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Legal Tips for Alternative Building
Permitting for Strawbale BuildingsIn 1997, Pima County, AZ, adopted the first (and so far only) prescriptive code for load bearing straw-bale structures. As long as projects fall within the stated prescriptions, submissions do not require the signature of an architect or engineer.
In 1995, the California assembly passed a model code based the Pima County working code , which has been adopted by many California jurisdictions. Because the California code doesn’t address seismic conditions, projects still require the signature of an architect or engineer. Over half the counties in California have adopted this code or issued permits under UBC section 104.
In 1997, New Mexico adopted a statewide code governing the construction of post and beam straw-bale projects (and effectively prohibiting load-bearing projects). Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Cortez, CO, and Guadalupe, AZ all have adopted various SB codes for builders in their jurisdictions.
In areas without straw-bale building codes, permits can be issued at the discretion of the local building official. Meeting with your local officials and educating them about straw-bale construction early in the design process can avoid many problems later on. David Eisenberg has written a great guide to working with your building official .
Financing a straw bale home
Can I get Financing and Insurance? If a project can get a permit, it can usually get insurance and financing as well, but be prepared to educate your mortgage broker and insurance agent. Often mortgage brokers will have problems finding “comps” (comparable properties) in the area where you would like to build. Many have found that local community based banks are most open to financing straw-bale homes and some will even give a special rate for energy efficient homes.
As a last resort, some owners with non-bearing projects have described their projects as “post and beam with cellulose insulation” in order to obtain financing. This practice in not advised when obtaining insurance.
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