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The $500 Cob House

Fancy a custom built $500 cob house? It’s cheaper than paying rent.

Check out Geoff Lawton’s next video, where he investigates an innovative collection of houses built on Warren Brush’s Quail Springs Permaculture Farm in California.

These beautifully constructed 96 foot square, one bedroom homes, were a delight to visit. They cost around $500 to construct for the free standing single bedroom homes with most of the labour being donated by volunteers. All the little houses are built individually out of cob (sand, clay, water and straw) and are lovingly decorated in unique custom designs from found materials.

Some of the glass, window’s and door’s were donated, some were easily bought from recycle centres. Colourful glass shards were impressed into the thick cob walls creating a dazzling magical effect in the midday sun. Small frying pans become shelves, stuck in the walls. Imagine building a house as whimsical as you want it to be?

The main cost was for the roofing materials. Some people blew their budget by a hundred dollars when they opted for cool floor tiles with unique bird feet pattern seconds. The sought after tiles feature the imprint of birds that took a short stroll through the wet Mexican tiles still soft and baking in the sun, rendering them unacceptable for sale. But, for the creative folk’s living in this beautiful permaculture farm, the bird step pattern created by the real thing – is a sought after bonus! Something the manufacturer never intended.

Beautiful lace curtains, little nooks for books and personal treasurers make these lovely homes a worthwhile visit. You will certainly look at your own rental or mortgage property with envious eyes when you see the creative possibilities on offer at Quail Springs.

Warren Brush has had a battle, with the regulatory authorities, to build these toxic free homes for his students and volunteer workers. Building cheap houses from the mud and straw that you live on can be a revolutionary act in California.

Warren says “The house itself, is inspiring to you. That’s part of the beauty of it. To create a house that fits you like a glove and that keeps you comfortable. You don’t have to get a mortgage. You don’t have to get into debt for the rest of your life.”

The Permaculture Research Insitute

PRI Zaytuna Farm functions as a model farm (in development) and permaculture training facility. Geoff and Nadia Lawton, world-renowned permaculture educators and consultants, lead the project. Much of Geoff and Nadia’s time over the last few years has been spent away from the Institute, consulting and helping set up projects in diverse locales around the world. Seeing the worldwide demand for knowledgeable permaculture consultants and teachers increase exponentially, as fuel and fertiliser prices skyrocket and the effects of climate change, soil depletion and water shortages begin to hit hard, priority and focus is now shifting back to the Institute, where growing the training program will increase the output of quality teachers to help fill the growing need for them.


  1. Great video yet again Geoff and team. Durable houses made from the land and the closest to biodegradable buildings you can get should needs change in future and a non toxic environment to live in while there.

  2. Couldn’t get excited about this one. I think permaculture has made great strides in getting rid of the ‘hippie’ image, so I’m not sure this is progress. One remark I heard was that the person watching would like to have their 34 minutes back. I suppose there is a place for this, but it isn’t for me.

    1. Thank you for your comment Carol, I couldn`t agree more with the need and desire for the Permaculture movement needing to work on re-imaging itself away from some of it`s past “hippie” connections. I am slightly confused though by your comment relating to the “$500” house and wondering if you were perhaps talking about a different video since you mentioned a 34 min video and this is only 11 min.? I also don`t think making something as fundamental to our existence as a house affordable makes it “hippie,” I would call that beautiful progress toward better human and environmental health.

  3. Thanks to everyone involved in the making of these homes and videos. It is a beautiful thing to share. Special thanks to Sasha Rabin, the instructor along the path of the building of these homes, without whom none of this would have happened. She is a Natieal Building instructor for a living and will be teaching this year! Chec out her website to learn more of the amazing work she is doing all I’ve the world! Thanks Sasha.

  4. Hey! I love this, and would love to research further. My first question would be, how possible is this to do in South Australia’s Limestone Coast? It is an environment with a higher rainfall, and also the soil is vastly different. Also, is it difficult from a building regulation point of view in Australia as opposed to the US? Cheers

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