Been lurking for awhile--many thanks to all the knowledgeable and helpful people here!
I'm interested in alternative building technologies, both for myself as well as in my work (I run a small non-profit org that does appropriate technology projects in the developing world).
I'm really intrigued by the wonderful threads on the underground, cob, and earth bag homes, and some of the photos of theses homes i.e. the Hobbit House (both Glenn's, and that wonderful one from Wales)they are just beautiful--homey, whimsical, natural, unique!
So, I wanted to talk a little about "cost."
I'm interested in alternative building for several reasons:
1. I don't want to support or be a slave to the mortgage/banking industry. 2. I'm not a "Trustafarian" so I need something affordable. 3. I want to live simply and lower my impact on the earth. 4. I don't want to live in a home full of chemicals.
I'm an experienced carpenter with my own tools, so I could easily build my own conventional home if I had the money to buy land, materials, and pay all the subs. I don't want to do that. So, I went another route.
I currently live in a Pacific Yurts 30' model. I bought it used, it came with the yurt, floor/deck, washer and dryer, refrig, oven, micro, kitchen cabinets, shower stall, vanity/sink, etc. It and the appliances were only two years old when I bought it. I paid less than $10k for the whole deal. It had all been taken down and was sitting in a large barn when I bought it. It took a few days to move it all with a Uhaul truck, then took me and my friend about 4 days to build the deck--it took a little longer because we were putting back together the "puzzle" of the floor (4'x8'x1 1/4" T&G plywood) as opposed to building it new. It then took 2 days to erect the yurt, and probably another week to run the plumbing and wiring and build the interior walls, etc. So, about 3 weeks of labor in total and I was living in my new home!. The yurt frame should last more or less indefinitely. The yurt roof is warrantied for 15 years, and the yurt sides for ten years. It would cost about $2,800 for a new roof cover, and about $1,600 for new side curtains.
I LOVE living in my yurt! Best thing I've ever done for myself!! Simple, low-impact, comfortable, beautiful, and, unlike many other alternative buildings--completely mobile! They are also legal (in terms of engineering and permitting) though in my county they want you to pour concrete footings which I did not do--just post and beam on concrete pier blocks. Still, for those of you who are pushing the envelope in terms of legality, A) a yurt is mobile, and B) as such it's not considered a "permanent structure," and C) they are legal in many states.
So, while I'd still like to build an underground, cob, earthbag, etc building sometime soon, I think that all too often it's easy to overlook the "real costs" of doing that. Yes, materials can be cheap (i.e. logs/lumber from the building site, used doors, windows, etc.) but plumbing, wiring, pond liners, backhoe work, cranes, etc. all add up pretty quickly--and we haven't even talked about the biggest cost of all--LABOR. Even if you build yourself, that means while you're building most people are not able to have any other income, so there is a huge "opportunity cost" there. In my case, patience in looking on Craigslist and yurt forums, coupled with only 3 weeks of labor and less than $10k cash got me a very nice fully equipped 750 sq ft. home that will last for many years to come.
I am also relatively new here. I will write you more later, but I haven't slept yet and it is 7.36 AM here in Finland. Just one question: Could you post some pictures of your yurt? I have no idea how that kind is constructed. P.S. I will write also in this thread: https://permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=571.new;topicseen#new Your compost design is very interesting and clearly written plus good photos. Thank you very much for that!