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How much does it cost to build an Econest?

We recently had a group of thirty 5th graders tour EcoNest Headquarters in Ashland, Oregon. After touring the EcoNest home and office, discussing the materials used to build it, and watching a video about the construction process, Paula asked the kids if they think building with light straw clay would be more or less expensive than more conventional methods of construction. Several students immediately said more, but one student said, “No . . .wait. I think it should be less because you can find all of the materials all around outside.” In a perfect world he would be right but the reality is that conventional construction is currently the cheapest way to build.

Of course, it’s never quite that simple. The big answer to “how much does it cost to build an EcoNest” is "it depends." Site location, site conditions, size of home, level of amenity and owner choices largely impact the price. It costs about half as much to build, conventional or otherwise, in Tennessee compared to New York City. In Ashland, Oregon and Santa Fe, New Mexico, the two places where we have built extensively for ourselves, I can give you the following rough ballparks: In Santa Fe a new home costed $300/sq. ft. before the recession, comparable range to any custom built/conventional homes in that area. In Ashland the costs of building can be a little less. These are contracted prices. If you have the talent and time to be an Owner Builder, you can save a minimum of 20% and much more if you do a lot of the work yourself.

The light straw clay wall system only represents about 10% of the building cost so the big drivers that make up the higher costs are healthy materials throughout and fine finishes. Because we are architects and builders working together I always like to say that we can make every inch count so that you may not need as many square feet as you think.

The bottom line is, an EcoNest is not the least expensive way to build in terms of initial costs, but will give you high value and returns when occupational health, environmental health, building longevity, and energy costs are factored in.