Where Would You Rather Live?

Cookie-cutter urban sprawl
Cookie-cutter urban sprawl

Acmeville Tract Homes: 2,500 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 3 bath, $250,000 ($2,000/month for 30 years, 20% down, plus insurance, title and closing fees, taxes, cookie cutter fee, and homeowner association fee). Your choice of three shades of beige and pastel vinyl siding.
Well planned, sustainable ecovillage
Well planned, sustainable ecovillage

Hitherwood Hills Ecovillage: your choice of 100 homes (30 unique designs by Owen Geiger) made with natural materials from 450 to 1,000 sq. ft. at $20/sq. ft. ($9,000 to $20,000 as part of a group DIY build), passive solar, superinsulated homes complete with renewable energy, high speed wireless Internet and fiber optic cabling, community kitchen and meeting hall with free nightly events, library, fitness center and shared laundry machines, coop membership, carpooling (20 minute drive to town), fully equipped workshop, nature paths through protected open space, access to adjoining 10 million acre national forest, 600 sq. ft. allotment in organic garden and greenhouse, 1,000 sq. ft. allotment in organic orchard, free fishing and swimming in private lake, no taxes or homeowner association fees.

Image 1 source: My House Analysis

Image 2 source: The Fifth Estate

20 thoughts on “Where Would You Rather Live?”

  1. Wow!! Owen, this is paradise! I want to live there. I wish I knew of something like this here in the states… California. Anyone from Cally want to do something like this besides me? Just amazing Owen!

  2. Hmmm….For the last 5 years I have lived on 65 acres with a major river, a huge swimming hole with waterfalls, streams, ancient trees and pastures surrounded by 100 acre dairy farms in Chiriqui, Panama.
    I am in the boonies but only 30 min. from David, the second largest city in Panama. 40 miles north is a high altitude tropical forest, protected, extending from Panama to Costa Rica.
    I have always envisioned attracting community here on the ranch (finca). I know it will come to Be, just not quite yet.

    I live on about $650 a month very simply in a 160 sq. foot ‘casita’ with an added bath and a big patio. And….I am getting ready to add another room with earthbags. It has already attracted much interest from neighbors….

    I share this to encourage your dreams. And yes, i do have internet!

    • I didn’t say this in the blog post, but I was thinking of locations such as yours in other countries where costs are far lower. So if anyone reads this and wants to develop a sustainable community, going outside the US will almost certainly reduce costs.

  3. That looks great!
    Would it be in Thailand? Or the states?
    You know, we could probably get that much unused mountain and farmland for cheap here in Japan- rural depop has hit hard here. Whole villages disappeared or are left with just 2 or 3 senior citizens…

    • The project I’m working on is in Thailand, somewhere near Khon Kaen.

      I’m surprised to hear rural land is cheap in Japan. I would have guessed it’s super expensive.

      • The reason why rural land is cheap is because few people want to travel from the middle of nowhere for three hours each way to get to a job in a city. Many rural towns are becoming vacant due to young people moving to the city for jobs and the elderly dying off.

        If you do go to check out the rural areas, talk to your doctor about vaccinations months in advance.

        The problem with Japan as a destination is that it is almost impossible for a foreigner to ever get citizenship. It is almost impossible kids born in Japan to get citizenship if they happen to have two foreigner parents. Their elderly politicians would rather see their nation become a ghost town than watch it become a multicultural nation.

        We’d be coming in and building houses that are almost incompatible with traditional Japanese designs such as exterior rice paper doors, tatami mat flooring, and little to no household insulation.

        If you get accused of a crime (99% conviction rate) you may be deported back to whatever country you came from.

        It might be a different situation in the future but for now it should be avoided.

  4. A quick note to new readers. Our sites profile numerous projects that have been built in the $10-$20/square foot range.

    Earthbag Roundhouse: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-an-Earthbag-Roundhouse/
    Earthbag Projects page (some, not all): http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/projects.htm
    Home Tours: http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/natural-building-tour-of-eco-friendly-affordable-homes/, http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/earthbag-buildings-can-look-any-way-you-like/ (google the keywords to find pics)

  5. Okay Owen,

    Reduce the meds, huh? It’s not fair taunting us with “delusions of paradise”… :)

    I think I could make do with about 2000 sq ft of garden space. I mean, have you any idea how much you can grow in 2000 square feet? Oy. And that would be inclusive of both dedicated summer and winter beds…

    Of course, I’d surround it with PVC Fencing and farm that too:


    One of the “I Am Not A Victim” gardens we grew last year fed over twenty families regularly and it was only 80′ x 80′ – 6400 square feet.

    Perhaps by consolidating some of the space and making it “communal” you could increase output of high yield crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn, melons, zukes, cukes. et all… and share the load between families?

    Enough to feed your family, the family next door, and still have enough to help establish a terrific food banking AND Seed Storage system.

    If you can SECURE bandwidth, the eco-village is a telecommuter’s dream. Those who work on the Internet can work virtually (pun intended) anywhere.

    Building a “Power Station” for electric vehicles is easily within the reach of families now, using off the shelf parts. Perhaps electric vehicles and carts could be utilized for “inner sanctum transport”?

    I’m not talking Tesla Roadsters, I’m talking modified nursery carts and the like… Durable, low maintenance, enclosable and sustainable.

    And should you find a home for this ARK… I have a 600 square foot hybrid – Earthbag/ISBU – home that I’d love to build there… as long as you don’t stock the lake with piranhas… ;)

    And… as long as you accept “my kind and my kin”… ;)

    Maybe we could include aquaponics and fish-farming too? Secondary sources of protein are a good thing…

    And an orchard… definitely an orchard…

    Okay, enough daydreaming…

    Owen, you’re talking about building “heaven”… :)

    • “Talking about building heaven.” That’s right. That’s the goal. I think if people work hard and long enough then they can accomplish most anything. Collaborate as a team instead of looking for an off the shelf product. Work together and cut out the fat cat business guy who wants to make millions.

      It’s not really all that far out, especially if you use shared facilities and cut out dozens of kitchens and bathrooms and all the associated infrastructure. You can save millions right there. I’m working with a group right now on something similar. In the last five minutes we hit upon an incredible dome idea that’s made with almost all recycled materials, is stunningly beautiful and super low cost. Stay tuned. Drawings should be finished within a week.

      You brought up lots of good ideas. Kelly Hart had an electric golf cart for years that he modified for EV transport. Some crops like corn are best grown together for maximum yield…

  6. Owen, it really depends on where the ecovillage is located. State laws, temperature ranges, and distance to the nearest hospital can make the ecovillage a nonstarter for some people.

    Probably the most important requirement is nearby jobs. While the amount of money a person would need to earn goes down with the low cost of living, there are still taxes and various bills to be paid. The internet connection would help for people who are able to net commute but few businesses allow that due to security risks.

    • This started as sort of a whimsical idea. Now I’m thinking how something like this is possible if enough people worked together and were willing to move to a lost cost area.

  7. I would love to live in an eco village! I had two homesteads until retirement. My husband is blind. I am disabled. BUT…I’d want more garden! I live in a disabled/senior apartment complex with 30 units on a decent chunk of land in the NY Adirondack Mountains and my personal raised bed garden is 3000 sq ft :-)


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