This Sustainable "Earthship" Home Cost Less Than $10k to Build

This Sustainable "Earthship" Home Cost Less Than $10k to Build

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Adrienne Breaux
May 22, 2017
(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

Name: Taylor and Steph
Location: Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Size: 560 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

Some people dream of living off the land, going off grid, building a home by hand — getting closer to nature and being more sustainable. Taylor and Steph (Find them on Instagram: @nomadic.roots) have done just that. Their dedication to used and found building materials (not to mention a lot of hard, dirty work) resulted in a cozy 560 square foot home...that cost less than $10,000 to build.

(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

Taylor and Steph share their home's story:

After spending about a year learning how to build Earthships around the country, Steph and I decided it was time to build a small house of our own. We aimed the car West with a simple goal: find land, build a house. Our main objective with this house was to build a structure that would maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year-round without air conditioning or an external heat source, and to do so using reclaimed and re-purposed materials.


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(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

We accomplished this by employing the design principles of visionary architect Mike Reynolds and his company, Earthship Biotecture (Taos, NM). We used free, discarded materials such as old automobile tires, glass bottles and aluminum cans, and built into a south-sloping hillside to maximize thermal mass performance.

All windows and doors were found free on Craigslist (or in the woods under leaf piles). Even all of the furniture was handmade, found or free.

Interior walls are covered with reclaimed redwood barn wood. The house features an earthen floor comprised of sand, clay, straw and water and sealed with hemp oil for a soft, warm finish. The east, west, and north walls are buried to maximize thermal mass for stable indoor temperatures. The stylistic elements were secondary to creating a functionally competent structure that was well-suited for its environment.

(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

That said, our design was meant to resonate with the rustic, timber-centric style of California's Central Coast. We cut down two young redwood trees from an adjacent grove for the posts and beams, and used old redwood fence boards for siding and trim. The house has an open floor plan which allows for regular re-organization of furniture and experimentation with interior design.

(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

Despite our extremely limited budget, we found a land owner on an incredible property in California's Santa Cruz Mountains who allowed and encouraged us to build. We lived in a 14' yurt while we collected the tires, cans, and bottles that we would need to build our custom Earthship. The majority of the work was completed in less than a year, almost entirely by Steph and I (and our dogs...). The result: a 560 square foot home that cost less than $10,000 and maintains a comfortable interior temperature without any secondary heat or AC source.

The theme of the design—beyond basic passive solar performance—was "start where you are, use what you have, do what you can."

→ We are in the process of publishing a book about our adventures and building experience. It will be titled Nomadic Roots. I will begin graduate studies (Master of Architecture) at University of Oregon in June and will be back and forth between the house and the open road in the meantime.

(Image credit: Taylor Bode)

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Thanks, Taylor and Steph!


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