Cj Thouret wrote:Hi Len,
I found and fell in love with the Earthship concept a few years ago. Ever since, I've been seeking out the sustainable instead of settling for conservation and eventually found my way to permaculture (thankfully!). One of the things Mike Reynolds emphasizes is to use local materials, so shipping used tires any significant distance is defeating that concept. Another principal of Earthships is to use "waste" streams, so if you can get them, tire bales (http://tirebalehouse.com/) are probably the best option. The trade-off with every Earthship is oodles of backbreaking hours doing it yourself, roughly $300 / sq ft to get it built for you or something in between. The build of an Earthship could very easily have roughly the same energy cost as a typically constructed home, however the energy savings over the life of that home should more than make up for it. Earthships are intended to be passive solar . . .
I'm not sure you can stick-build a new passive home significantly more efficiently than building an Earthship with concrete and power tools.
As I understand it, a passive home needs to have a skin with a minimum R value near 50. In typical home construction, that equates to building a wall within a wall and LOTS of manufactured insulation with a bunch of other adds. (http://builditsolar.com/Projects/SolarHomes/MAZeroEnergy/MAZeroEnergy.htm) It's still worth it in terms of the total energy consumed over the life of the building, but there are certainly more sustainable options.
The building permit process is an absolute crap shoot in the US. It depends on your state and / or your municipality and / or which building inspector you get and / or the mood of the file clerk who receives your building plans, etc. My understanding is that Canada runs a tighter ship in terms of permitting, but I don't have any personal experience. In the information age, more municipalities are punting on the building codes and referencing the IRC or IBC (International Residential / Building Codes), but not all municipalities actually enforce it. Some places only require a septic system inspection. Others may requires separate inspections for footings, underground utilities, foundation, framing, sheathing, windows, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and next year some places will require an envelope performance test (air infiltration measured with a blower door test).