft. plus sleeping loft
– Climate zone: most of the U.S. except extremely rainy/humid climates (Florida…)
– Organic curved shape with long dimension on east/west axis
– Most windows on straighter south-facing wall for solar gain (northern hemisphere)
– Rustic roundwood post and beam frame using wood from a local forest.
– Gravel bag foundation on rubble trench with 1’-2’ high sloping earth berm. Fill bags with scoria or porous lava rock in cold climates. Posts are on interior side.
– Straw bales on top of gravel bags with external bamboo pinning tied together through the wall. Bales on every wall except south window wall.
– Roof frame, loft, cabinets and other milled wood: DIY salvaged lumber
– Finish the roof before setting the straw bales.
– Earthen plaster and floor
– Handcrafted doors, shelves, furniture for aesthetics
– Composting toilet
– Approx. time to complete the shell with 2 healthy workers: 2 months (less for pros, longer if out of shape)
Compare to $50,000-$70,000 factory built tiny houses and you’ll better understand why I love natural building.
Note: This is the main focus of our Natural Building Blgo so there’s TONS of free information here that explains each topic in detail. Plus there’s lots of ideas for cutting costs. You can search each topic by using the built-in search engine.