Every once in a while I go back and look through my websites to check on things and look for fresh insights. I was very surprised to see this $300 Earthbag House video has received over 180,000 hits. That’s far above the average 2,000 hits on most of my videos and this got me thinking about why it’s so popular.
The $300 Earthbag House was the 14th place winner in ‘The $300 House’ challenge. (Earthbag designs had a strong showing with #1, 2, 3, 5 and 14 place winners. No other building method came close to this level of success in the competition.)
The low cost of this design is almost certainly the main appeal. Whenever we run a story about dirt cheap housing like Straw Bale Roundhouses Built in One Day or Rex’s $4/sq. foot Pallet House we almost always get a spike in traffic. This is the main point of this blog post – people want affordable housing! How obvious is that? It’s terrible seeing tens of millions of people who can’t afford a decent home even in a ‘rich’ modern country like the US. Most housing options, especially those made with highly processed materials such as steel, brick and concrete are not affordable, while those made with local natural materials such as earth, straw bales and wood poles are much less expensive. Look for rural areas with few or no building codes and you will reduce construction costs by many thousands of dollars.
Description of $300 Earthbag House: 11.1 sq. m. interior, 5.4 sq. m. sleeping loft, 11.2 sq. m. patio for cooking and socializing. Total living space = 27.7 sq. m. Single units can be expanded by adding on in any direction or joined to create multi-unit structures. Almost all materials are free or recycled: grain bags, rubble, clay, door, security bars, earthen plaster and floors, or locally available, natural materials: bamboo, rice hull insulation. All drawings and details for the $300 Earthbag House are provided for free.
A brief note about the cost: The competition organizers set a somewhat arbitrary $300 cost figure. They reasoned most slum dwellers could afford $300. Some people left comments that said no one could build a house for this amount. As I explained in my housing proposal, slum dwellers would scrounge almost all the materials for free or barter for as much as possible. They can’t afford to buy new materials. But what about building something like this in a developed country? This home built with recycled materials and some new materials might cost around $2-3,000 in the US – still very reasonable by any measure. Also note, you could use various materials such as earthbags, straw bales, adobe, etc. Use what makes sense in your area.