Earthships are some people’s answer to the rising problem of climate change.
One of the benefits of living in an Earthship is the use of recycled parts to make it.
That doesn’t mean the home consists of recycled wood, however.
Instead, an Earthship uses things like tires, plastic trash, and even bottles to create its form.
The emphasis is on creating an eco-friendly home that sustains itself.
As you might imagine, because it’s a custom-built home, it can become expensive to build one.
Here’s what you need to know about Earthships and the cost of building one.
How Much Does It Cost To Build An Earthship?
Earthships can cost as little as $20,000 to make and as much as $1,500,000 to make.
The average price of Earthship homes per square footage is $150 and $225.
That’s because several factors add to the cost.
The goal of an Earthship isn’t to save on money.
Rather, it’s meant to help protect the environment.
Because of that, homeowners willingly take on extra expenses to ensure their home is as environmentally-friendly as possible.
Here are a few factors that add to the cost of building an Earthship.
One of the biggest factors that add to the cost of an Earthship is its customization.
Earthships are not cookie-cutter homes.
They don’t benefit from the same cost-saving methods that standard homes do.
Standard homes often use similar designs or floor plans.
Some homes built in the same subdivision, for example, are practically the same.
This helps save money because it allows contractors to buy certain materials and parts in bulk.
They know that they’re going to be using those for many jobs in the future.
That isn’t the case with Earthships.
Each one is customized.
Because of that, the construction company always has to buy a specific set of materials and tools to use on that single construction project.
There isn’t anything involved that’s going to help them save money.
As a result, they don’t have any savings that they can pass on to their customers either.
Earthships are expensive because each one is custom-made.
2. Labor Costs
Another big cost that makes Earthships expensive is labor.
Not a lot of construction companies have experience with building Earthships.
They’re not as popular as standard homes as of yet and because of that, not many construction companies have taken the time to specialize in learning how to build them.
Those who do have experience building Earthships are few in number.
Since they’re rare, they’re able to set their prices a bit higher.
The demand for them is greater than the supply of experienced Earthship builders.
Experience matters, too, since constructing Earthships presents unique challenges.
Inexperienced construction workers may not be sure how to solve these problems.
As a result, they might end up making decisions that make the Earthship unsafe.
Labor costs are expensive, regardless, because Earthships require more labor for their construction.
There’s a lot of digging involved, and the way they make each Earthship is unique.
Some will use tires while others will use water bottles.
The workers need to learn how to use these materials and spend extra time ensuring that each wall is secure.
Construction on an Earthship takes longer than most homes of the same size because of the complexity involved in building it.
Some projects can also face delays when certain materials or equipment have to arrive.
Due to the length of time it takes and its complexity, the labor costs associated with Earthships are high.
That makes building one an expensive venture.
3. Unique Plumbing Needs
If construction on an Earthship isn’t complicated enough, the plumbing for the project is also complex.
That’s because the plumber usually needs to make inland wetlands to handle the greywater that comes out of the house.
Since many Earthships are off the grid, basic services like city sewer and water systems aren’t available.
A plumber has to make sure that the house remains sanitary by building an inland wetland.
This area processes the greywater and filters it into safe groundwater.
The cost of creating that is expensive since it requires a lot of work to be done on the land.
Depending on how far the homeowners want the wetland to be, it may require a lot of digging and materials.
Not every plumber knows how to complete this type of project either.
The homeowners will need to look for an experienced plumber or one who specializes in Earthship plumbing.
These individuals tend to charge higher rates than others because they have the credentials to back up their work.
Plumbing a house is expensive in itself.
With the cost of certain materials, it can make a home with several bathrooms extremely expensive to plumb.
Earthships are no different except that they add another level of complexity to the job.
Since it’s built to promote eco-friendliness, plumbers have to use materials that are also eco-friendly.
These tend to be more expensive than standard ones.
They also have to build the plumbing in such a way that works with the house’s reliance on itself.
Keeping things as energy-efficient as possible means that there’s usually a high cost to start things off.
Because plumbing an Earthship is expensive, it adds to the total cost of building the home.
4. Permits And Excavations
Another big cost of building an Earthship is the price of permits and the excavation cost.
Earthships do not follow regular codes for building a home.
Because of that, you usually have to pay penalties or fees to your county or state.
Building codes help set the standard for homes to ensure the community’s health and safety.
When a home isn’t built to code, then it affects those who live there, those who will live there in the future, and potentially those around the home.
Earthships don’t use standard construction materials like in most homes.
Everything from its electrical code to its plumbing is different.
Since the county and state don’t like that, you can expect to pay for several permits to even start building your Earthship.
They might also have requirements that you need to meet as well.
If the price of permits isn’t enough, the price of digging the spot where your home is going to go might be.
Depending on where you live, you might need to dig deep into the ground to find a suitable location for the foundation of the home.
In climates that are wet or cold, you usually need to dig deeper because you need to get below the frost line.
This helps ensure that the plumbing doesn’t freeze when the temperatures drop.
The problem with digging deeply is that it takes time, and construction workers need heavy machinery to do the digging.
It’s costly to use that machinery, especially if the Earthship is rather large.
The good news is that the digging can give the workers some of the materials they will need to make your Earthship.
Dirt, for example, is one of the primary materials used to make an Earthship.
It helps cement the walls in place.
Of course, if you’re digging a small hole for the foundation, then you may need to pay more excavation costs to dig up enough dirt to build your home.
Between permits and excavation costs, the price to pay for building your Earthship increases by a lot.
5. Concrete Prices
An unavoidable cost associated with building Earthships is concrete.
Builders use concrete to help reinforce the walls during construction.
If your walls use tires or water bottles, for example, then they’re not the sturdiest.
Even with dirt compacting them together, cement can ensure that the house remains still during storms and earthquakes.
Most counties and states will also require the use of concrete to ensure the mold of the house remains structurally sound.
The problem with concrete is that it’s expensive.
It also needs time to cure.
Concrete prices can also fluctuate on the market if there’s a global shortage.
For example, if you happen to be building during a time when there’s a lot of demand for concrete, then you may pay inflated prices.
Since your entire home requires reinforcement by concrete, you could end up paying a very high price for it.
Earthships are expensive because of the price of concrete used to reinforce them.
6. Renewable Energy
Almost all Earthships use renewable energy as their main source of power.
Most of them end up using solar energy since it’s a relatively easy method of generating electricity.
Others might use wind or water if they have access to the resource.
The problem with building your home to work solely on renewable energy is the price.
Most Earthships are in rural settings away from the grid.
This means that they don’t have a way to supplement their energy should their batteries run out.
As a result, they often invest in a lot of renewable energy sources to ensure they have plenty of power to store in their batteries.
The problem is that solar panels and wind energy isn’t cheap.
Although prices have come down, they’re not as cheap as installing standard electricity from fossil fuels yet.
The price of installing renewable energy generators is also high because of the labor involved.
There are still only a few companies in each area that has experience installing solar panels and other types of renewable power.
Because of that, they’re able to charge more for their services and their products.
There isn’t enough competition in the market to drive down their prices.
Renewable generators also use expensive materials in their production.
That makes them expensive to purchase and install.
Besides just buying solar panels, owners of Earthships also need to buy all the parts that deliver energy from the panels to their houses.
They also need to have a good storage area for plenty of batteries to keep delivering energy to their homes.
The more energy sources that they have, the more complex and expensive the construction process is going to be.
That said, by diversifying their energy sources, the Earthship is also ready to rely on other sources of power should one break or stop producing.
Making a home self-reliant with energy is an expensive venture.
It adds to the cost of building an Earthship which makes it even more expensive.
7. Price Of Windows
Another element that’s important in most Earthships is natural light.
In an effort to use less power, many Earthships will install a lot of windows.
The windows filter in natural light which lights up the house without the use of electricity.
It’s not uncommon to find Earthships with entire walls made out of windows.
The problem with windows is that they’re expensive to install.
Because their homes often feature windows, some homeowners will want to use custom-shaped windows.
The problem with custom-shaped windows is that they’re more expensive to build.
Like the rest of the Earthship, custom-built windows are all built by hand.
They take more time and materials to make.
The result is an incredible window that fits the home perfectly.
Some Earthships even have curved walls which require special curved windows to fit in them.
The process of making these types of windows isn’t cheap.
Specialized laborers may need to offer their services to get the right look that the homeowners want.
If the homeowners want the windows treated or tinted, then they can expect to pay even more for their windows.
When it comes to Earthships, the price of windows can inflate the overall price of the home.
How To Make Building An Earthship Cheaper
If you want to live in an eco-friendly home but you’re wary of the price of an Earthship, there are ways that you can make its construction a little cheaper.
Here are a few methods to make building an Earthship cheaper.
1. Use A Small Floorplan
The bigger the Earthship is, the more expensive it’s going to be.
A lot of homeowners combine the idea of an Earthship with a tiny home.
By reducing the size of your floorplan, you can reduce the price of building the Earthship.
Smaller floorplans require fewer materials to make them.
Plumbing costs are smaller, too, since there are usually fewer bathrooms.
The overall energy needs are also usually smaller.
This means you’ll need to buy fewer solar panels, batteries, and other materials.
Finally, the overall time it takes to complete your project is shorter.
A smaller home takes less time to build than a bigger one.
That’ll save you money on labor costs, too.
If you want to save money on your Earthship, then you should consider reducing its size or even making it a tiny home.
2. Help Build It
There’s no question that a large part of the price to build an Earthship is going to come from labor costs.
The good news is that you can help alleviate some of those costs by doing the work yourself.
Certain parts of the construction should definitely be left to the professionals.
However, when it’s mundane tasks like compacting dirt or digging or even hammering, you can volunteer.
This will allow the construction company to use the worker who would otherwise be doing that task in a more effective way that can help speed up your project.
In some cases, you may be able to skip hiring a team entirely and do the work yourself.
This can save you a good amount of money when building your Earthship.
3. Find Used Materials
The point of an Earthship is to use recycled materials in its creation.
That can help you save money if you know where to look.
Instead of buying new windows, for example, you can shop around for used windows.
Not only will they be cheaper, but they often have unique features that can make your home stand out.
You can find other recycled or used materials, too, that can help with the finishing of your house.
By focusing on used and recycled materials, you can make your home even more eco-friendly and save money, too.
Is An Earthship Worth It?
Considering the high expense of an Earthship, you may wonder if the investment is worth it.
After all, it’s going to take a very specific type of buyer to purchase your home in the future.
If you have an interest in protecting the environment, living sustainably, and practicing self-reliance, then an Earthship is the perfect home for you.
The expense that you put into it will come back to you in terms of longevity and energy savings.
Earthships can be extremely expensive to build depending on a few factors.
However, you can make it a bit cheaper by focusing on recycled materials and doing some of the work yourself.
In the end, building a self-reliant home that protects the environment is a great investment.