How Much Does It Cost to Build an Earthship?

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Earthship?

5 min read

Earthship home construction estimation costs range between $200 and $300 per square foot. That means that small earth ships cost approximately $ 100,000 and $1500,000 for large ones. This is inclusive of labor, custom fabrics, permits, excavation, and design. Despite the high construction costs, eco-conscious people build earth ship homes to conserve the climate and resources.

 

Factors That Affect the Cost of Earthship Construction

The costs above are just an estimation, but in reality, several factors affect how much you can spend on an earth ship. In the article below, we shall discuss the costs, why they cost high and how to build cheap construction earth ships.

When you first hear about earth ships, you might imagine that their construction cost is cheap because of their techniques. Plenty of materials used on the roof, walls, and floors are made from recyclable materials that you can get for free. More often, earth ships are made using tires, glass bottles, and aluminum bottles.

These are low-cost items that don’t make the vast majority of your budget.

 

Why Are Earthships So Expensive?

1. Labor

Earthships are no ordinary homes, and they require a lot of expertise despite their low-cost building materials. Much of the costs go to the intensive labor that customs build instead of using industry-standard techniques. Moreover, Earthships boast massive and unique projects that need a lot of labor.

That means you have to deploy a lot of specialized labor for well-done Earthship homes.

Your laborers majorly focus on building an eco-friendly house that is off-grid from recycled materials. That means it takes more time to put up the materials. For instance, when installing tires, a carpenter has to ram them with dirt for approximately one hour per tire.

Now imagine how much time it takes to put up hundreds of tires for the home wall. Well, it can take days and even months. This is one reason why Earthship homes require plenty of labor which escalates the cost of labor.

 

2. Permits

Earthships are different from standardized houses. As earlier mentioned, these are eco-friendly houses. These kinds of homes have particular issues with new building codes and permits. So, many costs go to the local government, which boasts different construction codes and regulations for your safety and your neighbors.

Note that the local building codes do not account for Earthship homes. For Example, rammed-earth tires don’t appear anywhere on the list of approved structures. Because of this, you have to part with a lot of money for the local government to allow you to construct an Earthship home.

The local government has to permit several things in your Earthship construction site, such as:

  • Zoning approvals
  • Project valuation and fees
  • Septic system
  • Any other building permits

Earth homeowners spend a lot of money on permits when they engage architects or lawyers to help them ensure that their building will become legal. However, you can do this yourself, but you can experience challenges when following up with the legal documents. So, hiring someone familiar with construction documents save you time and frustrations.

 

3. Excavation

When you think of an Earthship, you imagine a house built by professional laborers who don’t need loud and heavy equipment like a typical construction site. To some extent, this is true, but some construction parts need heavy machinery.

At one point, you will need to do some excavation which is a huge task that needs backhoes and lorries. Excavation is essential, and it helps in:

  • Collecting dirt for building your Earthship home
  • To grade and make even your site home
  • Dip deep enough for you to establish a solid foundation

The cost of excavation depends on various factors, such as the surrounding climate, soil type, and terrain. Some climates and soil require you to dig deeper, which becomes costly, while others require less effort.

 

4. Concrete

Although most materials used in Earthship home construction comprise recycled materials, concrete is a staple have. Much of it is used in reinforcing rammed earth walls, seal the tires dirt from environmental exposure. It is also used in the fulfillment of safety and structural security requirements.

The cost of concrete is underestimated, but it’s one of the materials that take a lot from your construction budget. This is because to make firm concrete; you need water, cement, and sand. Also, remember that it is smeared in and around uneven crannies and nooks of the walls in Earthship homes.

This means you will need a skilled concrete laborer for a clean job.

 

5. Tools

Earthship home construction requires a lot of tools for different artistry. That means you will have to spend some money on tools. In case this is your first construction, you will have to buy all the tools needed.

  • Saws
  • Drills
  • Bits
  • Concrete working tools
  • Sledgehammers

You might also require significant power tools for plumbing and electrical work if you have never used them before. Your laborers might require:

  • Wire cutters
  • Trimming tools
  • Fish tapes
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Pliers
  • Windows

It is no secret that Earthship home designs require many windows. These are essential for solar heating and lighting. The windows allow the sun’s energy to penetrate the house.

Although the windows pose a lot of benefits, they are expensive. You have to buy dozens of substantial double pane windows and door-sized windows that can accommodate solar heating. Windows prices range according to the dimensions, shapes, and features.

Large windows with odd shapes and unique designs cost more. For Earthship homes, owners prefer double or triple-paned windows that are treated and tinted. Such windows are costly and escalate your budget.

 

6. Solar Panels

Earthship home designs combine both passive solar heating with thermal mass construction. The two elements help create a building that can cool and heat itself depending on the weather condition. With solar panels, the house can create its electrical power through sun and wind power. Solar panels and integrated water systems cost some substantial money that adds to your construction budget in that you have to invest in:

  • Inverters
  • Battery packs
  • Charge controls
  • Meters and monitoring units
  • DC disconnects
  • Internal Wetlands

Another factor that makes the Earthship house expensive is the addition of other features that average houses lack. Among the things that are typically added include the internal wetlands. Internal wetlands are essential for detoxifying, capturing, and purifying greywater from showers and sinks.

Constructing an internal wetland is expensive and requires specialized plumbing skills. The plumber has to build it in a way that it can capture greywater and divert it in the internal wetland. For greywater to drain into the wetland, your house needs several pipes for pumping, which are costly.

Another cost adds up on the work done by planting pipes in-depth so that greywater can get routed from the sinks to the other side of the house.

 

7. Custom Design

Earthship houses are unique, and due to this, they are expensive to construct. Although it is built using recyclable materials, most of them are not readily available. Therefore, it takes a lot of time to gather different materials needed, and, in the process, owners spend a lot of money searching for enough tires, straws, and glass bottles.

Remember that most Earthship houses boast customized bedroom furniture, kitchen cabinets, skylights, roofing, and bathroom fixtures. These custom-made fixtures cost more money and time to build according to the owner’s taste and preference.

 

How to Reduce Earthship Home Construction Cost

It is a fact that most Earthship homes are expensive to build, but you can minimize the cost in several ways. If you have time, you can join in as a laborer and help your workers in the construction. The high chances are that you boast a particular skill that can help build your house.

For example, if your specialty is plumbing, you can take up the plumbing work and fewer plumbers. This way, you will save a lot of money which you can use to cover something else.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any skills. You can still do basic tasks such as collecting and refining dirt, pounding dirt in tires, positioning cans and glass bottles on the walls. You can try and do at least ten times a day, laying off at least one worker to minimize labor cost.

As much as the Earthship house uses recycled materials, you have to buy most of them. But you can still save some costs by collecting some from your home, friends, and family, which will save you a coin or two.

 

Victoria Miller

I'm the founder of NTT. I live in Miami, Florida, and enjoy learning everything there is to know about tiny spaces.