I've read the online book, The Natural Home, a couple of times now. I found it quite fascinating and ever since I first read it, I have been intrigued by the idea of passive solar homes as well as stack block construction.
Passive solar homes work on a "flywheel" type of system. They use
concrete floors and walls to trap the heat (or cool) inside of them, and
once they get to the desired temperature they stay warm or cool much
easier because the energy is stored in the home itself. It takes a
little more to get it to the right temperature, but once there, it stays
there without needing much energy to maintain itself.
Stack block construction is low cost and very easy to do yourself, even
if you aren't a journeyman. It would not be too difficult for someone
with limited construction experience to cut costs by doing the majority
of this simple labour himself. I believe the author says you could build
for $50/sf, but this book was written a while ago, so I would imagine
the cost has risen. But still, I figure that it should cost about half
of what it costs to build a conventional home.
The blocks are surface bonded after they are in place.
They say you can use old telephone poles for the roof beams to save cost.
This is a fairly large house (2800sf), but you will notice that it is
built in four separate sections of 700sf each, to maximize the thermal
storage. You could build one section and make it into a small little
pad, and then later add on another if you need more room - or get more
What I like a lot about this e-book's author is that he discusses a lot
about live-ability and creating a comfortable home to exist in, and
ideas on how to make it so.
I just can't tell you how much I would love to live in a home with a
planter like that where I could grow my vegetables year round, and pluck
them fresh right before dinner!
Even if you don't particularly like this house design, I would still recommend reading this book. It's got all kinds of good information about sustainable building and making it live-able.