Alternative Building Methods

A comprehensive list of alternative building methods that could be built in Cochise County using the Cochise County Owner-Builder Inspection Opt-Out Permit.


Earth An Adobe Home Built in Cochise County.

 Adobe Block- Sun baked, machine made, or made on site. Historically speaking, one of the most often constructed earthen buildings.

Rammed Earth- The process of building rammed earth involves constructing forms that are strong enough that they can be filled with earth and ‘rammed’ or compacted down enough that they hold their shape so that the forms can be removed and do another ‘lift’ as it is called.

Cob- A mix of earth and straw or other fiber.

Earth Bags- Usually using feed sacks or sand bags (bags with woven plastic fibers) packed into place full of moist earth (clay/sand mix).

Super Adobe-Long tubes made of woven plastic fibers.

Hyper Adobe- Knitted tubes.

Rock construction- Literally building using stones/rocks and some sort of morter to hold them together.


Pole Structures- Structure hung off vertical posts.  Usally a building construction that is considered fast, cheap and sturdy, the one advantage is the poles buried deep into the ground becomes the footers that support the rest of the house.

Conventional Framing- The houses you see built in towns, suburbs, etc.  The kind of house that most of us are familar with.

Stacked Logs/Log Home- Since this is focused on Cochise County, from my experience it will be hard to find enough good and straight trees to build a house. I have seen homes build out of Cotton Wood trees that we have growing along the San Pedro and a few other spots, but really not the same as using pine trees or other ‘regular’ trees like you would find in northern Arizona. But ordering up a kit and having it delivered is always a option, and some of those are pretty affordable and easy to stack up. Most of these are actually milled logs, so they are all the same size and designed to just go together easily.

Cord Wood- This is just taking slit logs and stacking them, much like you would in a fire wood cord, but with a morter between them. Makes for a very solid and fairly insulated wall. But my only advice, from living in one with my buddies just out of High School, make sure the wood is well cured as in this house they all shrunk and was very airy.

A-Frames- More popular in mountain regions as they are very good at sliding the snow load off, although there are a few in our County. They are a efficient use of wood, with the walls and the roof all the same thing and with their height there is room for a small loft. They are also an efficient use of space, with less exterior exposed to the elements, so less loss of heated or AC interior conditioned temps.

Pyramids- Sort of like a A-frame, and many of the same advantages. I have heard of one being built in Cochise County, but I have not seen it yet except in pictures.

Shed Conversion- This has become super popular in this county. They are fairly affordable and quick, you can just order one up and when they bring it out within a hour or so you have a structure. But then you need to finish it out usually with plumbing, wiring, insulation and an interior finish like drywall. They can make for a good start, although the sheds themselves are often small, so many people who choose this route have to have multiple separate sheds for the different ‘rooms’ of a usual house.


Regular Straw Bale- Can you say super insulation at an affordable price? This is a huge benefit of a straw-bale home. I have heard claim of a straw bale having an R-Value of around 40, which is great for walls. Many I have seen have less than that overhead. I had actually worked on a plan to use straw bales to insulate the roof, much as I did with the insulation board on my Hyper-Adobe Build, but never followed through.

Stand Alone/Bale Support- This is the traditional way, meaning the straw bale homes built in Nebraska in the early 1900’s from what I had read. This is a suitable way to build if you research and do it right, which include often pre-stressing the walls with down ward pressure, or allowing the whole building to settle for maybe even a year before you plaster, so it will not crack.

Framed with In Fill- With this style of straw bale construction you actually build a frame work out of wood (or metal) that holds the weight of the roof, as in a framed house, but in such a way that you can infill the walls with straw bales.  That way you still get the insulative value and those deep window sills every one like in a straw bale.


Yurts- A circular tent of fabric on a collapsible framework, originally used by noamds in Mongola, Siberia and Turkey.  A cool structure that is fairly strong. My concern would be the fabric holding up to the sun here in southern Arizona.

Tents- Different types can make for a nice place to live (thinking of Glamping setups), but, again, are usually temporary in nature.

Tipi (TeePee)- Tipis are a very sturdy structure by design, being able to stand in the blazing winds in the Great Plains for the tribes of indigenous people. Not sure how long the canvas would last in our UV rich area, and that would be hard to replace on a large one. They are not really insulated, although they have a liner, so the air comes under the cover and raises between the cover and the liner and helps lift the warm air from the central fire to exit out the smoke flaps at the top.


Foam Dome- Geodesic Dome covered with foam. Promise Domes are Kyle and Ash down here in Cochise County who are perfecting this method of construction. They build a Geodesic Dome, that they build from scratch, then they wrap the whole thing with basically shrink wrap, then spray a layer of Urathane Foam over the exterior and eventually the interior, which ends up being about 6 inches thick.  It is actually a tough building, its only enemy being UV from the sun, which they prevent with a quality paint job. They can knock out one of these pretty fast and at a pretty fair price. The one drawback that could be brought up is the off-gasing of that foam. I know a familiarly whose house they had insulated with Spray Urethane, who later had it removed for this fear and replaced it with Wool Insulation.

Earthships- Generally described as highly self sufficient, collects and recycles water and sewage, heated by sun etc, yet also traditionally made from recycled materials such as tires, cans, etc.

3-D printed homes- Made of earth and concrete. The “printers” are huge and expensive, but you just program them and add the chosen mixture and let it do its thing.


Barndaminiums- A utility building that would be typically used to store tractors or horse etc, then frame out a portion of this building and turning it into human living quarters.

Shipping Containers- Or Conex’s, are made to stack on ships from China loaded with goods, can often be bought used for a fair price, are built tough, and many find them to be a good start to a home. I have seen some very nice ones build, some professionally such as those from Container Home Living in Missouri. What needs to be understood though is the strength is focused on the stacked spots in the corners, and if you cut in doors or windows those spots need reinforced as you loose the structure when you remove that sheet metal. Also it will need insulated, usually framed out on the interior to hold the insulation and a place to run wires and plumbing. So it is really not as easy as one would hope.

 Quonset Huts- Another sort of Bardaminium sort of thing as these structures are often used in agriculture. When complete they are a pretty solid structure and can hold up to a lot of wind. Still need insulated and etc and there are few horizontal walls.

Concrete (an amazing mixture that hardens like a rock)

 Aircrete- Taking this rock hard mixture and inducing air that lightens the finished product, with the air-pockets actually add some strength without the weight.  Here’s a place that is creating aircrete domes, for a fun style: https: Domegaia.

Gunite-Concrete that is sprayed on.  It can be sprayed into forms, over domes, etc.

Block- Also often called Cinder Block, with Volcanic Cinters used as the aggragate to make them lighter and thus have little insulation compared to other building forms.

ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms)- sort of hollow Legos made of foam insulation, then filled with concrete after they are stacked.  They make for a very sturdy and well-insulted structure.

Ferro Cement- It is taking metal mesh and wires and etc, set up then squishing a stucco sort of concrete mix into the mesh with trowels, and once cured they make a sturdy structure. Have even heard of folks making boat hulls this way.

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