Housing - What are we building?

OK, well let's start with the difference between what we'd LIKE to build and what we're going to END UP building by the time it all cycles through zoning and building inspections and county building codes.  We'd LIKE to try all kinds of things and find inexpensive, duplicatable, liveable, eco-friendly, healthy building ideas.  But some of the stuff just makes people's heads spin. 

Everybody knows that something is wrong. Everybody teaches their kids that the world needs to do things differently. Everybody is careful to check lablels and buy organic and avoid GMO's and teach their kids to recycle - but nobody seems to want to live next to somebody actually pushing it to the limit!  Well, shame on you!

Anyway, there are all kinds of great ideas out there like:

We're trying to take elements of these and design the most cost-effective, eco-friendly housing we can.  The average single famly home around here costs about $100 per square foot to build. We are aiming for $10 to $20 per square foot and 90-95% recycled materials. By designing buildings that eliminate all the non-essentials, we're seeking to find what is really necessary for happiness, comfort, safety and a good life.

Whatever we design will have to be approved by an engineer and by zoning and codes enforcement. Right now we have three main housing plans in the works.

One is what we're calling the Bunkhouse.  Essentially it's two 40' shipping containers on either side with engineered wood trusses over the top, with a metal roof with some clear panels. The ends will be filled in with bathrooms in the back and a wall of windows and doors in the front. The interior is essentially an atrium sort of mini-greenhouse with pavers along the walk ways with a common kitchen and dining area and plenty of room to grow things. It may include small aquaponics areas and can grow enough stuff to keep the area pretty, smelling nice and with plenty of herbs and vegetables. The exposed trusses would allow for vines to grow up and across the interior spaces. The first row of these buildings would be close enough to a vent from the cave so that we can blow 55 degree cool air into them instead of air conditioning! Even in the winter it would be easy to maintain comfortable temperatures. The outside walls and roof would be insulated by any one of a number of options.  A single wood stove in the center could provide enough heat for the entire unit. The foundation would simply be footers in the corners of the containers. The bathrooms would essentially be on a very short deck above the ground. 


Rainwater would be collected in the gutters, collected in tanks inside the roofline on top of the containers, then used for showers and sinks, recycling the greywater back into irrigation of landscaping features outside the building. Hot water for showers and sinks would be provided by compost piles from the garden and kitchen waste. (See videos here.)

Outside walls could be covered in cobb (adobe) to make them less "containery."


The next building is a much smaller option for more private space. These are Cabins of one sort or another.  We were inspired in part by a homeless shelter in upstate New York. (www.SecondWindCottages.org)  (We double dog dare you to watch their video there without crying! Be warned. It might change you.)

These might range around 10'x12' (120 sq feet) to 12'x16' (192 sq feet) and hold one or two people.

Some other ready-made designs are out there on the market already:


At the upper end of the Cabin size range would be something that is more like 16'x20' that would provide 320 square feet or up to 500+ with a loft upstairs. This would still have a very small footprint, but could house a small family, complete with bathroom, kitchen and three bedrooms. (We wouldn't put a door to nowhere upstairs like this picture though!)

The final design option would in an area we set aside for non-square building options.  The Site Plan says "Yurts" but it would all depend upon what we can get through the Building Codes.  It could be silos or small log cabins or a traditional Mongolian Yurt that has been proven for 3,000 years in the worst weather on the planet!  These are super tough (round is best in a tornado or blizzard) and super insulated, yet designed to break down quickly and fit on a yak or reindeer! They can be anywhere from 10 feet across to over 20 feet. Some have loft beds inside to maximize floor space.

Tradtional Yurts (or Gers)

Then there are other strange options:

Log Yurt with Grass Roof

Silo House

Hay Bale Dome covered in Adobe


If you read this far, THANKS!  We hope you learned some stuff. 

There are all kinds of designs in the world that work other than a Ranch or a Split-Level. We just want a chance to try some things and see what works and can be duplicated in other places around the world where people need inexpensive, quickly erected housing.