This is amazing! Looks great. Inspires me to realize I can in fact buy some land and put a home on it!
Very cool! Looks like a nice family, too.
Yeah, it's too bad a house like that would never be allowed to be built in the US. With the thousands of construction codes and inspectors pouring over every inch of the US, they would never approve the construction of such a home. And don't think you are just going to go out in the "country" and build whatever you want. Almost every county in the US has satellite imagery today and they use it regularly just to make sure you aren't doing this very thing- building without permits and permission (and the attending fees!).
In our county, back in the day, there was a $30,000 impact fee for every new single family home. I guess that would pretty much ruin the budget on this place. I think many of us will enjoy a simpler future, bring it on!
If you are interested in this type of housing, Look up Paul Wheaton on youtube.
He has a building design called a Wofati Eco Structure.
Also there is a book called the 50 Dollar Underground House book that has various
As I read the article, all I could think about is the very point you make here.
When I built my house here in the San Diego area in '03, just to have compliant plans drawn cost me about $11K for drafting and engineering, $10K for school fees, and another $10k or so for all kinds of misc. permit fees. Oh, I almost forgot about the $5.5K to put in a fire hydrant that I was required to install--on a neighboring parcel!
And since then it's gotten worse, much worse.
Just looking at the pictures of that charming little house, I spotted dozens of "code violations" that would have stopped that project on the drawing board were it built here.
Horstfam, American construction codes depend on where you live. I say this after over 35 years in the construction industry - first running a family business doing home remodeling and then in heavy construction as a safety engineer. Most building codes are local codes, except for some very prudent basic ones about things like electrical safety.
Let me contrast the codes--and use zoning, since that is also a limiting factor-- for two states and localities I know well: the greater NYC region and the greater Columbia SC area. Let's start with zoning, which determines what you can build where. I live on the border of two counties. In my home county of Lexington SC you have no zoning whatsoever. I mean NONE. People routinely run businesses out of ther homes, on their own property. Within a mile of my place in a residential/semi rural area you have everything from a large long haul trucking firm to an Arabian horse farm to several plumbers, HVAC guys and electricians all working out of their homes. In nextdoor Richland County the only use issue that I have found that is different so far is that you cannot raise chickens in your back yard. Taxes are low and no one tells you what to do. There are not many services: trash pickup for example is private and $150 per month per house unless you take your own garbage to the recycling center/dump. School buses are run by school the districts for a distinct savings. Taxes on a three bedroom home are $500 a year. The county does the building permits, and they don't take long: maybe a month. Occasionally a lax code issue will make me twitch, like it being perfectly legal to have a fireworks vendor at a gas station or to vent you bathroom into your attic, but overall you have tremendous freedom. The average home is only worth $150K but the cost of living is 40% less than in NY.
Contrast that with the NY City area, and it's surrounding municipalities like Long Island where I used to live. Up there you have very strict deliniated zones for commercial, industrial, residential and farm land. Each zone has a different tax structure and farms make the county the least in taxes so as an unintended consequence they they are being phased out. There are different services in each municipality but all have mandatory use of a city of town trash pickup service folded into taxes. School busses are sent out to a contractor. With both the busses and trash pickup there are all sorts of opportunities for kickbacks and bribes as well as another layer of expense to sub it out. In NYC trash pickup done by unionized workers, making it even more expensive. I only know the taxes on homes on Long Island NY, and they run at least $500 a MONTH. I do know that in NY City taxes are even higher.
NYC and it's surrounding towns issue building permits. I happen to know that building permits in the Towns of Islip and Babylon, NY take a minimum of 3 months, a maximum of 9 months, and average 6 months. In NYC they can take a year and firms routinely hire someone called an expeditier to stand in line all day or cool their heels at various offices while trying to get permits from overlapping dpeartments like the DOT (NYC Dept of Transporations), the DEP (NYC Department of Environmental Protection) or the DOB (NYC Dept of Buildings.)
So like I said, it depends where you live in the USA. The horror stories I read about people who have a 'not to code' or zoning violaiton home taken down by a municipality all seem to happen in overregulated places like California. It's a factor to consider if you are relocating.
Great post Safe - so do you think it is possible to build the 'hobbit' home in certain areas of the USA? I'm looking at upstate rural NY, Ct, PA areas.
Yes, you should be able to find a place that allows sod construction - if you do your homework. Just check the local building codes before you you buy a piece of land. Have a building plan, preferably by an architect--try to find a student architect who can do it as a peice of coursework-- and see if they will allow you to erect it in their jurisdiction. My experience tells me you should get approval from the local authority that issues building permits in writing beore you buy land.
Here is a great guide on building a sod home.
And here are two schools of architecture who also are into going green and susatinable: Arizona State University - School of Sustainability andBall State University - College of Architecture and Planning. Other schools of archtecture can be found at http://www.acsa-arch.org/schools/guide-to-architecture-schools/search-the-guide
And don't think you are just going to go out in the "country" and build whatever you want. Almost every county in the US has satellite imagery today and they use it regularly just to make sure you aren't doing this very thing- building without permits and permission (and the attending fees!).
Ah....... but if your house is covered in sod, how are they going to see it!?
Hahahahahah LOL.....brilliant point!
In a few parts of the country (at least mine), reason still prevails when it comes to building codes and permits. Let us be charitable for a moment: building codes can and often do serve a legitimate purpose. Permits, on the other hand, might be viewed with a bit more suspicion; perhaps they tend to be more of a revenue raising measure.
That said, when my wife and I bought our 87 acres in 1995 and began construction of our ranch home, we only needed one permit and that was for our septic system. Actually, what we have is an aerobic system, which is a miniature wastewater treatment plant. Still, even though we planned for the aerobic system from the beginning, as part of a "green" plan even before green became fashionable here, we had to have a soil percolation test in order to get our septic system permit. We knew that our soil would not pass a "perc" test -- and sure enough, it didn't. But we still had to pay the permit fee. Why do I suspect that it is more about the fee than the result?! Still, it was a minor annoyance and I just grinned and paid the fee. That was the end of the hassle.
We built our home. No inspectors came calling, as in zero, zilch, nada. We never applied for any building permits, nor did we need to. This is Texas. We have our problems here, to be sure. If you live in one of our Texas urban areas, you will definitely encounter some of the same hassles that you would in other parts of the country. But out here in the wide open spaces of the Texas countryside, you will still find that independent spirit of self-reliance that built this country.
Trouble is, people in places like California and Illinois are beginning to eye Texas as a more hospitable business and living climate. A lot more people are moving in than are moving out. We sort of like it here and would like to retain our fabled elbow room, if you please. May I suggest Alaska?
I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout the United States and much of the world before I retired -- and I've pretty well stayed home since and been content with that. Allow me to share an observation here: In no other state of the USA have I encountered the sheer number of state flags proudly flying like I routinely do here in my home state of Texas. In fact, I strongly suspect many of my fellow citizens in other states might be hard pressed to identify their own state flag. Not so in Texas: the Lone Star flag is distinctive.
Now, all that said, I must also say that almost the very moment we moved in, the buzzer at our front gate signaled the arrival of the tax-assessor. He came with his measuring tape and clipboard and set to work. Shortly after we received our assessment in the mail. It has steadily risen every year since, even when property values obviously fell in our area. Property taxes are perhaps (read: certainly) driven less by actual valuation than by the need to raise revenue. Sigh. Bush Alaska is looking pretty attractive. If I were 20 years younger I would up stakes and move my family there. Those readers who joined this site within the last couple of years might want to check out "Off Grid in Alaska" http://www.jenninewardle.com/ to see how "Plickety Cat" and "Gungnir" are faring in their adventure. Hint: they are doing just fine.
Ditto what matrix said. I live in over-regulated CA. Permits here are all about revenue, since multiple violations (committed by licensed contractors) are routinely overlooked. Since new taxes or raising taxes must be approved by the voters, our county code people have simply raised the permit fees, and created new ones. We just got a new "pool or spa remodelling" permit, which you must buy before repairing the tile or cement in/around your pool. Our code actually demands a permit to paint the interior walls of your home.
Needless to say, many (maybe most) people do not comply. Because of spy satellites, we've heard of people putting up large, Army camo nets over construction. Might be a way to build a sea train/sod house under the radar...
It's funny, the harder you turn the screws on people, the more creative they get in finding ways to do things anyway.
As for moving to other states, I don't think escapism is the answer. Sooner or later, every state will have to deal with the same bureacrats, desperate to justify their existence and non-productivity. Instead I think we should plant our feet firmly, and take back what we can, as we can.
Get a yacht.
Thatch is hardly new. Try getting a thatched house past the parasites.
If you think Texas is big, just you wait till you see L4 and 5.
The buildings code fella will be reality itself.
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