587 of 606 people found the following review helpful
Revolutionary, but Problematic too,
This review is from: The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book (Paperback)I read through the first chapter on Amazon and was absolutely sold on the idea. Subterranean housing is vastly more ecologically compatible than surface dwellings; it can even be environmentally regenerative. But the book's last chapter was a crushing blow; the designs and methods Oehler suggests are not compliant with the Uniform Building Codes.
If you do your best to play by the rules in life, this book will have to be set aside. It's thought-provoking reading, to be sure -- not to be missed. But before you can set out into the wilderness and build yourself an inexpensive answer to today's housing problems, you'll need to socially-engineer a way around civilization's permit/inspector traps. The author proposes a few far-fetched possibilities, e.g. getting a code variance, getting an underground code amendment. Basically, the only real options are: either move to an area with NO building codes (Oehler himself admits there are almost none left), or hide your construction -- and this entails forgoing utility hook-ups, since meter readers apparently double as spies for the housing board, looking for unauthorized renovation/building projects.
Being an outlaw is not my cup of tea. Nor does it suit the mainstream. So perhaps this book's main function, after showing us how inexpensive housing can be, is to wake us up to a harsh reality. Housing boards, composed largely of members of the building professions, "have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In other words they are not likely to take a cheerful view of any system which cuts the cost of building from 70% to 90%." The reason houses are so expensive is: the law REQUIRES them to be, and the law is assiduously enforced by the very contractors building those houses. What we need is a uniform building code flexibly oriented around safety and good construction standards, NOT the maximization of revenue to entrenched special interests.
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 14, 2007 3:07:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 14, 2007 3:16:53 PM PDT
Pen Name says:
Well done, excellent review. I heartily second your comments regarding the building code mafia. There is little hope for relief, with an entire industry, indeed, way of life designed to exploit the pockets of honest citizens, regardless of potentially better, more economical and more ecological methods and techniques. Just another example of a society failing it's citizens. Though I have not yet read the whole book, as I read the description, the reviews and the data at his web-site undergroundhousing.com, my mind jumped to this very issue and the immediate thought that came to mind was that one possible way around the issue of the building code mafia might be to build a simple one or two room conventional house (or place a small mobile home nearby), then proceed to build the undergroud house for primary occupancy. If anyone comes smelling around theyll find the conventional housing and be more apt to leave you alone. Just a thought.
Posted on Aug 19, 2008 11:14:51 PM PDT
Mike Oehler says:
It is possible to pass the code with underground housing. A guy named Bill Howit did it in Washington state. There is nothing in the code to prevent it. But since he was building with my Post/Shoring/Polyethylene method which uses wood as the main material (protected from the earth with a polyethylene sheet, or EPDM) the inspectors insisted that it had to meet the code for wooden basements which meant pressure treated lumber -- poison. He went before the variance board armed with testimonials from those of us living in P/S/P housing as to the durability of polyethylene underground. You wouldn't have to go that route even if you built with rock or concrete. --Mike Oehler, author of the book.
Posted on Mar 27, 2010 12:41:45 AM PDT
Guy E. Cooley says:
From Investors.com - about health care, but really, can be applied to anything regarding 'big government' -
- - -
Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern left the Senate after 18 years and bought a small business. It went under. He wrote: "(I) wish I had known more firsthand about the concerns and problems of American businesspeople while I was a U.S. senator and later a presidential nominee. ... Legislators and government regulators must more carefully consider the economic and management burdens we have been imposing on U.S. businesses. ... Many businesses ... simply can't pass such costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable."
This guy thinks big government gets in the way too often - and he's a 'Democrat' (inconceivable, isn't it, that a Democrat should have this epiphany)- who am I to disagree?
Our government used to be By the People, For the People.
Now our constitution reads "We the Government" -
Its time to reign in Big Government.
Posted on Apr 10, 2010 1:18:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 10, 2010 1:20:22 PM PDT
It's going to always be difficult for the first people who do something different, they're literally trail-blazers. The inspectors' job is to make sure a house is safe and to work with you in making it so. That was actually in the literature for the permit. I know that may not be true for every inspector, but we must go on the idea that it is.
It's hard to change minds at first, but if what yu're doing really is better than what was done before, it will succeed eventually. Some people just have to put forth a little effort (or a lot) to push it through from obscure to just outside of mainstream. The more people who try the easier it will be for each person down the line. Soon it will be mentioned in codes, then they'll have a small section about it, then a larger section and most people will have heard of it.
Don't give up just because it seems impossible. Every idea is met with resistance.
By the way, I am currently building a straw bale house, it's the kind with bales filling in the walls, the roof is supported by timber framing. Basically the bales are insulation. Despite the fact that this is pretty much just a regular house with straw inside the walls, I had much trouble getting a bank loan for this home until I called the straw bale part "cellulose insulation".
Posted on Jun 9, 2010 10:03:50 PM PDT
W. Lawson says:
As a primary residence, this is a problematic way to go. Understand the stranglehold of the Gummint is upon you; here in PA, if you do not get a permit by the end of 2010, your house must contain a sprinkler system...an avg. cost addition of 5K; there is an annual attempt to tax/regulate people who draw their OWN water from their OWN well. PA gov. thinks all water belongs to the state. Get used to being a slave, people.
I like this idea, but as a hide-away or camp. Something built out in the boonies with little code enforcement, and no random stranger traffic. No lie, I emailed my insurance agent a bit ago about what I could do to lower insurance on a house I am designing, and she said:
"Bill, guardian system and sprinklers do discount a Homeowners policy. Local townships, city etc have building ordinances regarding construction. I can never predict premium because of changes and rules etc .. If you design a very unique home that utilizes non-conventional materials I will need to check if we can insure it. Examples: dome houses, log houses, rammed earth construction and construction using insulated concrete forms.
Glad you are enjoying your new bike. There is no discount for the safety course. Sorry."
What is spooky is I like rammed earth, but it is too far out there for mainstream construction - plan to use it for an eventual camp. But my house I am working on will use ICF...and she mentions that that may be a problem...ICF is normal, standard, fireproof and 50-100% more efficient than stick construction...sad. I mentioned neither rammed earth nor ICF to her, but she discounted their use from the blue.
How many people even know what rammed earth is??
Posted on Mar 28, 2011 11:52:11 AM PDT
Only a fool continues to play by the rules in a game that's rigged against them. The "government" is obviously not going to solve any of our real problems. With the mess we all face today, somebody has to try something different.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2011 6:30:11 PM PDT
Yes, I agree. It's amazing what a few years of reflection can do.
Posted on May 6, 2011 7:14:26 AM PDT
T. W. Peterson says:
I live in a location with no building codes! Only septic approval is necessary..... aren't I lucky! But I'm not saying where.... it's top secret! But in the USA!
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2011 10:42:04 AM PDT
After going to my first RWVA Appleseed and learning about the US Constitution, I will be building an underground house on "MY" property. I will dig the water well in the next month without the permission of anyone but myself. The Constitution is a great muscle that we must flex!
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2011 8:22:50 PM PDT
Forrest Evans says:
To lay it all on Big Government is missing the point, that the reality today is an unholy alliance of Big Corporations, Big Banks, and Big Government. What is good for Walmart is not necessarily good for the small businessman. The clearest direction I see is as much detachment from the consumer society as possible, and that is not easy. How to explain to little Johnny and Sally, you can't have a WII, we don't believe in that way of life.