Email question: “We are in the process of relocating to NE Florida, and would like to build a home with alternative building materials. It would seem that straw bale homes are not the best solution for Zone 9 [ed: due to risk of moisture damage]. What is your recommendation for the best building material, based on climate/humidity in the NE Florida coast? Is earthbag the best?”
Owen: Yes, I think earthbags are the best option in your situation. You’ll probably have to stabilize the fill material with some lime or cement to meet code and to better protect against moisture damage and insects. Code will also likely require some sort of extra reinforcement. This could include wood posts and beams or reinforced concrete posts and beams. In addition, there’s also the system used by Structure1.com who’s the only engineering company right now doing earthbag building.
Note: these three methods all allow you to build virtually any size or shape home. Building in the round is best in high wind areas because it will blow around the structure and not build up pressure. Be sure to use strong roof tie downs so the roof doesn’t blow away. In addition, code areas will also likely require a concrete foundation.
Also, research passive cooling strategies on our blog. Making smart choices in this area will save you a lot of money and improve the comfort of the home.
Passive Cooling Strategies for Hot Climates
Additional Passive Cooling Strategies for Hot Climates