It’s been all over Facebook. A guy named Steve Areen in Thailand built a “dome home” for about $9,000 in six weeks. Everyone is raving about how cheap, awesome and sustainable it is.
Why Can’t We Build Like This in America?
Steve’s house was cheap for a few reasons. He got the land for free, he’s in Thailand where materials are cheaper, Thailand doesn’t have the government regulation we have, Thailand has a tropical climate, he was able to do the work himself and not hire expensive skilled labor and finally the house is small with only two rooms and no garage. Steve is currently working on acquiring some land in Oregon to try and build another house. It will be interesting to see what kind of costs are involved there.
What Would This House Cost in Colorado
I’m in Colorado, and this is the area I know the most about, so here are some rough estimates of what the house would cost in Colorado just to pass inspection for occupancy.
Lot The best lot price I found in the area was $12,500 with water and sewer taps. That’s probably the cheapest you could get buy. There were some unimproved lots out on the prairie for $10,000, but they had a $9,500 water tap fee with them.
Foundation The dome home doesn’t appear to have any kind of foundation. That wouldn’t be legal here. You need soil testing and footers poured at a minimum. Probably another $10,000.
Permit Permits vary by city or county and by value of the dwelling. We are up to about $30k already and will top out above that. Looking at Weld County fees with Road Impact and Facility Impact fees, the total is going to be at least $3,600, over 1/3 of Steve’s original cost.
HVAC Code is going to require certain insulation values for construction materials and windows. Colorado also gets cold in the winter, so some kind of heating system will be required. Steve’s structure didn’t look like it had any heating or cooling. We should probably add another $10,000 for that.
Safety Steve’s rooftop patio, while awesome, wouldn’t meed any kind of US building codes. No railing on the stairs, no railing around the patios. Thatch roof construction could easily catch fire. There are multiple safety regulations that would need to be considered. Let’s budget another $10,000 for that.
HOA Requirements In Colorado all new subdivisions have to have an HOA. Most existing HOAs wouldn’t allow something like this house. Most HOAs specify that houses would have to include a garage or be a certain size. It’s hard to put a number on this, and it’s possible you might be able to find a lot without an HOA, but for large scale adoption of this type of construction it would be very difficult to abide by all the rules set by your neighbors.
Total House Costs
So to total it up:
Code Compliance: $10,000
Original cost: $9,000
Estimated Total: $57,500
These are only rough numbers, and you now have a house with no garage for your car and a location out in the middle of nowhere so you will need that car pretty badly. Building it in a city where you could actually walk to work and the grocery store and not need a care would likely cost $20k more, if you were allowed to build it at all.
$9k homes are amazing, but the same building would cost 8x as much or more here in Colorado, primarily due to the large number of rules we have created for ourselves. There are still places in this country that have more relaxed rules and allow for tiny homes, but for most of us we are better of with more standard construction.