From time to time we feature areas around the U.S. that have few or no building codes. Today we profile Brewster County, Texas. Codes typically skyrocket the cost of construction ten-fold, so we encourage natural builders to seek out rural areas with minimal building codes. Search our blog for lots of other counties with few or no codes.
From Wiki: Brewster County is located in the western part of the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,232. Its county seat and only city is Alpine. The county has a total area of 6,192 square miles (16,040 km2). It is the largest county in Texas. The only substantial water is half the width of the Rio Grande river. The largest state park in Texas is Big Bend Ranch State Park at 300,000 acres (1,200 km2).
7 thoughts on “Few or No Residential Building Codes in Brewster County, Texas”
Brewster County has only one real drawback. Sourcing of materials. I’ve seen folks show up and claim they will build Adobe structure. The Adobe materials here aren’t everywhere and most of the areas where Adobe is located is on private property.
Another consideration is Texas has no public use land, all property except for parks (State, National or municipal) is privately owned and the parks have their own rules and restrictions.
Lastly, everything here is expensive, reasonably priced materials are available either in Odessa (130 miles one way), El Paso (220 miles one way). Same for shopping. Alpine does have groceries, basic dry goods and lumber/ hardware but they are all very expensive compared to the afore mentioned population centers.Terlingua has only restaurants and bars, no grocery store.
Medical care here is poor, the hospital is a stabilize and transport facility for any significant trauma. Expect to buy membership in an air transport medevac service.
Water wells are a huge gamble, dry well holes are everywhere, although there are a few good wells. Water catchment is the preferred method as you also get shade from the structure. There are places to buy bulk water and a few services offer delivery of bulk water. There are several vending machines around the county that vend water by the gallon to your container.
Most asphalt roads are good, well designed roads with a few that are more contour following in the mountains (hwy 118 south of Alpine is a good example), but most dirt, non county or state maintained roads are 4WD, 10 Ply tire, dry weather roads. During monsoon some roads can be impassable for days to weeks.
The rentals like Air BNB, Hip Camp have had lots of people buying land to try to grab a quick buck. This has dramatically and artificially increased land prices, out of town people who don’t understand property rights and trespassing issues, added noise and road damage from driving wet roads, and some small petty crimes.
I always advise anyone interested in relocating here to first get a topographic map, if you can’t read one and understand what may become a water course during a heavy rain event, ask someone who can to help. Look for signs of water erosion and coursing. Flash flooding is a thing here.
Utilities are mostly non-existent, most power is solar or wind or hybrid of both. Some cell service, some available internet (Star Link is the new favorite here) and some semi unreliable, commercial power.
Spring break and park visitor tourist seasons like spring, fall and most holidays overwhelm our resources.
From gas stations that run out of fuel to restaurants that have waits at the doors, many locals just hunker down and wait it out.
Lastly, if you need to hire help, ask for recommendations and references, ask to see completed projects. There is a thing here called “Terlingua Time”. Some “construction” people and companies have reputations as get the money and no show, get the money do some work, get high or drunk, don’t show for days, don’t answer calls. Then, others are impeccably reliable and punctual.
Having said these things, if you’re flexible, open minded, not easily discouraged and can be mostly self sufficient it could be a place to consider.
I have lots of land but permits for everything. Brewster great sounds
Have been following your site for sometime. I am especially interested in the earthbag idea and think that is the way to go. One question. I see many allusions to the idea of protection of the lower areas. Has anyone used lower course of stone, say a meter high. Perhaps with another matrix, before beginning the earthbags. Much volcanic stone as well as river rock where I plan to build.
Sure. That’s called hybrid construction. Use what makes the most sense and is cost effective. For most people that involves using gravel bags on lower courses (filled with crushed river rock, pea gravel, crushed scoria, etc.) Using insulating gravel such as scoria in cold climates. Go as high as the windowsill if necessary to prevent damage from blowing rain or deep snow. Building lower walls with mortared stone looks Great! I love it. See previous blog posts on stone houses. The thing is stone building is very, very slow. I tried it one time on a small foundation and was stunned at how slow it is. If in doubt, practice on a tool shed and see what you think.
I think you must consider new building materials in new cost to save energy and protect the houses from disasters like fire, tornados, … when climate is changing every year.
It is strange that so many houses in USA are still built from wood and chip boards and material like celular light weight concrete is still unknown to many people.
Promoting the CLC is a very good thing this forum can do to the benefit of million of Americans
Modern wood framed houses are full of chip board and particle board with toxic glue, plastics, chemical paint, carpet, etc. — LOTS of terrible stuff that make people sick. They burn like crazy and give off toxic fumes in house fires. https://naturalbuildingblog.siterubix.com/how-to-build-a-house-that-will-self-destruct-and-burn-like-crazy/
There’s a growing awareness of safe, nontoxic, fire resistant building methods such as earthbag, geopolymer, lightweight concrete and plastered straw/clay. https://naturalbuildingblog.siterubix.com/econest-homes/
Natural building has lots of advantages.
I got a funny email last week that still makes me laugh. They asked about areas with no codes so they could make a “Check-out Ranch” to get away from the madness of modern society. One interesting detail is they want riparian land so they’ll have water, trees, vegetation, wildlife and better soil. Good idea. Riparian areas are also very beautiful and, in hot areas not as hot.