How much is a twenty-foot diameter building worth…made of earthbags? Does it increase the property value or decrease it?

When we first built our earthbag structure (locally known as the “mud hut”), the very small neighbouring town was buzzing with these questions. The local tax assessor had visited us and apparently, struck dumb with the lack of regularity, had posed the question to the local gossip line.

When every house is “made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same” (line from a 1950’s song about mass housing construction), the assessors job is easy: Multiply the square footage by some magic number, calculate in some unique features and move on to the next house. But when every feature of a building is unique, then what?

The assessor stopped in again today and wanted to know the dimensions of the greenhouse and will want to come back to measure the earthbag building too. Measure what, I want to know. The number of bags? The length of barbed wire between each course? The number of hours that we continue to put into it? Measure how cozy it is on a cold day and how refreshing it is a warm one? Or the number of spiders, mice, and flies that have slipped in through the unfinished walls and floor? Will she measure its ability to withstand a storm or its invisibility from the road? Or will she measure the CO2 absorbed by the plants on the roof? And what about the knowledge and satisfaction gained from creating ones own space? Will she measure that? Perhaps, I should prepare for an in-depth interview.


With the walls completed on the cordwood addition, we have begun working on the roof. We are using nearly the same method as we used on the earthbag roof:

Each beam creates the next piece in an upward spiral. Although it’s intensive work, the outcome is very satisfying, both structurally and aesthetically.

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