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Excerpt from an email on the Cheap Shelters Yahoo Group

Good Morning Rob,

I looked at your web page, it looks like you have some good stuff started there. My family is moving in the same direction, though we hadn't intended a Hobbit Hole that is what it has turned into. Financially we are in similar straits but I see you are planning on obtaining a loan and financing your project. I just wanted to touch base and say that you can build a place without a loan, it just takes time.

This is our strategy. Our property is in the mountains of southern Idaho. Right now we don't have access because the roads get closed for snowmobiles from December till April. This is ok, it just means we need to get some snow machines. Of course, we are planning to live off the grid. We lived up on the property last summer and fall until it got too cold and had to come into town. We were able to clear and level the building spot. We have a wonderful southern exposure and neatly cut out a section of the hillside to build our 'Hobbit Hole".

To build our house we have settled on a Hybrid Earthship. The Earthship is primarily built of discarded tires, fill and compacted with earth. This is a very very labor intensive process, one that I have no desire to fullfill so that's where the hybridization comes in. First, we use the infilled tires as piers and pillers to support the roof structure and bear the weight of the earth roof. We are talking heavy timbers, decking, insulation, moisture barriers and finally 1-2 feet or topsoil. On top of that we anticipate 1-5 feet of snow in the winter time. With this type of construction you must fill in the space between the pillars. That's where the second aspect of the hybrid comes in. We are planning on using earth-bags (fancy name for sand bags) in the back of the structure up against the excavated side of the hill. This serves a couple of uses. First it holds back the earth from sluffing off onto the constrution and it allows the temperature of the earth to conduct into the house. Since the the ambiant temperature of the earth is around 50 degrees it nice to have.

The front of the house is a little bit different. Much like a walk out basement, it has windows and doors for the sleeping and occupied spaces (re: building codes egress requirements). Earth will be pulled down on the front as well but it won't be as deep or as good an insulator so we are planning a strawbale infill to provide insulation value where the heat and cold is most likely to come through.

This hybrid reduces the number of tires from over a thousand to around three hundred. It gives us approximately 2000 square feet of living space and reduces construction time considerably. There is a picture of it at the Earthbags Group ( at Yahoo Groups (

If you are interested in more about our Hobbit Hole - specifically heating, water, septic, finishes etc. please keep me in mind. We are very excited about building it and moving in.

Hope that I have something valuable to contribute.


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