For ease of getting a permit for earthbag houses, buy rural land with few or no building restrictions. Ask building officials about building restrictions before buying land! Some will let you build with alternative materials (earthbag, strawbale, adobe, etc.), some won’t. Although alternative materials are allowed by code, some counties make the process so difficult that it’s not worth the trouble. In contrast, some counties have almost no building restrictions except septic systems. It makes no sense, but that’s the way it is. The world desperately needs sustainable housing, but yet all these codes create barriers to alternative building methods and increase cost of construction.
Building codes were written by the insurance, steel, concrete and timber industries to protect their interests and maximize profits. The same thing is happening today with lobbyists in Washington, and that’s why things are so screwed up.
Even if your building officials allow you to build an earthbag house, it will likely cost several times more than it has to. They’ll want concrete foundations, concrete floors, factory trusses, certified wood, etc. Figure $80/sq. ft. minimum in the city instead of $10/sq. ft. do-it-yourself in rural areas. Example: 846 sq. ft. x $80/sq. ft. = $67,680
This is conservative. You’ll likely pay a lot more after permits, engineering fees, utility hookups, etc. And if you hire contractors to do everything, the cost could double. And at this point you may need a home loan, which drives up the price even more. This is part of the reason why there’s a housing crisis and over a billion people can’t afford housing.
You’ll need to talk to your building officials since codes vary county to county. Even a few miles outside the city in a rural county may mean virtually no codes. Try to locate other houses made with alternative building materials. Print various articles and pictures from our websites (www.EarthbagBuilding.com, www.GreenHomeBuilding.com, etc.) and show your building department. Pin them down on specifics. They’ll say something like “you’ll need stamped drawings from an engineer or architect.” Find out exactly what they want.
Building in a city shoots down most options. In most cases it’s not worth the time struggling against the system. Maybe you’ll find a local architect or engineer who specializes in alternative/green building and can help you through the process. Do a google search using key phrases.