As a kid Steve Rees played in caves and learned how the earth could cool. As an adult, he buried two shipping containers and created an off-grid retirement home for himself and his wife Shirley.
After a few years of camping on their 10 acre plot in Northern California, they bought two shipping containers, hired an excavator and got to work. Doing most of the work themselves, their finished home cost them $30,000 (solar included). Their 640-square-foot space cost them less than $50 per square foot.
Rees explains that while this is less than conventional construction costs, the savings only begin with construction. With a solar-powered well, a bit of propane and solar tubes for most of their light, they haven’t had any city water or electric bills since 2002. Winter temperatures in their home (even during 20 degrees outside) never fall below 62 degrees (an RV catalytic heater is sufficient for heating). Even when the temperature rises to 110 outside in the summer, their home has never risen above 82 degrees.
When they asked the county about permitting they were told they “didn’t have a permit for burying containers”. They have been inspected since completing their home, just not for a single family dwelling. “We have a permitted septic system, a permitted well, everything is up to snuff as far as that goes, it’s just that this is such a non-conforming type of building that they really didn’t know what to do with us.
[* For more about the Rees home and construction, Steve has written a book called “Off Grid and Underground: A Simpler Way to Live”.]