Permitted Earthbag Dome Home in Florida — 70 Comments

  1. Hi I live in Geneva, Florida which is in Seminole County on a 5 acre farm. I am looking to get rid of our double wide manufactured home and build an earth bag house in the next 10 years. I don’t know where to start and really looking for help on where to go to get approval to build one. Any contractors or engineers in my area that you may know of? Or how to get the building permits?? Ive read the building code manual on the seminal county building permits site but it talks about masonry, wood, brick etc. etc. My thoughts are if its sandbagged then it fits the definition of a brick, except it’s a compressed earth one. So wouldn’t this pass the test?? Many thanks in advance for your advice and assistance.

    • The folks at might be able to help you, as they say they are familiar with earthbag construction. Gary J. Gill PE also once was in Florida, but his website is no longer active; you could try his phone: 386-362-3678

      Earthbags are really different from all other earthen building technologies, so the codes are not transferable. Usually it is best to talk to the permitting agency directly to find out the real scoop.

  2. We an elderly couple husband is disabled we are looking for something low budget earth friendly easy up keep. we are now living in my parent old home that is crumbling around us. have been reading great thing about the earth bag homes. would like info with pricing pleae.

    • You can read a lot more about earthbag homes at . The cost of building varies somewhat from region to region, but most plans can be built for no more than the average building cost per square foot for new construction in your area. You can ask local realtors, contractors, or bankers for this information.
      Some of the designs that call for expensive solar equipment might cost more; some of the designs that are very simple might cost less. Other factors, such as how much you are willing to do yourself and how good you might be at finding good deals on building supplies, can make a difference…so in other words, it all depends….You might scan some of the directories of green professionals that are listed partway down the home page of for local professional help.

  3. This type of construction should be mandatory in Florida because of the storms. Florida is a state of corruption so likely they will find a way to shut this down. I feel this should be code. 18 inch thick walls. I’m just going to build one on 4 acres where I am well water , and septic. I feel if someone has to go through the red tape and corruption ,WHY Not ME !!!!

  4. Have a monolithic dome in Marion County Florida and am considering replacing the in-set doorway areas with earth bags since existing wood is susceptible to termites, mold, and rot. Walls would be exterior but not loading bearing. The bags would be sitting on existing concrete slab a few inches above grade. There is some electrical which would need to be incorporated (exterior light, switch, outlet). Interested in any thoughts/ideas/engineers/contractors/materials suppliers. Thanks!

    • This is possible. The most practical way is to do it yourself since it’s so small and earthbag building is such a specialized building method. You won’t find earthbag builders in the phone book. You can learn everything for free from our websites and videos, or to save hours of surfing you can learn through our books and DVD.

      • Thanks for the info! And if anyone with earthbag experience is out there in Marion County it would be nice to meet.

      • Hello, I would love to connect with you about earth building home in Florida. About permitting. I might be helpful in decorating purposes.
        Looking forward to connect

  5. Struggling to find alrenative building contractors in tampa bay area. Specifically pasco county. Any leads qould bee greatly appreciated.

  6. Hello,

    I was just wondering if you could please post the blog address? You said the owners were doing a blog, but no way to find it.

    Also, I assume the house is done now. It would be super awesome to see you write a follow up with some pictures and how they did along the way.

  7. Hi. I just came across your website while researching the possibility of building an earthbag home in Florida. So much information – thank you! Please do keep us informed on this permitted project – I would like to volunteer if possible.

  8. Has anyone ever tried to build an Earthbag home in Nebraska or the Upper Midwest area? I’m very interested in the feasibility of doing so.

    • Not sure. Strawbale building makes more sense in cold climates. That’s why there are quite a few strawbale houses there. (Some over 100 years old.) Use what’s locally available and makes sense for your area.

  9. Linda from Palm City, Fl here. [Patricia, u r 15 minutes down the road – Hi]. Looking for 5 acres in Fl w/hour-ish commute to ocean. Have been VERY interested in earthbag home. Disappointed to hear of higher costs, still hopeful of what the engineer mentioned might have to say. Have not researched yet but heard if u have “post & beam” structure supporting the roof – authorities care less about what your non load bearing walls are made of (exception being ratio of dirt/cement required. Insulated pitched roof would serve me for rain catchment & solar panels. I found no impact fees in DeSoto county & that u need know to ASK about additional (i.e. costly education fees) in others. Wetlands (state guidelines but has county input?) – need a “delineation” ($). Also to understand how many feet buffer required. I looked at Palatka -land cheaper but my opinion – paper mill makes toxic air for miles. Potential aquifer problems now & not too distant future. Water usage exceeds ability to replenish. Good article in National geographic. Google> N.G./’To Understand Water, Learn the Math’. Good map. I am mindful of water & plan rain catchment. While doing research for an aquaculture class – I had valuable chats with scientists from water management district and dept of agriculture. Have talked to some wonderful people. Informed on things I would not have thought to ask about & generous with their time. Appreciate the input found here – helpful. Linda

    • Try contacting them through their website/blog.

      Yes, post and beam will greatly increase your chances of code approval. Use engineered trusses and concrete foundation and your odds of success with go way up.

  10. Owen is correct. We just completed our coded dome home in Joshua Tree Ca and the costs came out to be a little less than stick frame for our county of San Bernadino. We built ourselves, no contractors, which also can incure other expenses regarding hiring labor re:insurance. You can visit our fan page on fb to see the project from the begining and possible find some info for your research.

    • Hello, I would love to connect with you personally. We are leaving close by and will be so grateful to consult with you.
      Please text me the best time to connect with you.
      Thank you so much.

  11. how can you say that the cost is the same as building a regular home,,,also when I said levy county,I was talking in the country side,the codes are basely the same,,can you please advise,I seen lots and lots of comments about these type of houses,they all talk about $5000 to $15,000 the most one will pay to have one of these build,labor and material,I asked because I wanted to be sure.

    • The codes will skyrocket the costs and likely wipe out all savings. You’ll have to pay engineering fees, high utility tap fees, permits, inspections, lots of extra concrete and steel, outrageous contractor fees, on and on. Don’t do anything until you do you a careful cost estimate. Get a book on cost estimating from the library and figure out all the costs. Then you’ll understand what I’m saying. This is why I gave up contracting and started focusing on natural building and moved to an area with no building codes. Not only have I saved a ton of money, I’ve been able to document and show others how to build dirt cheap. That’s not going to happen in Florida, sorry.

  12. any thing about this type of building in levy county florida,,,,also,whats the cost for a 1,500 sqft home,thanks

    • The codes are very strict in Florida and so the cost will be about the same as other houses in your area. The big savings come from building in rural areas with minimal codes. This means you’ll pay about 5-10x more.

  13. I live in central Florida and want to do an earthbag home somewhere near the Zephyrhills area. Does anyone have a contact number of a consultant on this type of building? It would be much appreciated.

  14. Me and my husband want to buy land in the fort white area… How can I find out if its possible to build a sand bag home there?

    • Is that in Florida? Contact the engineer Gary Gill (best) or look up your regional building authorities in the phone book and pay them a visit. It helps to take documentation to show them.

  15. I would love to build an earthbag home in Florida and have been speaking to Calearth. They tell me this is not the first home that was approved for the state of Florida and that there are other earthbag homes already in existence. I’m draw on this issue now. I really want to build an earthbag home but a monolithic dome might be a better environmental choice or even a container home. The monolithic dome is even better for flooding, etc. Ventilation is not a problem in an earthbag home. Calearth shows you exactly how to vent these homes. I guess I have to decide on what is the best for me. Regardless of what I choose, it will be green.

    • It gets even better. The word is this engineer may do earthbag pre-engineering on projects in other states. You’d still need an engineer who’s licensed in your state to stamp the plans, but the total fee would likely end up lower than if your local engineer did everything. This is because Gary Gill has already done the research and knows what to do. (Most engineers are busy and don’t want to spend days reading up on something unusual.)

  16. This is great news, as my husband and I are looking in Suwanee County and near Live Oak as well….way out off the grid, if possible. Land in that area is very affordable, but you have to really keep an eye out and we hope to actually go to Suwanee County and look for sale by owner property. We live in St. Lucie County about 3 hours away. We are definitely going to try for an earthbag dome home. I want to keep an eye out for the blog….THANKS FOR ALL THE GOOD INFORMATION.

    • Keep us posted. We love hearing about people’s projects.

      Also remember that domes are difficult to waterproof in rainy climates, and can suffer from lack of ventilation in humid climates.

  17. I’d really like to know more on the guvthugcosts. Sure, permiting was only $800. What about the Impact Fees? Usually, $6,000 is as cheap as that ever gets…

    • The engineering cost was $800. Permits were something like $130. Can’t remember for sure. They didn’t mention any impact fees.


    This is their contact page. their office is smack in the middle of “downtown” Live Oak. They seem to be a firm that handles very large projects, and this may just be a sideshow for them…

    I haven’t gotten anything back from them for my request to be involved in any way, shape, or form.

    • Many firms like this do large, medium and small projects. They show off their big projects but also do smaller ones.

  19. Land prices in Florida is a grab bag since the great American recession. Foreclosures in all types of real estate. Lots are ‘dirt cheap’ if you can get the bank to short sell the lot to you. In my area, just south of West Palm Beach (about a mile from the beach) my house was listed in 2007 for $398,000 for a 920 sq. ft 1926 Key West cottage. I got it for $179,000 and it is worth about $33,000 now.

    • Wow, that’s incredible. That’s the bursting of the real estate bubble that turned homes into a casino type investment. Some people expect more downward pricing before the market hits bottom.

      Here’s a scary article that explains various forces in play that could push housing prices even lower.

      From the article (many other good points like this one): “A growing number of prospective first-time buyers are reluctant to buy even though they can afford to. Their attitude is this: What’s the rush? I think prices are headed lower. And I like the flexibility that renting gives me.”

    • Not sure. We should know more soon when their blog is ready. The owner seems eager for volunteers and so this could be a win-win for everyone.

    • At that price ($800 engineering, plus low cost building permit and plans) this is affordable to most. Seems like finding land may be the biggest hurdle. Is land affordable in that area?

  20. Hats off to you Owen and Mr. Gill!

    This is super great news! Florida is a tough nut to crack!

    I live much further to the south and would be interested to see if Palm Beach county would approve this design.

  21. Super news – great effort! We know it is not easy to obtain building permits on these type of structures. We also went to a lengthy process to obtain such building permit and only obtained it after certain modifications on our original design.
    So thumbs up to the Owner and Engineer who went the extra mile – well done!
    We are eager to see the ongoing process and learn more in detail about this project.
    Great News!


    I’m only 70 miles from there!

    No, really! Florida is freakin’ nazi evil with building code. I won’t believe it unless I can lick it. I am so going for a ride tomorrow!

    • In a couple weeks or so they should have their blog ready. They’re looking for volunteers. Stay tuned for the details.

  23. I contacted architect firms across Louisiana with no luck on finding one willing to give me a approval stamp on a earthbag house plan. I was lucky enough to find a firm on the West Coast who happened to carry a Louisiana Certification. So, am glad to hear that some Southern architects are willing to give this building method a chance. Hope I can locate the blog and see the progress. glenna

    • Glenna,

      I am also from Louisiana, and my husband and I would like to build an Earthbag home in the future. What firm did you use to get your stamp of approval? And if you don’t mind me asking, what parish are you from?


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