Dirt Cheap Housing: Escape the Matrix

Richard’s and Maggi’s blog post the other day about rice hull houses could become one of our most popular articles. It reminds me of a simple strawbale house that someone built 20 years ago to “get through university”. It worked so well that the owner/builder ended up living there about 10 years.

As surprising as it sounds, they broke the normal rules of strawbale building without running into major problems. They put the bales directly on the ground without a foundation (normally a big no no), and covered the walls with clay muck from a local swamp. Vines covered the walls. You’d think the bales would have quickly rotted. David Eisenberg of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology later investigated the house and wrote a report for The Last Straw Journal (back issues are available if you want to read the details). David measured the moisture content in the straw bale walls and found no problems except the bales in contact with the earth decomposed a little on the botom. No big deal because the house was built dirt cheap in an area with no codes and it paid for itself many times over in saved rent.

This is a great story of how someone was able to put themselves through school while living comfortably (snug in the winter!) and save enough money to do what they want in life. Contrast this to living in a noisy dorm and then paying a large portion of your hard earned money for a mortgage year after year. So there are alternatives if you’re determined and look hard enough. Maybe there’s a farmer nearby who’s willing to allow you to build an outbuilding on their land as part of a trade. Or venture out to rural areas with few or no building codes.

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