Eco-Home Built for £4,000

150_green-buildSteve James is serious about the environment. He built his own home near Dumfries, Scotland out of natural and recycled materials for a total cost of about £4,000.

“Actually, you could make it for less than that,” James says. “I’d cut the wood myself next time instead of going to the sawmill. That would knock off a thousand.” He finds the whole concept of mortgages quite amusing.

The walls are made of straw bales, and the roof is turf with flowers growing on it. It has a rainwater collection system, a composting toilet, and a woodburning stove. With the help of friends, he built it in about ten months. Now he’s helping other people learn about alternative building methods. Link to story. Link to James’ website. -via Metafilter

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Posted on February 20, 2008 at 10:13 am by Miss Cellania
Category: Architecture

19 Comments to "Eco-Home Built for £4,000"

  • oakling
    February 20th, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I love this. I want to build my own so badly! I wonder how much the land cost him, though. He doesn’t seem to mention it and out where I live it’d easily be another $75,000-$200,000 just for the lot. Cheaper than buying a house, but not awesome. Still, it will be great to know about this guy when I do get to build my own house!

  • melissa
    February 20th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Does Scotland not have building codes? While I’m intrigued and love the idea of an evironmentally friendly and cheap house, I don’t think you could get by with building this as a house to be lived in America. There’s no way it could pass inspection. Unless maybe he does some sort of code-fu and has it classified as a hunting cabin or a storage shed or something instead of the living space he obviously intends to use it for.

  • Tom
    February 20th, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Straw bale building is becoming more and more common these days. A properly built straw bale house is damn near fire-proof–much more so than a frame home.

    I’m planning on building one of these myself in the next couple of years. Of course, I’m outside the city limits, so I don’t have to deal with any codes at all. One could build a mansion for the price of a small to medium single family home, provided one puts in the labor themselves.

  • Jennifer
    February 20th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I just can’t help but think that picture makes the house look like a hovel. If the world is going to successfully promote green-construction, then …. find a better example.

  • Thebes
    February 20th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    There are quite a few places in the US where codes either do not exist, or else are generally unenforced. I think building codes are great for businesses- and I mean that in two senses.

    First, codes historically came about to prevent professional builders from building the shoddy homes and passing them off as well built.

    Second, there is quite an industry around code compliance, inspections, insurance, and mortgages (death pledges?). These sectors feed off of the price increases each of the others generate, and we end up with the mass of men never truly owning their own home.

    Much better, imho, to let families and friends work together to build their own homes. But then again I cherish my freedoms…

  • Tyler
    February 20th, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I have been looking at troglodytes (cave houses) and building with cob for some time now and think its a better solution for heating cooling overall cost hiding the pipes and wires and the area I want to make the troglodyte is near a nice park with parking lot and close to a hiking trail an escarpment for rock climbing and paintball

  • Kathy
    February 21st, 2008 at 12:32 am

    “I just can’t help but think that picture makes the house look like a hovel. If the world is going to successfully promote green-construction, then …. find a better example.”

    I think this is a great example:

  • Der Olaf
    February 21st, 2008 at 4:03 am

    “Composting toilet”. Now, this is probably the very nicest way of saying “hole in the ground”.

    I sincerely hope that it’s a few steps away from the house…

  • BikerRay
    February 21st, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Der Olaf - Hardly. Try looking it up in Wiki before making stupid statements.

  • melissa
    February 21st, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I’ve used composting toilets, and they’re way more normal than that sounds. I,too, had invisioned a glorified porto-potty. They’re not like that. And they don’t smell weird like I was afraid they would. They’re actually pretty cool.

  • zoomzoom
    February 21st, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Thebes, are there really places in the US where building codes don’t exist? It’s my understanding the building codes are generally ratified at the state level. Maybe I’ve got that wrong, though…?

  • Boemelaar
    February 21st, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Thebes said, “But then again I cherish my freedoms…” Why do you hate America?

  • Violet
    February 22nd, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Wood burning stove? Isn’t that somewhat less than eco-friendly?

  • chaymation
    February 22nd, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    actually wood is a carbon neutral fuel, as the carbon dioxide released when it burns equal to the carbon dioxide it absorbed whilst it was growing. So the net effect is no change. As long as you plant trees as well as cutting them of course.

  • c-dub
    February 22nd, 2008 at 5:24 pm


    chaymation’s right, but particulates in wood smoke do contribute to poor air quality. Wood stoves have gotten much better in the past twenty years. In particular, stoves equipped with catalytic converters release very “clean” smoke: the smoke itself burns, releasing even more heat in the process.

  • Tyler
    February 23rd, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I would look for a solar water heater and radiator. or electric heater cutting down trees is not

  • c-dub
    February 23rd, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Wood, if cut from sustainable sources and burnt correctly, is far more “eco-friendly” than electric heat, which is notoriously inefficient (particularly if the electricity comes from a coal-fired plant, which it probably would). And I don’t know much about Dumfries, Scotland, but there’s a good chance they don’t get enough sun to make solar heat viable.

    There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with cutting down trees, just as there’s nothing “wrong” with harvesting other crops. It just has to be done as part of a proper, sustainable management program.

  • eb
    March 10th, 2008 at 11:36 am

    these kind of houses will be everywhere in the next 50 years. we need to return to the land, she is our mother.the society as we know it will and is already collapsing! it is time to awaken and we are all doing so ongoingly and as one. each one of us is a child of the universe and we all have a right to be here. the moto “live and let live” has to be actualised, by allowing ourselves other spcies , animals and making way for our grandchildren of the future time.

    peace and love to all.

  • steve
    March 17th, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    check out the Stove

    the wood I burn is all already felled and left to rot by the forestry. plenty of it.

    check out the hovel

    It is only one way. Don’t diss mine. Build your own!

    Steve James

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