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Our Pseudo Earthship - 20,000 Tires  RSS feed

 
Jim Gagnepain
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I wanted to share some pictures of our bermed-earth home:

We used tire bales for this home. Each bale measures approximately 5'x5'x2-1/2' high, with between 80 and 120 compressed tires. They weigh about 1 ton each, and are stacked like bricks. A reinforced concrete bond beam, surrounds the bales. The bales were shotcreted (optional), and then an adobe finish applied over the shotcrete. Between the home, and a large outdoor retaining wall, I estimate there are about 20,000 tires.

We love living in this home, and would never desire to live in a conventional home again. Our "quality of life" has improved dramatically, primarily in four ways: 1. Quietness, 2. Views, 3. no Forced Air with the Associated Noise and Dust, 4. no Utility Bills.

This type of home originated as the Earthship, and the original designs were from a pioneer architect named Michael Reynolds. His designs used individual rammed earth tires. This also works very well for the same insulative properties, and thermal mass, but it is quite intensive from a labor standpoint. I have friends who pounded dirt in tires for 9 months. We erected our tire bales in 2 days, using a skid steer. We broke ground in April of 2011, and got our occupancy permit in early January, 2012. I acted as General Contractor for this home, but we used the talents and expertise of a number of fantastic contractors, and good people.

There is a reason why you seldom see Earthships for sale, unless there are construction issues (often limited budgets or some early design flaws resulted in issues). The residents never want to move out of them!

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Dillon Nichols
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Thanks for posting, Jim. I've read a bit about this option; seems pretty appealing compared to a conventional earthship, but doesn't seem to be as common as earthships... which are not exactly on every corner as it is.

Do you have a floorplan that you could post? Dimensions?

Are you comfortable sharing any cost information, for the parts that are specific to this sort of build?


I've never seen a *complete* earthship for sale, but I've seen several partly-finished ones listed... does make you think!
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Thanks for posting, Jim. I've read a bit about this option; seems pretty appealing compared to a conventional earthship, but doesn't seem to be as common as earthships... which are not exactly on every corner as it is.

Do you have a floorplan that you could post? Dimensions?

Are you comfortable sharing any cost information, for the parts that are specific to this sort of build?


I've never seen a *complete* earthship for sale, but I've seen several partly-finished ones listed... does make you think!


I have a floorplan at home, but right now I'm out of town. Will try to scan when I get back. We did some of the work ourselves, but we also hired a lot of contractors. I worked side-by-side with the carpenter, who I was paying by the hour. The overall cost of the finished structure itself was about $250K. Our original intent was to use a lot of used material - wood burning stove, doors, kitchen cabinets, etc. But I started working again, and we decided to purchase some new more upscale items, such as the Woodstock soapstone wood burning stove, nice cabinets, v-groove doors, etc. And this includes water filter, 3-car garage, outdoor landscaping, etc. I think I mentioned that I did the GC myself.

There are a lot of unfinished Earthships. A lot of people are told that they can get a loan, but when push comes to shove, the banks don't come through. We didn't have to take out a loan. This s our retirement home.
 
Tom Connolly
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Thanks for the post. Do you have any in progress photos? I would like to see a pic of each tire "bale".
 
Jim Gagnepain
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A few more pics:
Bale_and_Truck.jpg
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Bales_in_Place.jpg
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Bermed_w_Plastic.jpg
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Jim Gagnepain
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And More Concrete Work:
1. The Bond Beam - just poured, J-Bolts are not inserted yet. Once J-Bolts are in place, conventional framing is bolted on.
2. Shotcrete to cover and solidify the bales
3. The floor being poured.
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Shotcrete.jpg
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Floor_Being_Poured.jpg
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Rob Lougas
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Cool build!!! Its exciting to see these things come to life and even more exciting to hear that you are in it and its working! Congrats
Im curious if the tire bales were sufficient for a load bearing wall? Inspectors or whom ever didnt make you do a post and beam construction with bales as infill? How were the bales secured together other than the top bond beam and shot Crete?
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Rob Lougas wrote:Cool build!!! Its exciting to see these things come to life and even more exciting to hear that you are in it and its working! Congrats
Im curious if the tire bales were sufficient for a load bearing wall? Inspectors or whom ever didnt make you do a post and beam construction with bales as infill? How were the bales secured together other than the top bond beam and shot Crete?


Rob,
Our building department, PPRBD, did not require anything other than the stacked bales. I heard, through the grapevine, that some other Building Departments asked a question about tieing the bales together. I've worked with 2 other individuals who built tire-bale houses, and we would all tell you that it's absolutely unnecessary. At 5'x5', and weighing a ton, they stack just great, and stay in place. I felt perfectly comfortable walking on them, after they were all erected, pror to the bond beam. If you walked on the edge, sometimes you could get one to wobble a slight bit, maybe an inch or two. I would say that they are at least as secure as the rammed-earth tires. The bond beam has linked rebar (three strands) completely around the structure. On top of that, we shotcreted, which also holds everything in place. In the words of Tony, my fellow tire-bale home-builder, and friend, "This ain't going nowhere!".

The other friend of mine sprayed the shotcrete inside his bales, just for stability (he then furred the wall out on the inside of house, in lieu of the organic look we employed). We adobe'd over the bales on the inside:



Living_Room_Tire_Bale_Light.JPG
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Jim Gagnepain
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I ran out of time yesterday. Here's a few more timeline photos.

Back_Wall_Framing.jpg
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Attaching back wall to J-Bolts. We altered the design here, and had to pay for a PPRBD variance. The design called for skylights. We decided to install high awning windows instead. We have a long operator that is used to open them.
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It took six of us, and a tractor, to work on securing the framing for the angled front area.
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Most of our contractors were exceptional. The stucco crew was amazing. Cesar Fletes was the name, if you have stucco needs in CoSprings area.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Further along:
Roof_Stucco_Done.jpg
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The structure, after the roof and stucco were complete.
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I was adamant about doing solar and wind up-front. Most people build the home, and then find out they
Indoor_Framing.jpg
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Some indoor framing going up. Probably another long day - the sun is setting.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Skipping ahead. We opted on beetle-kill pine T&G for the ceiling. In addition to adobeing the tire-bale walls, we adobe'd all the interior walls. Lots of thermal mass!
Guest_Bedroom_Entry_Redux.jpg
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Guest Bedroom. Heavy curtains can be drawn for privacy.
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A walkin shower was constructed in the guest bathroom. The tire bales were covered with a waterproof stucco material, to give it a cave look and feel.
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The Master bedroom sits behind the master bathroom, which borders the windows. The hall lights were an afterthought, and were installed by yours truly.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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I forgot the kitchen. Granite was not much more expensive than other options. Why not - have I mentioned thermal mass? The kitchen cabinets were installed by my superb carpenter. We built a framed structure for the range hood vent, with some more of my wife's artistic tile work. The back wall, where most of the cabinets are installed is a North-South load-bearing wall. The design had 3 interior load bearing walls.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we like arches!

We installed a hybrid water heater. This water heater has a refrigerant, and an air circulation fan. It takes the heat out of the air, to heat the water. If demand is too great to keep up, an electric coil will come on. Priced just a little higher that a conventional water heater, this was an affordable option. We installed this up-front, near the glass, where the air is often 80-90 deg F. We framed an insulated pony wall, to diffuse any noise. I view this system as a poor man's solar hot water.

BTW, our house is all-electric - no gas at all.
Granite_Kitchen_Cabinets.jpg
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Granite installation day.
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This is the entrance to a walk-in pantry.
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The Hybrid Hot Water Heater
 
Jim Gagnepain
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It's really nice sitting in the Bathroom, and enjoying the views. Good thing there's no lot to the South of us, otherwise they might enjoy the views. We picked up 2 antique dressers for the vanities. I reinforced them with angle iron. I also had to raise them up a little to the proper height, adding 2x4 blocks to the bottom. To cover these, we got a little creative with the feet. The sinks were acquired over Craig's List, from a woman in Denver. She had been in the business of importing handmade stone and granite sinks, tubs, etc; and selling them for a profit. She was going out of business, so we got them for about the same cost as a conventional basin. These sinks were carved from stone in Indonesia. I had to do some grinding with a diamond drill bit to get conventional hardware to fit. The granite pieces were free; thrown is with the kitchen counter purchase. We had to pay for the edge chisel-cut. The mirror is gone, and replaced by a custom mirror cabinet, fabricated by an EBAY seller in Pennsylvania. He made 3 cabinets for our master bath.

My wife and I both picked out one item as a "splurge" for the house. Hers was this copper soaker tub. Because it didn't have an overflow, we had to build a curb with a floor drain for the overflow. This required approval from Pikes Peak Regional Building. My splurge - the wind turbine.
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My Master Bathroom Vanity - there is also a similar Hers Vanity.
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My wife grew up in Japan, where soaker tubs are commonplace.
Earthship_Sunflowers.jpg
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Jim Gagnepain
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Thanks for posting, Jim. I've read a bit about this option; seems pretty appealing compared to a conventional earthship, but doesn't seem to be as common as earthships... which are not exactly on every corner as it is.

Do you have a floorplan that you could post? Dimensions?

Are you comfortable sharing any cost information, for the parts that are specific to this sort of build?


I've never seen a *complete* earthship for sale, but I've seen several partly-finished ones listed... does make you think!


Dillon,
Here is a scan of a floorplan. This is the sketch that we gave to the designer. With a few exceptions, we stuck to this plan. Not the best quality, but the blueprints were too big to scan with my printer.
floor_layout_redux.jpg
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Dillon Nichols
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Well that's a whole lot more info, thanks! Looks great, very livable.

That hybrid/heat-pump water system sounds quite interesting; heat-pumps for home heating are common here, but I haven't seen a water-heater based on the technology before. Ought to be really efficient.

Is your solar/wind system grid-tied?
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Yes, we're grid tied with netmetering. When we bought the lot, Mountain View Electric already lots set up with electric boxes. For this reason, and the well, we are not a "true Earthship". Last I heard, they wouldn;t allow grid-tied systems in the Earthship communities near Taos, NM. I think this is a stubborn mistake.
 
Dillon Nichols
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While I'm biased in favor of stand-alone systems this is mostly because I have a thing for that, and because our (government backed monopoly) power company is not very supportive of net metering.

Grid-tie obviously has the big advantages of not wasting power generated beyond the capacity of the battery bank, and of not requiring said expensive and probably environmentally unfriendly battery bank at all... It seems to me like it has the potential to be *more* environmentally friendly than most off-grid systems, depending on battery type used.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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I like grid tied, however, when we started our service, the monthly fixed fee was $9.95. They raised in to $19.95, while lowering the usage fee, for all customers. They followed that up, 2 years later, by raising it to $29.95, again lowering the usage fee. I complained. I was told that they have a new policy, and are trying to recover all non-energy expenditures (Maint., salaries, vehicles, etc.), with the Fixed Fee. I asked him how he would like it, if he pulled up at a gas pump, and the meter started at $20. He said "that's different" - yeah right...

I can afford it, but I feel sorry for the little old couple who conserves every kilowatt, and end up subsidizing the wealthy trophy home owner.
 
elle sagenev
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This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!
 
Jim Gagnepain
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elle sagenev wrote:This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!


Elle,
I would guess that, if one budgeted, and did a lot of the work themselves (including GC), they could build a 2000 sq ft home like this for between $100K-$150K. That does not include the cost of the land, and any renewable energy options. If you're handy (and willing) with interior finishing work, that typically saves a lot. There are things I would NOT take on myself - concrete work, plumbing, wood stove piping, and even electrical (and I'm an Electrical Engineer!). I hired a carpenter by the hour, and worked alongside him. That way, I was able to take advantage of his expertise, but do a lot of the work myself.
 
elle sagenev
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Jim Gagnepain wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!


Elle,
I would guess that, if one budgeted, and did a lot of the work themselves (including GC), they could build a 2000 sq ft home like this for between $100K-$150K. That does not include the cost of the land, and any renewable energy options. If you're handy (and willing) with interior finishing work, that typically saves a lot. There are things I would NOT take on myself - concrete work, plumbing, wood stove piping, and even electrical (and I'm an Electrical Engineer!). I hired a carpenter by the hour, and worked alongside him. That way, I was able to take advantage of his expertise, but do a lot of the work myself.


We bought land with a house on it and have lived here 6 years. So I suppose we'd have a lot of planning to do. Very impressive and beautiful!
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Jim,

Sorry I didn't get to this the other day. Over all (minus the concrete of course... ) I think you did great!!! Yet with Mike, and his concepts (overall) these types or Earthship (fossorial architecture) are going to be great. Will they be around in 500 years without some major invasive intervention that vernacular and traditional forms do not suffer as greatly with...?? Many won't, some (like yours) I think will. Now why would I say that about something with this much concrete? Well...because of the "bones," and what seems like great drainage. This building has good bones/drainage, and "re cladding" (in this case "rendering" and plastering) those 'bones' in something else someday is just a matter of "renovation and correction." (If and/or when it even would become an issue.) I admire brave folks like yourself for stepping out of the box modern society has crammed down the consumer culture throat of most of us...Good job!

From our other conversation:

Jim Gagnepain wrote:I certainly see your point, and there is a lot of evidence, as you say. A case in point in my city of birth, St. Louis, is the recently demolished Busch stadium. Built in the '60s, with massive amounts of reinforced concrete, it was probably expected to stand for hundreds of years. I heard that the maintenance was just too costly, and that there were a lot of structural issues..


Jim...absolutely a perfect and prime example...I work restoration in St. Louse sometime and still have ties there to both the zoo and colleagues. I followed the "ills" of that poor stadium for a few decades and it simply "rust jacked" and "spalled" itself apart...Why?...You got it...MODERN OPC...the crappies example of bad "lime" work you could possibly imagine. Great profits for developers, contractors and the industry...Not so great for us consumers...

I am also so please that someone like you has moved into this field by trying to build something in the "sustainable realm" and also traveled will to places like the Roman Pantheon. Still the largest concrete dome in the world (oh ya...and not rebar...Fancy that will ya!) and modern opc engineers insist it can't be done...Really? The Pantheon is an example of what "natural concretes" and "geopolymers" can actually do in the hands of artisan and craft people and not "big industry" looking for profits above all else...

Jim Gagnepain wrote:Maybe I'll try to build my next tire bale house without concrete. Let's see, adobe covering for the bales. Ceramic tile floor. Not sure what to do about the bond beam though...


Here is where the rubber meets the road...If I had world with you...there would have been much less concrete...but...we would have had to manage the "wants and needs" with "fiscal asset" to the project, and because of this...even I am forced to "plow with the horses I have...instead of the one I want..." Concrete would probably still have had to be used because it was Mike's design and that is what he spec's on many of them still...

These can be done with "no concrete" at all, but we have to find the balance of where to spend money on good crafts people and where the DIY can make of the difference by doing the more "labor intensive stuff" that the concrete company would come in and just "slather with there "iky gick."

For the "bond beam" and roof we have for your selection my friend:

Timber framing with all wood joints.

Jointed stone (beautiful but expensive if you pay someone...but I would love to show you!)

Geopolymers

Natural cements (expensive and not necessary compared to other systems.)

Even a continuous strand and fiber/lime reinforce cobb could be made to work in this application if other systems of cladding are incorporated into the design like stone. If you get a chance (if you haven't) go look and visit with some Pueblo folks and see if you can get yourself invited into a traditional Kiva...Your gears will really start turning to the point of wanting to add an addition just to build something "all traditional!"

Again, great house!! and I am glad you did it, as others can learn from what you would try to improve on or do differently!

Regards,

j

P.S.

Did you ever eat at Annie Gunn's and the Smoke House Market on the west side of St Louis?..Great food and folks....I loved working with them on their barn and cabin...
 
William Bronson
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Jay, are any of the bond beam options you listed relatively skill free? Most of them seem pretty hard for a DIY type to do.
Also, do you think the exterior even needs cladding?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi William,

Hmmm...boy!

That is a toughy?

I would say...kind'a...maybe...

Part of the reason I joined Permies.com was to share the things I have learned on the subject of traditional and natural building. As such, there are many things that are great DIY projects that folks should have no issue reading about and "learning as they go." Others are a tad more challenging like this one.

With "guidance" from a PE and/or experienced builder in the given modality...all the "bond beams above could be facilitated by a DIYer with good planning and attention to detail. Some, I agree, could be more challenging than others depending on the design of the structure. Being a Timberwrigth and Stone Mason...I tend to "go there" first and then have to take a step back to look at the "big picture." Nevertheless, timber and stone are often the "best solution" from a "traditional/natural" (and very durable and sustainable) perspective.

It may seem daunting...but I promise if I was with you or took you through the "action steps" of a "timber frame bond beam" on most designs...by the end you would think it rather simplistic too. Its all the other little "nitpicky" things like:

Proper species selection and treatment...

Proper timber assessment...

Proper layout...

Proper joint selection...etc.etc..

These are where DIYers need "some assistance," and I (et al) try to be there for such things...The more folks "try" (and do well) the more this information will get out there and be better understood by more of us!!

Also, do you think the exterior even needs cladding?


Depends on design, but I would say 90% of the time...Yes...at least of some form or fashion...but it may not need to be overly complicated or expensive...

Great Question by the way...thanks for asking them!

Regards,

j

 
Thomas Reiner
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very intersting project!!!
 
Todd Gunter
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Jim Gagnepain wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!


Elle,
I would guess that, if one budgeted, and did a lot of the work themselves (including GC), they could build a 2000 sq ft home like this for between $100K-$150K.  That does not include the cost of the land, and any renewable energy options.  If you're handy (and willing) with interior finishing work, that typically saves a lot.  There are things I would NOT take on myself - concrete work, plumbing, wood stove piping, and even electrical (and I'm an Electrical Engineer!).  I hired a carpenter by the hour, and worked alongside him.  That way, I was able to take advantage of his expertise, but do a lot of the work myself.


We are aiming for a total build cost including solar system of under 80,000. And hopefully shooting for more like 50-60K. For a 1200sqft living space with additional 600sqft greenhouse "hallway". We are doing this by having no time crunch on completion and by sourcing as much material used or cheap. We have a 40ft by 60ft shop building which we are able to store materials as we collect them. Our largest expense will be the roof materials, and the solar system. We are currently near midway in the construction process and probably are still another 3 years out from having a home that is ready to move into. Again we have the luxury of time on our hands, so this is not the case for everyone. We also do all the work ourselves with help from friends and family on occasion. The rammed earth tires took two years for us to complete working an average of one weekend per month. If we had known about tire bales prior to beginning our build, probably would have gone that route. We live in Oklahoma, and the state bales tires and actually will give them away for free, but again found this info out well after we had begun the rammed earth tires. Jim, your house looks amazing, well thought out design!
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Todd Gunter wrote:
Jim Gagnepain wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!


Elle,
I would guess that, if one budgeted, and did a lot of the work themselves (including GC), they could build a 2000 sq ft home like this for between $100K-$150K.  That does not include the cost of the land, and any renewable energy options.  If you're handy (and willing) with interior finishing work, that typically saves a lot.  There are things I would NOT take on myself - concrete work, plumbing, wood stove piping, and even electrical (and I'm an Electrical Engineer!).  I hired a carpenter by the hour, and worked alongside him.  That way, I was able to take advantage of his expertise, but do a lot of the work myself.


We are aiming for a total build cost including solar system of under 80,000. And hopefully shooting for more like 50-60K. For a 1200sqft living space with additional 600sqft greenhouse "hallway". We are doing this by having no time crunch on completion and by sourcing as much material used or cheap. We have a 40ft by 60ft shop building which we are able to store materials as we collect them. Our largest expense will be the roof materials, and the solar system. We are currently near midway in the construction process and probably are still another 3 years out from having a home that is ready to move into. Again we have the luxury of time on our hands, so this is not the case for everyone. We also do all the work ourselves with help from friends and family on occasion. The rammed earth tires took two years for us to complete working an average of one weekend per month. If we had known about tire bales prior to beginning our build, probably would have gone that route. We live in Oklahoma, and the state bales tires and actually will give them away for free, but again found this info out well after we had begun the rammed earth tires. Jim, your house looks amazing, well thought out design!
Are you building the Euro model?  I'm wondering if my county would approve it, because of the fire egress issue.  Because there are no B/R windows, our bedrooms had to be open, and directly near the exit doors, which were considered the legal egresses.  Seems like the Euro model would require more than 1door to go outside.
 
Todd Gunter
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Jim Gagnepain wrote:
Todd Gunter wrote:
Jim Gagnepain wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:This is AMAZING! And in COSprings. So 250k in your cost area would cost me....... Uh oh, husband is about to have a heart attack!


Elle,
I would guess that, if one budgeted, and did a lot of the work themselves (including GC), they could build a 2000 sq ft home like this for between $100K-$150K.  That does not include the cost of the land, and any renewable energy options.  If you're handy (and willing) with interior finishing work, that typically saves a lot.  There are things I would NOT take on myself - concrete work, plumbing, wood stove piping, and even electrical (and I'm an Electrical Engineer!).  I hired a carpenter by the hour, and worked alongside him.  That way, I was able to take advantage of his expertise, but do a lot of the work myself.


We are aiming for a total build cost including solar system of under 80,000. And hopefully shooting for more like 50-60K. For a 1200sqft living space with additional 600sqft greenhouse "hallway". We are doing this by having no time crunch on completion and by sourcing as much material used or cheap. We have a 40ft by 60ft shop building which we are able to store materials as we collect them. Our largest expense will be the roof materials, and the solar system. We are currently near midway in the construction process and probably are still another 3 years out from having a home that is ready to move into. Again we have the luxury of time on our hands, so this is not the case for everyone. We also do all the work ourselves with help from friends and family on occasion. The rammed earth tires took two years for us to complete working an average of one weekend per month. If we had known about tire bales prior to beginning our build, probably would have gone that route. We live in Oklahoma, and the state bales tires and actually will give them away for free, but again found this info out well after we had begun the rammed earth tires. Jim, your house looks amazing, well thought out design!
Are you building the Euro model?  I'm wondering if my county would approve it, because of the fire egress issue.  Because there are no B/R windows, our bedrooms had to be open, and directly near the exit doors, which were considered the legal egresses.  Seems like the Euro model would require more than 1door to go outside.


We are building a global model. Which has exits at each end of greenhouse. We are in a county with no rural building codes.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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We toured one of the Globals when we were in Taos.  It was very nice.  Do you know if they use outdoor shades in the summer?  I know they use the cooling tubes, but I wonder if that's enough cooling to counter that much heat.  I imagine that greenhouse could become quite an oven!

With our conventional model outdoor shades are a must, no matter how far north one is located.

I probably mentioned on this thread, that if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't use an angled glass.  There is more than enough incoming heat, here in Colo. Springs, and glass/window mfrs don't warranty an angled install.  It's difficult (not impossible) to avoid sporadic leaking with the angle.
 
Todd Gunter
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Jim Gagnepain wrote:We toured one of the Globals when we were in Taos.  It was very nice.  Do you know if they use outdoor shades in the summer?  I know they use the cooling tubes, but I wonder if that's enough cooling to counter that much heat.  I imagine that greenhouse could become quite an oven!

With our conventional model outdoor shades are a must, no matter how far north one is located.

I probably mentioned on this thread, that if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't use an angled glass.  There is more than enough incoming heat, here in Colo. Springs, and glass/window mfrs don't warranty an angled install.  It's difficult (not impossible) to avoid sporadic leaking with the angle.

We are doing vertical glass, and will use some form of shade.
 
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