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First we talked a lot as a family about what we wanted and wrote those things down...me...solar panels, super insulated, natural building materials...Leigh my wife...near schools, hospitals, food stores, kitchen in middle of house, easy commute...rooms for two kids etc. I bought lots of books on building sustainable homes. Contacted Martin Liefhebber an architect who specializes in this type of home. We downsized to save money for about 5 years, we bought some land a few years before we were ready to build. We moved into a rental near the house we were building for the year of construction...and were our own construction managers...to manage the budget ourselves...straw bale let us do much of the wall construction. We moved in half built as we ran out of money. It was tough and long...but wonderful experience...same cost as conventional construction of a custom build house....but obviously big cost savings long term.
Contact some green architects, find a real-estate agent to help find land in area you like...being clear you need south facing space for solar...trees as a wind break on north side. I think it was about $160/sq.ft. when we built in 2001. Might be more like $200/sq.ft. today. Small is beautiful, better, and the key to keeping costs down.
You need to own land outright before you can get a building mortgage to build the house on the land. Keep it simple. Ask for help where and when you can from others that have done it...as you are doing. Ensure you connect philosophically with architect as it is a long and deep relations that requires trust and understanding in both directions.
On YouTube is a 25 minute video about our house construction. Google John Wilson Natural Home and that should find it. Hope that helps.