DIY Hobbit Houses in Wales

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At top is Simon Dale's DIY hobbit house in Wales' "first authorized 'low-impact' ecovillage." The home is their second foray into hobbit living. Several years prior, Simon Dale and his friends and family built the lovely green "Hobbit House" in Wales seen in the photo second from top.

 House Archive Candlelit Some key points of the design and construction (of the original hobbit house):

Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthetically fantastic and very easy to do
Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
Woodburner for heating - renewable and locally plentiful
Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
Water by gravity from nearby spring
Compost toilet
Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.
A Low Impact Woodland Home (Thanks, Michael-Anne Rauback!)


  1. While I admire and applaud the skill and the results, I fear that here in the good ol’ US of A, you would run afoul of building codes, as well as local zoning authorities.

    1. Sure, local building codes and zoning authorities designated and designed to protect banks and investors.  DIY housing is an important and vastly underrated way in which people can remove themselves from 30 year mortgages, credit, credit rating agencies, and debt, as well as a way to learn basic skills.  In the not to distant past, many many houses in America were built by the owners….it isn’t rocket science, however we did create an entire economy of “having someone else doe it for me”, and in the interim lost all basic skills related to construction of almost everything, which is why the maker movement is so important. 

      Even more important is the right (within reason) to build structures that are safe and cheap without being hogtied by regulation.  I can guarantee that the most howling you’ll get about relaxing local building codes and regulations will be from conservatives, the very ones that claim less regulation make the world a better place.  (just as long as the relaxing regulation stroke their “job creators” in the correct manner…)

    2. Based on what? What, if any, in that description, do you think would no be allowed? Yes, if the place is wired, then your dealing mainly with fire codes. But take that out of the equation, not much left, is there?

      1. I know a little about the circumstances at Lammas and they are indeed having issues with building regulations (aka codes) at the moment. This is partly because most of the nine plots have started with what will ultimately be a workshop/barn building (so is not built to habitation standards) but which they are living in temporarily to avoid another winter in tents and caravans.

        Typically, the inspectors objections are based around damp prevention – a lot of earth floors without traditional damp-proof layers, or just a creative approach to damp-proofing materials – or structural integrity  – they need to run the calculations to prove that the reciprocal roofs are strong enough. I believe Simon’s house has a hinge between the reciprocal round roof and the flat roof which goes back into the hill, which is complicating those structural calculations even more in his case.

        But they are all creative and persistent people who may be living low impact but are having a high impact on Wales’ planning policies so they will find ways through it all.

  2. “Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful” 

    For you information, many cities in Canada forbid wood heating. For a good reason. It’s a very important cause of air pollution. OK for a lone hobbit in the woods but low impact it is not.
    EDIT: Removed the fail mention because the house is awesome after all. Sorry.

    1. It’s no doubt forbidden in some cities (or areas of cities) in the UK too, due to the Clean Air Act (which was precipitated by the Great Smog: ). That hardly makes it ‘fail’ though, since this house is in rural Wales, not a city.

      Also, wood fires are good for the soul.

    2. yeah iron wood stoves do source a lot of heavy smog pollution, BUT, wood heating is not necessarily dirty. Thermal mass designs combined with education can lead to a revolution in home heating. Finland in the 70’s is a great example of how to properly investigate personal heating options. Why iron stoves are even in use anymore is beyond me. Living in the Yukon Territories also exposes me to the rash ignorance of most stove users. It can be really painful to watch your friends fuck up their chimneys in just a week of use.

    3. For you information, many cities in Canada forbid wood heating. For a good reason. It’s a very important cause of air pollution. OK for a lone hobbit in the woods but low impact it is not. 

      I honestly don’t know the answer to this question so I hope someone fills me in:

      It seems to me that if wood was sustainably harvested, i.e. replaced with new growth at the same rate that it was burned, then the carbon cycle would balance everything out- unlike fossil fuels, which release carbon into the atmosphere at a much higher rate than the earth can re-absorb it.

      Obviously particulates like soot also present an air quality issue that make wood fires a bad idea in big cities, but from a CO2 perspective does burning sustainably grown wood actually contribute to global warming?

      1. I believe that the regulation is indeed because of air quality issues with wood burning: soot, smog, etc. and not because of C02 emissions.

      2. Yeah, I remember when ‘air pollution’ meant ‘f*cking up the air people are trying to breathe’, not ‘contributing to Global Warming.”  :-)  Vehicles that emitted nothing but CO2 and water vapor were called ‘non-polluting.’

        I had a bunch of back-to-the-land flower-child friends who moved into cabins in river valleys that opened to the ocean along the Northern California coast, where they learned the hard way that LA isn’t the only ocean-adjacent territory that gets marine-layer inversion caps during onshore-flow conditions.

        And they got them in the winter, when everyone in the valley would be cranking up their (renewable, sustainable, oil-free) woodburning stoves and fireplaces.  

        They usually didn’t get enough sunlight to cook the NOx and  VOCs into ozone soup, but on many winter days the particulates and carbon monoxide and other assorted lung irritants would get downright nasty.  Smoggy haze so thick you could hardly see.

        Worse than anything I ever encountered in LA.  (And I moved to LA back in the ’70s when we had *real* smog, not this namby-pamby barely-beige stuff we have today. :-))

        1. Driving through evening/morning wood smoke fog on the road in rural areas is always fun too. And there is always one incompetent idiot that has hot embers/ash flying out of their smoke stack that could land on burnable surfaces.

    4. I can only find two cities, but searching is not easy. Of those two, no more new stoves may be installed and all others must be phased out within 7 years. 

      The problem with wood smoke is most people don’t know how to burn it. And, the colder it is outside, the smoke spills out of the chimney and crawls across the ground, it’s pretty cool to watch. 

      So what are these people supposed to heat with when the electricity is out? And what about the major cities that deal with the same type of pollutant but from industrial output, not residential. 

    5. Also, “fireplaces” are exempt. 

      The Europeans have known all along about heat retention, too much escapes through the flu. I help build one of these:

      The masonry soaks up the heat internally and radiates it outward. It works too, and some of the chimneys run back and forth, not straight up. You only have to burn a short fire. With the right amount of air and if the  wood is 100% dry, it will produce radiant heat for a number of hours. And the “fireplace” is central to the house and all the rooms are build around it. It’s not positioned at one end of the house with it’s back exposed like here in the U.S. 

      So maybe it’s about efficiency and high heat.

  3. Looks like a lot of the houses out on the mesa where my land is. All different, all built by hand! Variety is the spice of life!

  4. I’m 47 and I still want a bedroom like Harry Potters dorm room. All the rich dark woods and thick blankets, the built-in desks, closets and bookcases. 

  5. “Oh what a relief it is” to get away from the seamy side of life and politics; and dwell for a moment or two on the creative nature that man carries in his (and Her) genes. The ability to convert an etherial thought or dream into a 3 dimentional reality of free form mortar and brick..or rubber tires …hay bales..recycled beer bottles..or rammed earth is a testimony to mans uniqueness and latent artistry.
    I look forward to a time when I too can set my hand to bringing to life an abode of inspired self expression on a 40 acre site in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.
    These same minds that take a different path toward self-realization are the same types of minds that one day will lead the way to other places in this awesome universe.  

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