Suppose you found a modest country lot of an acre, maybe two, for about $8,000 that was near enough to the city for weekly forays for some occasional supplies, for library and for similar resources, but out where there was little government other than basics, an amenable building inspection crew, appropriately low taxes and good environmental quality to preserve.
And, of course, good internet access, cable preferable to satellite. Not too difficult by our experience.
Now check the local soil conservation records, the well logs and the septic requirements. The rural electric co-op´s benefits and get a phone book, local paper, visit the library and the shopping. Meet the neighbors, tell them you have novel ideas and consult them on local contacts. You´ll want good building soil because you´ve concluded that rammed earth is not only very appealing but it´s economically wonderful if your investment in land has already bought you the walls of your house since the process looks doable by novices like yourself and your family. Then add to these benefits the ability to take the soil in a way that creates an irrigation resource for a potential bush orchard.
For the roof, you´ve decided on a ferrocement shell that is curved to support an earthsheltered structure and to make your home more immune to extreme winds whose frequency and strength are among the climate changes for your area. The earthsheltering also improves the thermal performance of a home, winter and summer, and you´ve discovered an insulation/umbrella scheme, passive annual heat storage or PAHS, to banish the waterproofing headaches of past underground houses. In addition, PAHS creates a heatsink enveloping your house so that your house can harvest the warmth of the sun in the summer when it´s plentiful and retrieve it in the winter, eliminating the need for an HVAC system. The importance of ferrocement is its efficient use of materials while achieving many times the tensile strength of concrete but not losing its compressive strength. You´re also sifting through the DIY processes for ferrocement to tailor one to match your roof, floorplan, and special projects.
Among those special projects are a sunpit hydroponic greenhouse with a spa, warm-zoned bathrooms, a greywater system to use bathwater for flushing, a blackout system, and ergonomically designed work areas, private areas and common areas for your multigenerational families to share... for a total 4500 square feet with half in common areas shared by as many as 5-6 adults and 4-5 children with their various cats, making better use of resources individually less occupied, including home-based business space... a feeling of open-floorplan daylit spaciousness with studio space and office, eat-in kitchen, library and garage/workshop in the common areas, resulting in an overall modest 500 sf of private space per family unit, and saving 50% of their household water usage, growing a portion of their raw produce, sharing their lives without concern over vulnerabilities of heating & cooling bills, extremes of weather or basics of life, but with reduced maintenance and housekeeping, ample creature comforts and delights of mind.
And without the vulnerability of a mortgage, because this combination looks doable with minimal materials, reliance on passive systems, geometry, devotion to functionality, use of strategic finds in the local waste resources directory and attention to workload design. The numbers work out roughly like this:
$16,000 for mini-loader/backhoe, $__ 300 for tiller,
$__ 120 for 300RPM heavy-duty right-angle drill for mixing concrete
$_1,300 for pneumatic tamper with 5 HP compressor
$_1,500 for a hitch and trailer
$__ 500 for an assortment of minor tools
$_2,300 for sand and
$_3,600 for cement to balance/stabilize the rammed earth
$__ 500 for sand,
$_3,700 for cement,
$__ 400 for plasticizer/air-entrainer and
$13,600 in steel mesh and PVA fibers for the ferrocement
$_1,800 in roadbase for the heatsink pockets
$_1,700 in gravel for the irrigation system
$_2,600 in leach/mound materials plus $2,000 for septic tanks/pumps
$__ 600 in roadbase for the driveway
$_3,500 for well drilling, pump and pressure tank
$_1,500 for daylighting, $2,500 in doors, windows (demolition sale)
$_2,000 for greywater system, water heater and spa heater
$__ 600 for spa, hydroponics arrays, tanks, and pumps
$_2,200 for blackout system: generator, transfer switch, batteries, etc
Insulation and waterproofing will require creative assembly but were free from local waste exchange contacts.
The remaining electrical wiring, switches, and outlets
are standard though used creatively
as are the remaining plumbing pipes, fixtures, and vents.
Which leaves kitchen cabinetry, interior doors and minimal interior walls.
For a total of $64,820 plus the miscellaneous but not including the land, nor accounting for the relief that some of that tool budget can be recouped after completion.
Plumber and electrician to do the rough-ins,
Civil Engineer to do the stamp,
Geotech to run your selected tests (or sign-up at the local tech college)
All the rest is your efforts.... you have a lot to do and to learn, but it´s comfortably doable and the best payscale you´ve ever been offered considering the end product and the value of the avoided mortgage with its 20-30 year sentence. You will have built the equivalent of two homes with a grandmother´s apartment and with amazing features.
An ordinary 1500 sf new home would cost you $150,000 cash or $315,000 to the bank at a minimal 5% interest for 30 years. It would cost you another $50,000 for heating and cooling for those 30 years with more to come, as well as substantial maintenance and ultimate deterioration in basically one human lifetime for standard construction. But with this design you will have built yourself more than twice that.. Or in other words you will have acquired nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of value for the combined efforts of your multigenerational crew over three years of part-time, good weather work. With none of the taxable liabilities and with a multi-lifetime heritage inherent in the heavy duty construction, to boot.
But it´s not ordinary... it´s a work of art you will love.
Your first task is to plan a strategy to raise the initial funding. For the land, banks will be willing to consider a mortgage which would be easy to immediately pay back after you´re enjoying the new home because of the reduced cost of living.
After that the outflow of the cash for tools, materials and services is spaced out over the construction period fairly evenly.
If cash is limited but at least one of you is paying off a mortgage, the equity in that home could be your key. A home that cost $100,000 five years ago, with 5% down and a 30 year mortgage at 6% interest, in a neighborhood that´s appreciating at 4% per year, has accumulated almost $33,000 in equity. Even better, if you´re the grandmother and you bought your then-$60,000 home 20 years ago with a 25 year mortgage at 8%, a good deal back then, your equity would have accumulated to around $70,000 which is an asset your bank would likely be happy to use for a line of credit so that you won´t be paying for funds you´re not using til later.
Others have bought land where they can set up inexpensive temporary living accomodations for the duration and used the savings in their living expenses to finance their work, gaining as well as the advantage of being on site. You will be fascinated at how options materialize for you as you begin to survey and consider. You will find what you need. Now, although it´s time to develop the picture further, we will be moving to be close -- not on -- to our building lot.
Namely, the plan is to use our construction equipment to prep and develop the lot adjacent to our building site, select an optimal doublewide -- The Fleetwood Stonecreek with an ideal floorplan for a multigenerational adventure, also 2 x 6 construction, very affordable, hurricane anchored, with well-engineered, controlled-environment and minimal-waste construction --
for our developing business, use the doublewide to test various of our calculations and assumptions before attempting the CyberHobbit, and develop our skill with that equipment while learning/negotiating county regulations and local soil/water/life requirements.
Although the topics below exist in our hardcopy files, the project of developing the pages online will be done rather sporadically. Meanwhile you may be inclined to check in on our Stonecreek Model to see its current status.
This is the outline of the files to be deveolped sporadically....
Hydroponics and Spa
ZonedHeated Baths, Babybathing and Cats
Climate Extremes and Mitigation
Orchard and Solar Access
Although we have developed the list of figuring pages above on paper, the project of conversion to web-formats is going to be delayed, while we launch our own construction-reality exploring. We have skills to learn and equipment to maintain and techniques to test. We've bought the lot next to the one we intend to use for the CyberHobbit. We need to confirm the variables in our planning. The concept is to use this new lotsite for a doublewide of considerable merit for its structural and insulation options, which options we've found to be desirably inexpensive to add to the base model. The model is appropriately named the Stonecreek and we will be exploring what can be done -- DIY -- to make this type of affordable home as sustainable as possible, while learning the construction ropes. Doublewides have their own sustainability claim that there is no more than 4% waste in their construction as compared to the usual 50% waste in stick-built homes. An excellent start! For the duration of this adventure we will be annotating our discoveries and posting pictures of progress. Come travel our StoneCreek Saga.