My husband and I have this dream of building our own home. Alternative housing and homesteading are our main goals. We also desire to be as sustainable as possible. We'd rather not rely too much on the outside world and have limited resources. We want a simple, hardworking life.
We have been offered a small parcel of land by my parents to build on, within their 13 acres. I guess my main question is... Are there any Virginians out there with similar goals, and have you been able to build alternative buildings (earth bermed, cordwood, etc.) without much hassle? We are looking at nelson county, a little SW of Charlottesville. It's rural, beautiful, and close to family.
I am in the Richmond area, and I have similar goals to you, but have not yet built any significant sustainable shelter. I have been reading up on roundwood timber framing, earthbag construction, and straw bale construction. I was very interested in Earthships (some features in common with Paul's wofati), but I am hearing from lots of east coast natural builder folks that an in-the-ground house is not feasible with the high humidity we have here (Earthship-killer?), and also the termites (wofati-killer?). I have been thinking that may be an oversimplification, and that there must be a way to take advantage of annualized thermal mass (ground is cooler than air in summer and warmer than air in winter) and build in some kind of passive ventilation/dehumidifying that keeps your space mold-free.
I am still in the research phase, and I may try a prototype soon. I would like to incorporate some sort of root cellar, and perhaps an underground cistern to use as a heat sink. I think we could find a way to add thermal mass in some way other than an actual in-the-ground house... maybe an earthen foundation under an overhang that catches angled winter sun, but not summer sun. Passive hot water heating is another interesting feature.