Long ago, before there were building inspectors or home loans, our forefathers went out into the wilderness, and put up a log cabin in a day and didn’t even have to think about building a home on a budget. That cabin however, had no electrical wiring, and no plumbing. There was no HVAC or ductwork. There were no kitchen cabinets or appliances, only a fireplace which was not terribly efficient. There wasn’t a wireless internet connection either.
An End to Uniformity
In recent decades, building, like everything else had become more costly, more standardized, and much more regulated. The thriving economy of the 1990s yielded a host of legal, social, and economic barriers to creative housing solutions. There was a type of snobbery towards anything different or unusual, and homes became frighteningly alike, especially budget homes. Thankfully, in recent years, these rules, which often had nothing to do with quality construction, are being gradually lifted by the return to green principles. The rough economy has reduced snobbery and the energy crisis has driven more people to return to green ideals.
Creativity Facilitates Thrift
While you must be careful, because zoning, building inspectors and home loan officers do all still exist, if you are thorough, and willing to argue, cajole and persuade you may be able to save over half the cost of your home. There are a few loopholes in codes, but development bylaws and restrictions can be very tough. It may make more sense to buy a rural lot and put in well and septic than to deal with a subdivision while building a truly green house.
The Principles of Thrift are also the Principles of Green Building
• Use what you already have – One delightful example of this is adobe. Adobe works great in dry climates, and the good news is that it is basically dirt… the old expression poor as dirt comes to mind, and everyone has dirt. There are other green techniques which incorporate found objects, and recycled materials, at a fraction of the cost of traditional materials.
• Use what is close by – There is a huge trend to stop shipping building materials from one area to another. By obtaining materials locally, you save on shipping.
• Use what is less costly but may work better – By thinking things through carefully, and researching long and hard, you may find green material ideas that work perfectly for your application, and are much less expensive than standard materials.
• Look for creative solutions – Creativity is an amazing gift. Have a brain storming session with friends and family to come up with ideas for building a home. Don’t rule anything out till you look into it, and don’t forget to research every possibility.
• A penny saved is a penny earned – This is so true of energy efficiency.
• Made to last – Durability is the cornerstone of green construction. Never sacrifice durability to save on costs. You will not come out ahead in the long run.
• Sometimes less is more – Smaller homes are much more efficient, and save money on construction, as well as utility bills.
• Never buy what you can make – Solar panels can be used to provide electricity without the monthly bill.
• Always save the scraps – There was once a man who worked in construction, and brought home the scrap lumber instead of taking it to the dump. He built a house by nailing short pieces of 2 by 4 inch lumber flat, in a row, like bricks to build sturdy walls. The house was far superior in both durability and energy efficiency.
By being sensible and thrifty one can save a great deal of money. At the same time, one of the main concepts of being sensible is to know your limitations. You will probably still need to hire a contractor, or at the very least several subcontractors in order to grade the land, build the foundation, and get your home under roof, wired and plumbed. Your main savings will come in time saving ideas and savings on materials. Building a home on a budget can be fun, but it is more fun if you do those things you know how to do, while passing the rest to the experts.