Cochise County — A few years ago, Cochise County decided that as long as the property had a zoning designation of RU-4 (one house per four acres), it would be possible to build your own home with lower building permit costs and fewer inspections. enacted a special amendment to allow
The idea was that an owner-builder opt-out plan could give people the option of building their homes by using alternative building methods and building by themselves or with a contractor. At the time, county officials viewed the option as a potential propagandist to boost the rural population.
The county website states: “Please note, this program does not exempt builder owners from statewide ordinances, such as regulations regarding plumbing, fire codes, or smoke detectors, but does not exempt builders from fire codes adopted by fire districts or counties. Nor does it exempt the owner of the merchant.
“While program participants must comply with all Cochise County building safety rules and zoning requirements, the overall permit costs associated with construction are lower than traditional residential construction. This is because fewer tests are performed depending on the option chosen by the patient.
“This is intended to encourage the use of owner-builder ingenuity and personal taste in permitting and promoting the use of alternative building materials and methods.”
The plan worked and started watering the private home with solar power and harvested rainwater. What started as a trickle turned into a steady stream as people purchased acres and combined previously unsuccessful subdivisions to meet the zoning code’s four-acre minimum requirement.
Over the past few years, many people have taken advantage of the owner-builder option to build straw bale and sandbag homes, especially in the Sulfur Springs Valley. Many have learned by trial and error what works and what doesn’t.
Thankfully, there is a lot of information on the website Cochise County Building Permit supporters are allowed to opt out and like-minded people (DIY) are free to share information. The website was started by a different person, but Clay Greathouse, a real estate agent and fellow builder at HyperAdobe, has maintained the site and watched the self-builder community grow.
He moved to Cochise County in 2018 after getting tired of the cold, snowy winters in Colorado. He went as far as Costa Rica in search of a place to settle for him.
A visit to Jerome made him want to move there, but he found an attractive claim lot near Tombstone and began to indulge in alternative building methods. He was going to build a house of straw bales, but changed his mind to HyperAdobe.
As a former solar system installer, he knew the ins and outs of setting up an off-grid homestead. He also enjoys sharing his experiences with others through his website, and on weekends members of the group gather for potluck dinners at someone’s workplace. A day is spent helping hosts and providing more training for hosts to get back to their projects.
He expects more people to turn to the sun to power their homes now that the cost of solar panels and batteries has dropped.
He is learning more and more about rainwater harvesting, roof size is important in collecting water, and ensuring sufficient water storage is a major issue for making water available all year round. .
“It’s expensive,” he added. “If you think about it enough, it could work.”
As with almost all transplants, he lives in an RV while building a house.
Greathouse said: They can maintain connections with like-minded individuals and voice their objections through intelligent, mature and respectful posts and comments that relate directly to the intended purpose of the group.
“It gives you a little bit of freedom.
sustainable livingMembers have basic principles for living sustainably and simply within means of working with the Earth rather than against it.
DIY dirt bags are becoming increasingly popular among those looking to reduce their carbon footprint, as building materials are almost always at their feet.
There are many options for home build homes, but the majority of new homes use the hyperadobe earthbag style, which is basically stuffed with a mixture of sand, gravel, and clay…a bag that can be cut to any length. The basement can be used as a living space where you can stay cool in the hot summer.
Sammy Klein of Cochise initially thought he could do it himself, like a true pioneer using small pre-measured bag sizes. When he learned about a roll of dirt bags that he could cut to any length, he switched. Its flexibility allows for rounded corners and longer spans.
Both types of bags should be packed with dirt and tamped to compact. It’s labor intensive, but for him and others, it’s a labor of love that not only provides a home for him and his wife Caila Block, who teaches at Bowie, but the great satisfaction of DIY.
“I make mistakes because I had to learn how to do this,” he explained. “Even after watching YouTube videos, I was still making mistakes. But what I found was a very supportive community. I’m here to help you lift something big and heavy.”
Hard work is right. Long size bags should be lifted off the ground and placed. The longer the bag, the heavier it will be. So the higher the wall, the more hands you need.
In total so far, he has used 2.5 miles of bags and wires at home.
The couple has been at it for three years, but their home is nearing the halfway point. Most of the work on the bag is done similarly to the exterior coating overlay. The house has a cozy design with a geodesic dome and a skylight above the hole left by the excavation.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” he said. “But we have a great community of builders who always help and support us.”
They live in an RV, but strategically placed windows offer beautiful views of the Dragoon Mountains while building on five acres of land. The kitchen will be small when completed, but it will be a cozy little nook for dining. There is a small living area and another work is being done as the pit dug to dig the soil is covered with a geodesic dome. The loft there offers more room.
From the outside, it resembles a Hobbit house, with an outdoor adobe installation and a floating staircase leading to the roof.
Klein had some regrets about the size of his new little house. The bigger the house, the more work the exterior and interior will be done with adobe plaster. Stucco was used for the exterior of the house, but a permeable material had to be used so that the dirt bags could breathe and eliminate excess water that could accumulate over time. was.
He still has to build a bathroom and a screened porch. That way, you can sit outdoors without worrying about flies, which tend to be overcrowded in humid months.
A rainwater harvesting system will be installed, so there will be no need to dig wells or fetch water like we do today. The house is solar powered and it was a DIY learning experience for him too. Again, thanks to a community of like-minded individuals, they have figured out how much power is needed to provide the convenience they need, and have the system installed and attached to their homes to solve the problem. Overcame.
Klein said: And there are a lot of these houses that didn’t work, weren’t finished, failed. Success comes from the community networks I participate in. “
small houseSouth of Tombstone, Richard Ward lives in a small house he built in 2015. A Texas transplant, he moved here three years ago after falling in love with Bisbee, just across the Mule Mountains.
His 24-acre abandoned pasture is on the west side of the mule. The land is beautiful, with some protected saguaro cacti, but some work was needed just to create a very pristine trail to get there.
1,400 individually filled pre-cut 40- to 50-pound soil bags were used for the root chambers of the soil bags. It took nine months just to work on the bags in the root cellar. The soil had to be a mixture of clay, gravel and sand, and he had to deliver some material if what was on hand wasn’t enough.
“I will never do it again,” he said with a smile. “Bags cut to the required length are easier to work with”
After that work experience, he decided to move to HyperAdobe Building. In just three months, his test house has achieved far more.
He set aside space for a circle of chairs around his homemade pizza oven so people could get to know each other. His homestead is now a learning center for others who want to know how to build affordable and sustainable homes.
He wanted to share his knowledge with like-minded people, so he started the non-profit Terraform Together. This program includes the use of alternative building methods and discarded materials.
The Hyper Adobe Solar House door was beautifully crafted by one of our students using pallets and old wood. Pallets are also used in the manufacture of furniture. Empty bottles placed on the wall provide a myriad of colors of natural light.
Then there are plans to restore land damaged by overgrazing. He maintains a fence to keep the cows off his land and it took him 18 months to fence all the cows. However, cattle push down fences to gain more vegetation and never seem to finish fence work.
He made some changes to the land to make room for the native plants to grow again. , he was surprised.
At any given time, many people join his eco-residency program. They work with him for weeks or months, exposing them to a lifestyle that many have never experienced and learning new life skills. In fact, more women than men participate in the program, he said.
“While we welcome people of all backgrounds to join our program, we are proud to be a safe place for women, the LGBTQ+ community and minority groups who are not normally exposed to construction and architectural education. I think,” he added.
“Our mission is to educate our community and traveler network on environmental sustainability,” he said. “We believe that great environmental change starts at the local level and on an individual basis. works to inspire, teach and develop the next generation of environmental advocates.
“Based on the fundamental principle of living simply, sustainably, and within our means, we create an environment that educates and explores healthy ways of living that work with the planet, not against it. .”
It can be difficult to get insurance for homeowners because there are no comparables, Greathouse said, and most insurance is case-by-case. The policy can be more expensive, but the plus is that the Tsuchibukuro house is fireproof.