The Sheer Lunacy of the Housing Situation

Kelly Hart’s Carriage House combines insulated earthbags of scoria with a manufactured steel Quonset hut.
Kelly Hart’s Carriage House combines insulated earthbags of scoria with a manufactured steel Quonset hut.

Nick, one of our readers left the following comments. “I think the sheer lunacy of the housing situation, what you pay versus what you get, will insure that alternative means of construction will prevail in the end. Even if you don’t have the patience to build yourself, you can buy a steel warehouse building, say 30X40, and play with it to your heart’s content–stone facing on the outside, rice hull insulation indoors, clay walls to cover the rice hulls and steel, earth floor, half height earthbag fencing around the house for utility and beauty–and you’ll still only spend $20,000 versus half a million or more with a 50 year mortgage.

I’m in my mid 40′s and it boggled my mind that I’d have been a slave for my entire life, +5 years just to own a plywood & plasterboard shack that requires constant maintenance to not disintegrate, especially in the humid South. The bankers really do want you to become an adult, and then work for them for your entire life until you die, paying them rent, the pharma groups not far behind, with their belief that everyone of us needs to be on lifelong medications just to line their pockets. Ridiculous.

Another reason for pushing these 50 year mortgages, by the way, is that the robo-signing scandal and real estate fraud that took place during the bubble puts them in serious jeopardy of losing during the foreclosure process, in court, if those people have a good lawyer. By getting fresh signatures on new, proper, documents and invalidating the old fraudulent documents, they gain a much stronger position in any future foreclosure process, and as a final bonus, they also turn some non-recourse mortgages into full recourse mortgages, if state law allows this. ”

Owen: How true. People are waking up to the new reality big time. Take away people’s homes, and make other housing alternatives unaffordable (high rent, excessive building fees), and people are bound to start looking for low cost options. Geez, people can’t even afford a garage now, let alone a decent house. So they start surfing the Internet and see all the cool earthbag and strawbale houses, and other natural building methods using pallets, adobe, earth floors and plaster, ferrocement, pole building, and so on. I look forward to the day when the masses snap out of it and make more sensible choices. The times they are a changin’.

Kelly Hart’s Carriage House plan
This method of adding insulated bags over a manufactured steel vault is a great way to build – very fast and efficient, just bolt together, stack lightweight scoria bags, then plaster. And, it’s easy to get code approval. If you like vaults, this is probably the best way to go.

10 thoughts on “The Sheer Lunacy of the Housing Situation”

  1. I love this site! We have a solid plan to buy some land and build a “Mountain Cottage” – and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. Why sacrifice your life for a gigantic box that looks like all the others and costs a fortune to maintain?

  2. All of these ideas are excellent using steel buildings and such. The problem I have seen is building codes. What is suitable for commercial or agriculture is not usually allowed in most parts of the US as residential housing. If your building in the boonies and can get away with it, great. But I suspect that if you try to get a permitted structure, the engineering, changes and delays to pass code compliance could make it much more costly then it initially appears. Often municipalities won’t allow outbuildings if there is not a house already on the property.

    If the name of the game is money, then I would stick with earthbag structures alone. Even though it would take some additional money to get it engineered, the other costs are low. With a steel fabricated structure, you have the cost of the building, plus all the additional stuff to make it inhabitable. Not nearly so much with an earthbag structure. Especially a dome.

    On the Cal Earth grounds there was a portion of a building that Nader or his students had built out of a large galvanized corrugated pipe. It was all steel. I was thinking a large piece of pipe, stood on end with doors and windows cut in would make the perfect interior or exterior shell for an insulative earthbag roundhouse structure. By the structure being all fairly thick steel, it would be extremely strong.and earthquake resistant.

    • That’s why we’re always recommending to build in remote rural areas with few or no building codes. Building to code will make costs skyrocket.

      But not every area is the same. Kelly’s Carriage House is in a housing development in Crestone, Colorado. It was built with authorization of the homeowners association as a legit structure. This is unusual, but there are ‘pockets of freedom’ still out there.

      Another related option is used grain bins for storing grain. You could put earthbags on the inside or outside of the grain bin, or use two grain bins that are 18″ different in size and use earthbags between. Similar structures have been built (but not with earthbags).

  3. Owen,

    Really love the various plans and ideas that keep popping up on this site for alternative housing. Another option to consider instead of a steel quonset hut would be to utilize used ISB Shipping Containers with a scoria filled earthbag shell. Not sure if anyone has tried this yet, but I think it would work very well.

  4. I love this post. How true it is! At least for me: Let’s remember there are people that will always slave themselves to a bank in order to be able to just show off with their last i-phone model.

    If you add a bit of solar/wind energy, self growing food ( do yourselves a favor ans read ” the one-straw revolution”) and one can be free. At least free to do what makes sense for you in life, and be able to have some fun out of live, which is the only reason why we are here.

    If you are able to change the car for a bike…well, them you are an star!!

    Have a nice day.

  5. Too true…housing is way overpriced and I like the coincidence that a mortgage lasts as long as one of those boxes, so we have to start again. There is little in them that can be fixed unless we call and pay a specialized tradeperson as compelled by increasing regulations (heater, gas, power, etc.). Also coincidentally, the consideration/approval of building standards for DYO take a LOT of time (at least here), as overseas technical tests must be verified (again!) and comply with “Australian standards”, as if they were better than thousand of years of physical proof. But hey, the comparison is way too favourable for the “alternative” buildings not to eventuate.

    • You said “the coincidence that a mortgage lasts as long as one of those boxes”. Ha ha. I can just see the greedy bankers planning how to maximize profits. I think people are getting really fed up with this scam and that’s probably why people write me every day about their projects.

  6. Owen, this blog is so damn inspiring. I seriously love seeing all these creative low cost housing solutions come through my RSS feed every day. I’m not in a position to settle down and build a home right now, but someday down the road I really want to try alternative building.

    Anyway, love what you’re doing!


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