The Starting point! Research and Gathering Information about Alternative Building

So I guess this is where it finally starts. My wife Jana and I have made the decision that we are going to build a house very soon and I want to document the process. I’m a painter, and adjunct lecturer at a university. She is currently pregnant with our first child and we are both eager to have a space that we can call our own. Our dog Jedi (a german shepherd german pointer mix) is extremely energetic and would surely also enjoy the benefits of having a little space to run around. We are living right in the center of Prague, Czech Republic. Within 5 minutes walking distance to a major hub of public transportation. Leaving the city for greener pastures will surely be a big lifestyle change as Jana has never lived outside of the city. As for myself I grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota and spent much of my life outside of a small town called McKenzie (population 40). So the change may not be as hard for me to make.

Jana was lucky enough to inherit a small apartment from her grandmother. Four years ago we sold that apartment and bought a completely destroyed apartment which we remodeled (and are currently living in). Now that property values in the area we live have begun to recover I think it is time to sell. And we are both ready. Our goal is to build the cheapest and most ecologically friendly house that we can. We don’t have a ton of money but our budget is around $150,000. If we can keep the build within this budget we won’t need to have a mortgage. I imagine we may go over this mark but the idea of living in a house with no mortgage (at age 32) is one that I believe is attainable. We just need to be extremely smart and educated in our decisions. Which is the reason I created this blog. It is here where I will be posting all of the info that I’m researching. A sort of depository of what I’m interested in. As you can see in the previous posts many times I’ll just post a picture, or a link to some articles. This is because I don’t want to lose any information and I think the blog format works as a great way to collate all the information into unique categories.

I first became interested in alternative building methods when I was 17 and I stumbled upon Michael Reynolds Earthship book at my local public library. I was intrigued and excited about the idea of building a home. When my grandfather passed away I even inherited a plot of land which was on bank facing south. Our family farm outside of McKenzie, North Dakota is still in operation and is now certified organic. Anyway, my interest was peaked and soon my other friends began speaking about earthships as if they were a fantastic home we could all aspire to live in. We studied them, and made plans and dreamed about living in them. 15 years later I feel extremely lucky to be able to take my dreams and make them a reality.

Last thanksgiving a friend introduced me to an architect living here in Prague, and he has provided some great links and information to get my mind buzzing. He had previously worked on a project to create a home out of earthbags and is also interersted in sustainable and alternative building methods. I am currently very interested in meeting anyone who knows about alternative building methods whether they be earthships, container homes, or strawbale. I don’t want to be someone who blogs but never gets his hands dirty so I’m hoping to find some strawbale homes which will be looking for volunteers to help out. Hopefully I can meet more people who can give me both their knowledge as well as maybe get a crew of people to help out when the day comes to start my build. I think this is the first important bit of information that I’ve learned. Talk to as many people as you can and volunteer on other projects. Doing this type of niche building requires a very special team of people who have to have a specific skill set. Any information you learn while voluteering your time is extremely valuable and can only help in the end. You’ll also get a unique look at a building in process and can thus make more informed decisions as you begin building your own. Since much of my skills currently revolve more around computers I’ve offered to create a website for a build they are planning this summer as well as help editing a video they want to shoot of the process. Their website can be viewed here and it appears that they have a lot of different events. Another czech strawbale site I’ve stumbled upon is Veronica.Cz . It is all in czech but it’s great to see what others have done here in Czech Republic, and is comforting to know that it is possible to build a strawbale home here. From what I’ve been told so far strawbale homes are allowed but must have a wooden frame in order to meet code.

I’m not underestimating the amount of work that this is truly going to take from start to finish. Which is one reason I really want to document what I’m learning and doing as things progress. I hope that this will not only help me become firmer in the decisions I will have to make, but will also help others who looking to build an alternative home.

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