Building a house is not complicated. It's a combination of many small, simple tasks done in the right order. Many owner/builders construct their own places each year, and of course professional builders...well that's just what they do.

Building an affordable house is still not complicated, but it does take more forethought, and requires thinking outside of the box. Better yet...banish the box completely.

Most of today's houses consist of a big box full of smaller boxes. Banishing the box allows free flow of air and light throughout the building. Energy experts have been telling us for years that the basic shape of a building has more impact on its energy use than any other single factor. Substantial savings in material and labor costs can be realized with the right size and shape. Openness also fosters communication and builds family togetherness.

First, let's determine what an affordable house is. It's a house that a couple starting out can afford to buy, or someone on a low or fixed income can live in comfortably within their means. For a home to be considered affordable, it should meet the following criteria:
  • It costs less to build
  • It costs less to maintain
  • Real estate taxes are moderate
  • It uses less energy than a standard home
All of these factors affect the affordability of a home and must be balanced for its life time cost or true affordability.

When starting to design an affordable house, wipe the slate clean and begin with our two previously discussed topics:
  • Appropriate Sized Housing—size does matter. Build only what you need, storage does not need to be in conditioned living space. Plan for future expansion, and create multi-use spaces such as rooms that do double duty (i.e. an office that also serves as a guest room).
  • Why Round? The round shape is inherently stronger, encloses the same area with 15% less material, uses open floor plans, and has no wasted space.
These will get you started with a home that is strong, sized and built for your needs, and affordable.

There have been many versions and attempts at affordable housing over the years. While these are good designs and smaller homes, using the right shape and materials we can do even better—a single level home, built in a round (multi-sided polygon) shape, on a heated slab, using insulated structural panels fulfills all four of the affordability criteria above. All of this can be done at about 70 to 75% of the average per square foot cost for new construction. To those who say this is impossible...consider the Chinese proverb, “One who says it is impossible should not interrupt the one who is doing it”!