Firstly: Building codes are in place to be certain that any construction is done to a standard of safety. You do not want to build a place that you later see the roof collapse, or some other crazy thing happen that could put you loved ones in danger in anyway. If you love to do things yourself, you still need to make educated choices and learn what the building codes are. That being said, if you have a property that is way off the grid and want to build without a permit you still need to understand what you can and cannot do.
Building Codes & Permitting
In the United States, each state will have its own rules and regulations for size that a dwelling can be. Where the building spot is located in regards to being in a town, city or a cabin in the wilderness. In the states, obtaining Certificates of Occupancy may end up being a problem, so your dwelling has to meet the building codes. An obvious choice for to obtain the CO (certificate of occupancy) is to build somewhere that they do not enforce the building codes and build a smaller place.
Why Building Codes Exist
Building codes are there for health and safety to the public. Imagine if there were no rules or standards, anyone could do anything and no guarantee the house is sound or the wiring is safe or anything has been done to assure you can live there without concerns. If you have ever gone to buy an older home, or a place that someone built in a time when they perhaps did not building inspections were not as mandatory, you may find you are in for a big surprise when things start to go wrong.
So just How to build a cabin for $500 without a permit or building codes? There are going to be limitations on what you can do for $500. If you are living off the grid and are not too concerned about the level of comfort you are prepared to live with, it is possible. That little remote cabin that you build yourself in the woods, can be a reality if that is what you are wanting.
Building codes exist as this is the liability to the county and city which issues the permit. Basically they are giving you permission to build the building when you are issued a permit to build, and the issuer must accept the liability involved in the safety of the building. The issuer does not want you coming back and suing them because your house fell in on you because you didnít follow the building codes and they simply wonít permit anything that doesnít meet code if itís over a certain size. So it is not only a health and safety and welfare concern. The real reason behind the rules is liability.
In some places you may be able to build without a permit IF you waive your rights to legal action against the city or county by signing a liability waiver releasing the city/county from liability in the event your house does fall down if you donít build to code. Keep in mind, this can put your family at risk, but if you live alone and want to take the change it is up to you.
Note: always do your own official research for permits and codes in your own area.