Variances are individual exceptions to the code.
To get a code variance for your project you must first of all be in an area which is served by a variance board. Usually these boards consist of members of the building professions—contractors, building supply people, and the like—all of whom have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In other words they are not likely to take a cheerful view of any system which cuts the cost of building from 70% to 90%.
Being desperate you may elect to try this route anyway. One possible ploy which might help is to get a tie-in with a university or governmental funding agency. Underground housing is still experimental and grants are sometimes available. This would give your project the aura of respectability and official approval you so badly need. The concept is not as impossible as it sounds. The Office for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Montana has been pelting me recently with application forms for a federal grant, and they might pelt you too if you drop them a line.
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