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Here is a video of a guy in Texas who is building homes out of material which would otherwise go into landfills. He has started a program where anyone who has a steady job (even minimum wage) $500, and a desire for a home, can build their own with his guidance and support. I gather from the article there are some other costs, but this has still got to be far less expensive than the hundreds of thousands spent on the average home in the US.

Nice interview with him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9JkPk0CIo4


And a NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/garden/03recycle.html?_r=1
 
Will Sustane
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Not too far from here is a little group of houses infesting what used to be a pretty prairie area. The houses are all identical, and were somewhat nice when new, if only lacking in aesthetic charm and character. These houses are "low income" government housing. The rent is income based. What that really means is that the tenants have a heck of a time saving money because, if their income rises, so does the rent. Even their savings must be disclosed, and it too can be factored in, leading to a higher rent. It can be difficult to save up for their own home under those circumstances.

The lack of pride and desire for these homes is obvious to even the casual observer. Not that the houses are in disrepair. Government workers are employed to provide maintenance. However, these houses are not very old, and yet seem dull and lifeless. I have seen far older homes, not as strictly maintained, that still shined with a beauty these little government houses have never possessed.

The housing system Dan Phillips has developed for the working poor is nothing short of miraculous. Every home in that video simply glowed with care, love, and a zest for life. Also, these people don't rent the homes, they own the homes, they built the homes. If God himself designed a system to help folks gain housing, then I honestly believe Dan Phillips found those plans.

Give a man a house with income based rent, and yes he has a house. But, teach a man to build an affordable house out of recycled materials, and he has a beautiful home in a caring community to call his own. Why are these sort of wonderful ideas not spreading like a wildfire across the world before it is too late?

Will
 
                              
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Well said Will.  Government housing always falls into disrepair quickly, basically due to the tragedy of the commons. (A poorly named tragedy since the commons were maintained up to the point that government claimed ownership of them!) I personally would love to build communities such as this, except for the high barriers of silly and pointless codes, permitting, and other absurd methods that government uses to prevent such efforts at every turn.

 
                                          
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Location: Ferndale, MI- Zone 5b
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this is a curious thing for me...

how do the builders get away with the recycled materials when building codes likely require other materials?
 
                        
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Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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hobbssamuelj wrote:
this is a curious thing for me...

how do the builders get away with the recycled materials when building codes likely require other materials?


He's down in Texas, which is a bit more liberal in building codes.
 
                              
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Often the codes call for material which will meet a given strength or durability standard. You may have to prove that your material meets that or get an exception from the code enforcement agency.

Some areas of Texas do enjoy some degree of code flexibility, though certainly not all. Austin for instance is brutal on codes an code enforcement. They regularly fly a helicopter over residential areas to look for unpermitted decks, sheds, and other structures.
 
                        
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Storm wrote:

Some areas of Texas do enjoy some degree of code flexibility, though certainly not all. Austin for instance is brutal on codes an code enforcement. They regularly fly a helicopter over residential areas to look for unpermitted decks, sheds, and other structures.
The Land of the Free  An unpermitted deck is clearly a threat to the stability of the nation.   It always amazes me that governments still justify this sort of thing, the economy being what it is. I would guess that Austin doesn't have any tent cities, what do they do with people? Put them in jail for not being able to afford shelter?
 
                        
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Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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Pam wrote:
The Land of the Free  An unpermitted deck is clearly a threat to the stability of the nation.   It always amazes me that governments still justify this sort of thing, the economy being what it is. I would guess that Austin doesn't have any tent cities, what do they do with people? Put them in jail for not being able to afford shelter?


Naah.  They either ship them to Dallas or sometimes into the less-inhabited parts of New Mexico.
 
                              
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They hit you with hefty fines so that they can hire more enforcers (police) so they can hit you with more hefty fines so they can hire more enforcers....

They also force you to tear out the deck. Then fine you if your back door is too high off the ground and does not have stairs (for which you need a permit of course...)
 
                                                
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regulation that is done under the guise of public health and safety to make money to support big government....and protect people who can't do things themselves from those who shouldn't
 
                                      
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Anywhere you look there are used mobile homes that can be acquired for very little money.  I bought a double wide school module used for $2000.  Roof and floor were sound, but it was barely insulated at all and had single pane windows.

I devised a hybrid wall system that recycles this house and makes a solid, earthen structure with good thermal mass.  I removed the tin siding, flimsy vapor sheet, and next to nothing fiberglass insulation.  I then used the studwalls to construct a solid straw/clay wall.  Using rock and urbanite, I built up a foundation and capped it with a cob bond beam.  Upon this I built a wall using pressed adobe (cimram) bricks mortared with clay and sand mixture. 

The result is a wall system that utilizes the "code" structure and yet upgrades the walls to ten or more inches of Earthen thermal mass.  Code questions?  Well, the structure is still stud wall.  Everything else is just insulation infill and exterior skin. 

I did replace the windows with construction cast offs that are double pane.  Single pane windows are not a great idea where I come from, because of sweating and the effect that eventually can have on any earthen wall. 

So far, I have retrofit (recycled) this mobile home into something sound and sustainable for less than $2,800.00. Not bad I think.
 
travis laduke
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He has a TED Talk now. He's funny.

 
                              
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Thanks for posting that Travis!

Who knew that not only is is funny, but very well educated as well. I may have to try to get some of my customers to watch this to fully understand some of the design element I try to add to their houses to make them into homes.
 
                    
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I got this thing I live in that cost me about 6k and too many years of tinkering. all told its about $10/sf plus my time, most money went to roofing and foundations.

It was a couple barns and some other stuff that was mostly done, and a few spent things besides.

picture here:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=5686917&l=b44b3810a9&id=542063253

Ill never try this again tho, i should have levelled the mess and started from the ground up rather than chroming the turd....live and if ya dont die, learn.

codes here are pretty relaxed, im way out in the county, and its not technically a residence... no running water, no grid power. chop wood carry water. I heat with wood, but need to get a good woodstove for cooking on, get of propane. that will be 1/6 the cost of the pig barn tho... 90% of this 'house' would have been burned or landfilled if I hadnt cobbled it together. if it lasts another 40 years Ill be pleased, though itll become an interns quarters when I build my raised yurt platform.

sad thing is that I built half a dozen strawbales and a few cob houses besides, and never got paid enough to build my own. all experimental and art stuff. I aint none to bright with picking things based on income. I like outright wild art-chitecture...and most of that dont get a feller paid. can get him arrested tho...

this that and the other are in a picture book that flips its own pages here:

http://abundancepermaculture.com/galleries.html

I'd be tickled to see what other folks have done in the $20/sf or less range. and ill stop typo-ing this dialect as soon as i get out of my (this is what my pops calls it ) arkansas rambler...
 
I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments. Or a tiny ad:
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