Cost To Build

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Straw Bale Home?

As part of our project of filming the how-to video, Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home, which is about the construction of a single green home built with straw bales and other green materials, we kept track of every construction expense. Owners of the Building With Awareness video will find it useful to know the construction costs of each phase of construction as shown in the video portion. These figures are for general reference only and may not reflect your building costs. Construction costs vary widely across the country. The total price does not include the owner/builder’s sweat equity (which was a considerable amount of time), other volunteer’s time, taxes, and the cost of the land. These are the real-world costs for this highly detailed straw bale and adobe home, but again, every project is different. If this home had been built 100% by a contractor without homeowner involvement, the costs would be substantially higher.
This green and energy-efficient straw bale hybrid home was built to code. Although there are claims that straw bale homes have been built for $5.00 per square foot, this would certainly not be the norm—nor probably possible—in standard code-approved construction.

Hired Labor and Outside Services
• Paid general construction assistance, including 2 part time assistants, straw bale assistance,
earth plaster assistance: $21,054.
• Plumber for installing the natural gas line
(code required that this step be done by a licensed plumber): $1,000
• Earth compaction test for foundation and pad: $214
General Construction Materials
• Concrete, adobe bricks, screws, nails, nuts, bolts, fasteners, wire mesh, rebar, caulk, raingutters, sand, gravel, stone, sheetrock, tarps, insulation, etc. (does not include lumber)
• 500 straw bales delivered to the site: $1,350
Note: We sold over 1/3 of the bales to other people’s green building projects. Ordering a full truck load reduces the transportation cost per bale.
Photovoltaic Electrical System
Photovoltaic panels, sinewave inverter, and batteries: $10,259 Cable, metal for PV racks, and accessories: $236. Electrician for final wiring of PV system only: $1,600
Premium aluminum-clad, double pane, low-E glass for the entire house. Includes two double-paned skylights.
All copper pipe for the potable water, ABS sewer pipe, valves, vents, etc
Site Preparation
Includes $150.00 for survey of land to determine property boundaries, fill dirt and compaction as required by code in this area to raise the floor height by at least 18″ for flood protection, and digging of foundation trenches with a backhoe.
All lumber for the post-and-beam construction of the straw bale walls, stud-wall framing, roof framing and sheeting, cabinents, doors, finish trim, etc. Note: This will vary from location to location and the cost of wood continues to rise.
Electrical wire, conduit, breaker box, terminals, receptacles, smoke alarms, telephone and cable, CF light bulbs, etc. As demonstrated in the DVD, this is for the general electrical wiring only (straw bale walls, frame walls, and adobe walls). The wiring for the photovoltaic system is listed under “photovoltaic system”.
Water Well
Drilling of the well. We installed the pump and electrical.
Drafting and Engineering
Includes structural engineering for post-and-beam framing for the straw bale walls, engineering for the rubble trench foundation, archictects stamp on plans, structural engineers stamp on plans, CAD drafting from designer’s pencil drawings, and blueprints. Does not include the deisgn time by owner/builder who, professionally, is a green building consultant.
Total Workshop Construction Cost
Adobe, lumber, concrete slab, roof, doors, windows. Labor for this structure is included in the house costs.
Septic System
septic tank and leech field installation.
Mechanical and Backup Heating
Radiant floor heat tubing, headers, valves, and accessories: $839
DC circulation pump: $240
Thermostats, exhaust fans, exhaust and vent ducting, and hot water heater for the radiant floor heat.
Construction tools purchased. These were in addition to the tools that we already owned. Purchased equipment included an electric concrete mixer, chop saw, shovel, blades, grinder wheels, router bits, boots, gloves, etc.
Rainwater Cistern
1,500 gallon tank: $796
DC pump: $152
Pressure tank: $116
misc. parts and accessories included in the total price
Equipment Rental
Transit, scaffholding, chemical toilet, insulation blower for cellulose insulation (see DVD), mixers, etc.
Earth Plaster, Gypsum Plaster, Morter and Grout
Gypsum, sand, thinset for tiles, and morter
Earth plaster dry mix from adobe yard: $348
White earth plaster materials: $71.00
Building Permits and Insurance 0.80%
Finishes, Paints, and Stucco
Includes non-VOC paints, shellac, stains, stucco, etc.
Fixed indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures.
Utility Hookup
Natural gas connection to the home.
large dimentional lumber, recycled oak flooring, kitchen sink.
The Building WIth Awareness DVD and Guidebook .04%–Priceless!

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