This is probably the most common question of all: How much do earthbag houses cost? It’s sort of like asking how much does a car cost? Well, it depends on the size, features, construction details and how much work you are willing to do. The short answer is it can cost as much or as little as you want.
A small, simple house made of natural building materials could be built by a DIY builder for about $10/sq.ft. This assumes doing most everything yourself and using the ideas listed below. It doesn’t include things like land, building permits and utility hookups. Note: it’s much easier to do these things in rural areas with minimal building codes.
Here are just a few factors that can dramatically change the cost:
– Foundation: gravel-filled bags on a rubble trench foundation replaces concrete and steel.
– Earthbag walls (usually just compacted soil) replace a whole range of expensive processed materials.
– Earth, stone or recycled brick floors. Think of all the lumber that goes into a typical wood framed floor and how much you can save.
– Earth plaster saves sheetrock, taping, texturing and a lot of paint. And of course, earth is dirt cheap.
– Rice hulls are great for insulation.
– Small diameter, sustainably harvested wood from local forests can save you a bundle.
– Recycled materials throughout (sinks, tubs, hardware, tile, shelving, etc. including bags if they’re in good condition). This is one of the easiest ways of saving money. It just requires extra time.
So you can see this type of building doesn’t fit neatly into a conventional estimating chart or program. There’s no way I can say exactly what a house will cost. It all depends on local variables and how much people are willing to search for low cost alternatives.