Why Earthships Are so Expensive and How to Do It Cheaper

As talks about sustainability and building environmentally friendly homes are gaining attention, more and more people opt for alternatives like Earthship homes. For the uninitiated, Earthships are considered ‘green’ buildings made mainly of recycled materials like upcycled car tires and other materials.

But if upcycled materials are often used, why are Earthships so expensive?

The highest cost when building an Earthship is labor. The total cost will be significantly below that of traditional houses if you are comfortable building it yourself, but not if you hire a construction company. Recycled materials will save you some money, but you may still have to pay for various non-upcycled materials like glass or thermal sheets.

In this article, we’ll discuss what goes into building an Earthship, why it is so expensive, and how you can build your Earthship to be more financially friendly.

Why Is It so Expensive to Build an Earthship?

Earthships are usually considered off-grid homes, given that they rely minimally on public utilities. Instead, Earthships are usually powered by any natural resources they can find, with much of it coming from solar energy and recycled rainwater. Unfortunately, while Earthships are regularly made of recycled materials, it can often be expensive to build.

The primary reason for this is due to the labor that must be put into building an Earthship. For example, the builder will have to source tires that are ideal for use. They must then clean, dry, and pack the tires tightly with earth to ensure that the structure can withstand subsequent materials being placed on them.

Separately, it may also be expensive to source other materials like glass for windows, thermal sheets for insulation, and other required systems to make the Earthship function like a normal home. You will also have to foot the bill for various building processes such as excavation works and concrete packing.

Finally, applying for plans and permits to build an Earthship can also add to the cost of building a unit. Generally, Earthships can cost between $20,000 to $500,000, depending on the size of your establishment and other necessary inclusions to make your Earthship work. Sadly, it is a myth that Earthships are cheap or sometimes even free to build.

If They are so Expensive, Are Earthships Still worth It?

So, if Earthships cost so much to build, is it still worth it? Depending on the lifestyle you seek, living in an Earthship can be worth it in the long run. If you’re a fan of enjoying a fuss-free lifestyle while being environmentally conscious, living in an Earthship would be considered a worthy investment.

  • Earthships are highly durable and unique, considering how they don’t have to conform to regular housing plans.
  • You will be able to personalize your home however you prefer and expand your Earthship later if you need more space.
  • Thanks to the way Earthships are built, they make great homes if you’re hoping to live off-grid. This is as Earthships rely very little on amenities like fossil fuels and public utilities, opting for natural resources like solar power to generate electricity and upcycling rainwater for use.

However, Earthships are not perfect for everyone. Aside from its relatively high cost to build, Earthships are not suitable for all climates, and wet conditions may subject you to mold issues internally. If you live in a state with everchanging weather, you may also require backup power sources for fall and winter when there is little sun to provide you solar power.

It can also be difficult for you to resell your unit unless you find a buyer who shares the same interest in Earthships. This is a very unusual home structure that some potential buyers will find very appealing, but most people prefer more traditional houses. This means you may not be able to sell it at a price comparable to the money and time you invested in building your Earthship.

How to Build an Earthship at a Lower Cost

Small Earthship

The good news, however, is that not all Earthships cost an arm and a leg.

If you’re interested in building your Earthship but you’re financially strapped, there are different methods out there that you can adopt to bring down the cost of building your “green” home. Below are some tips for building your Earthship for less.

DIY on Labor

As mentioned, labor costs will quickly add up to your bill of building an Earthship. If you’re savvy with your hands, you should try to pick up some DIY skills to build your Earthship instead of employing contractors.

Although this may delay how it will take to build your Earthship, employing a DIY approach will help save you money during your Earthship construction.

In addition, the more you’re directly involved in the construction process, the more will you know your own home and be able to fix issues that may arise in the future. And let’s not forget the satisfaction of living in a home that you build with your own hands.

Source for Upcycled Materials

When building your Earthship, you will also find that the cost of materials plays a huge part in driving up the price.

Instead of purchasing new materials like glass sheets or investing in new wood parts for your Earthship, you can easily bring down the cost by using upcycled materials.

Construction sites are great spots for you to look for discarded or extra materials, and if you ask the contractors nicely, they may be happy to spare you some. Shop around secondhand furniture stores to look for items to decorate your home with, as you’ll never know if you find a good piece of furniture for a much lower price.

Read also this popular article on 10 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Building Materials.

Start small and grow big

Consider starting small when you’re building an Earthship. This is a great way to drive the prices down and save you money when applying for permits and other construction costs.

Sometimes, the best homes are small homes, and you’ll realize you didn’t need that much space to begin with.

You can also look for land that is not too centrally located, as a popular location will come at a steep price. Finding a reasonably priced plot will help you set the foundation of building your Earthship at a lower cost, and the subsequent construction expenses will be less of a burden.

Where necessary, and if your budget allows, you can always expand your Earthship later. If you prepare your small Earthship right, it will be easy and affordable to expand it in the future.

Budget-friendly Alternatives to Owning an Earthship

If you still think building an Earthship will be too expensive for you, but you still wish to live in an environmentally conscious home, here are some alternatives for the frugal homeowner.

Shipping Containers

Container homes are a popular alternative mainly because they are readily available. A lot of shipping container homes and hotels are being constructed worldwide as they are affordable, weather-resistant, and easy to upcycle. Shipping containers are also stackable, making them an ideal alternative for compact living.

Straw Bale Homes

Straw bale homes have also become increasingly popular these days, as they not only promote green living but are also highly affordable.

Making straw bale homes are also less labor-intensive, so you’ll save on the labor costs that you would have to pay when building an Earthship.

Rammed Earth Homes

Rammed earth homes are usually made by putting together materials like cement, keystone, sand, and silt. This results in a sturdy home that is comparable to most traditional homes but is more environmentally friendly as the materials are usually sourced naturally and locally.

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