Category Archives: Permitting

Back to the Drawing Board

I have a peculiar attraction to the endless possibilities of a blank piece of graph paper and a freshly sharpened pencil.

Once I enter the Flow of translating an imagined living-space into a floor plan drawing, I will go hours without thoughts of food or drink, acknowledgments of sound or voice with little regard for my body’s need of liquid disposal and sleep. I end up farther downstream that I would have liked and I find myself struggling upstream return to my intended destination. I am still thankful for this experience, because without it I would have gone nowhere or rather got nothing done.

I’m about to go there, again.  But first, I must unload from my mind the happenings of the last few weeks.

We are going back to the drawing board. At first this may sound like a set back. However, it is for good reasons and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Let me tell you why.

In the beginning of February, we met with a few engineering specialists at Taitum Engineering in Ithaca. Every person we met was super enthusiastic about being involved with an Earthship project. We were greeted by Javier Rosa, the gentleman we spoke to on the phone to set up the meeting. As we chatted about our ideas and shared our drawings, several others stopped by after they heard the Earthship people were there. We met Dom (HVAC), Lou (HVAC-passive house), and Gordon (Solar) with a promise to sit down with Fred (Plumbing) at a later point. Taitum Engineering | Technology as if the Earth Mattered

We talked about what we need for our building permit, since that was our reason for contacting them.  The Codes officer of Danby township determined that he would require stamped (by an architect or engineer) plans for the Earthship, primarily because of our use of alternative materials.  This was contrary to what we read in their building permit policy that stated a home under 1,500 square foot did not require the plans be stamped by an engineer. We struggled to stay under this limit to offset the cost of the site prep stage since we must also put out money for a new driveway, a well, septic and electric hookup. However, that is no longer an option.

We were informed that the bedroom sizes on our official floor plan from Earthship Biotecture out of Taos, NM would not met NYS codes (must be a minimum of 144 square foot). Several other changes were mentioned to adapt it to the wet, cold climate of the Finger Lakes. Since Taitem needs to change the drawings that Earthship Biotecture created (and it is against EB’s policy to give us the CAD file for the drawing), we must have the whole thing redrawn. This nullifies the drawing we paid ($1,500) for through Earthship Biotecture. Expensive lesson learned. Moving on.

Shortly after that meeting, we also learned that our tax return would yield less than 1/4 our expected refund.

That led us to a crossroads. We soon realized we could go back to the drawing board at this point, if we wanted to, and that is exactly what we did.

Before contacting EB, we briefly batted around the idea of starting with a tiny house to live in whilst we built the Earthship.  We were told we could only do that if the two structures were connected to maintain a single dwelling, not being allowed to have more than one living structure per land parcel.  We didn’t think connecting them would be possible, so we opted for a barn structure for temporary housing until we could build the Earthship.  However, we need to be allowed to occupy that space for longer than the 6-week codes limit on temporary housing since renting is out of the question due to lack of affordable housing.  None of the rentals I’ve seen so far will allow pets anyway, so it is mute point to continue searching.

Now we are back to the tiny home concept with the addition of an Earthship that wraps around it in the back and extends the length of the home to the East.

The E.S. Euphoria has become a tiny house earthship hybrid.

This approach will work much better for several reasons:

It allows us time to sell our current home in Barbours. We can live in our 1978 Fleetwood Southwind motor home until the tiny home is built.

We can move to Ithaca before the Earthship is built – we can find employment, meet more Ithacan and spread the word about what we are doing around the community.

We can get settled into a new area at a much more tolerable pace so that we may enjoy and share this process with our families, friends, fellows and community. 

We can establish a work history to better qualify for a construction loan when it comes time to build the earthship addition and refinance our balloon loan with the land’s seller.  

All that being said, I am back at it with pencil and paper as well as dabbling in Google’s 3D-modeling software SketchUp.

I’m having a blast and can’t wait to share it with all of you!