I don't think he said the shell would be cheaper but that by the time
you finished converting the metal to a compliant structure it would be
at least equivalent, so why not start the other way?
IIRC, there were a couple of modular builders and metal-for-residential
builders provided in the previous thread.
The Industrial Revolution? :)
IF (the "big if") you can make your living in one place and be 100%
assured of that in a changing world, maybe you can, too. It's only
been suggested that the prospect is worth serious consideration.
The big difference in the type of building you're speaking of (or at
least I think you are) is that for the size to meet occupancy codes is
going to require a bunch of openings and other modifications not
present in the (priced) shell. I agree w/ Bob those retrofit costs are
going to be quite a bit higer than you're estimating. (One thing that
comes to me is the elsewhere-mentioned egress rules--to do that in a
building the size you've mentioned essentially means the bedrooms will
have to line the exterior walls, leaving a big hole in the middle.
Granted a large family is going to need a significant amount of room,
but the big rectangle doesn't seem to make for the best layout.)
Well, the same thing is true on this end...without a whole lot more in
specifications, it's essentially impossible to price materials and
Well, I don't know how you're going to get the taxes to disappear, so
that's $1000 that's not going to be available...
What this neglects is with a construction loan, you have the money to
actually build the house--where's that going to come from, otherwise,
unless you have deep pockets?
If you've been around a.b.c for any length of time, you should by now
have come to the awareness that the fella' that gave you the advice is
far more astute than the average bear and doesn't respond to anything
here off the cuff. If he has advice, you can rest assured it's based
on real world experience.
As noted, there are modular home builders of both conventional
materials as well as some who do metal buildings w/ residential use in
mind. I'd seek some of them out. If you're really wanting to explore
the off-the-beaten-path options, there's the straw house, earth berm,
poured, etc., etc., ... Each has some strengths (and quite a few
disadvantages). There is a reason the conventional frame house
continues to be the leader by far in the US and it isn't because it's
the most expensive possible alternative. On the comparative costs of
the TV-show demo houses and the off-beat things in many of the
magazines, a great percentage of the ones I've seen have had
significant subsidization in their construction from one or more
Granted, but it doesn't _necessarily_ make it convenient... :)
I don't know what "like that" means, but--
See above...if you can provide a living for you and the family where
you are, no problem. Not everyone can do that without having to
relocate (at least to the level required/desired, obviously one can
subsist on minimum wage virtually anywhere but not with a large
family). As for resale, it would mostly depend on what you finally
ended up with, what the local market actually is (a highly populated
area would be a lot less risky than rural, simply because there are
more possible buyers), and within those generalities the immediate
market trends. In general, for something the size you're talking of,
the market is going to be pretty small to begin with one would suspect.
If you're in a fast-growing area, you're right that it's possible the
land could become valuable enough somebody would by it simply for the
land itself irrespective of what's on it. Whether that would occur by
the time circumstances changed is anybody's guess. Again, it's
something for consideration, not a hard and fast rule.
None of it is possible to really "shoot down" with hard figures as
there is simply far too little in the way of specifications to do more
than generalize. Bob has given $/sf numbers from his experience for
his area. The only way to really get comparative costs is to actually
have at least conceptual designs and essentially go through the
equivalent of what the bid-making process would be for a contractor as
if you were the gc.
I think it depends on how you structure your life. Conventional wisdom
is that your house is "good debt" and "your most valuable asset". (I
contend that no debt is good debt and your house is a liability, not an
asset.) So most people go out and get a big mortgage because it's good
for your taxes. This ties them to a certain job or area. If the
factory closes or something happens to your job, you suddenly have to
move in order to follow the dollars. Maybe you can't afford the
mortgage anymore. I'm not setup that way anymore. We have no debt at
the moment and the though of taking on a mortgage is killing us. So
we're thinking about other alternatives to the standard way of doing
things. This is just a thought exercise to see if we can come up with
an interesting house and an interesting way to get it. We're also
planning a location that gives me access to several markets. And
regardless, our expenses are low enough that I can do a lot of things
and be just fine.
When we finished the basement in our last house, we were allowed to
make as many rooms as we wanted, but if we wanted to call them
bedrooms, we had to have the egress window. Most of the building code
seems like common sense to me. So our plan was to have normal windows
in all the bedrooms anyway, just more bedrooms. Before they're there
though, they wouldn't be bedrooms. Just open space. So there wouldn't
be a need for egress windows since there would be many other ways to
get out of the big area.
I put together a design in visio laying out all the interior walls and
what would fit where. The bedrooms do line all the exterior walls, and
they ended up being about 12x14 which is normal for the houses in this
area anyway. That did make sort of a large livingroom type area in the
middle, but it wasn't that much bigger.
I agree. But some things should be fixed cost or easy to estimate.
Things like the well and septic or the cost of pouring the slab.
Where we're going doesn't have the huge tax. But where we are now
does. That's why we didn't buy a house here.
> What this neglects is with a construction loan, you have the money
No construction loan. We'll have to save for about a year, maybe two.
That's probably true. But I have a number of sources contradicting
things he said. Who's right? Probably both are right depending on the
location and a thousand other variables.
They just use armoires and other furniture instead of closets.
living such that it's possble to be forced to move because of money.
(snipped stuff about market values)
We're considering all the possabilities. We're just more focused on
what we want this time since the plan is to stay there long term.
I was hoping for things like estimates for digging wells where we are.
Or how much is concrete in lower wisconsin? How many dollars a square
for flatwork? How thick should the slab be? When are footers required
under load bearing interior walls? Did you hear about this or that
product, or see that show, or see that website about a house that's
similar? Or talk about types of insulation that would work, or what
people did in their shops. Or building manufacturers who have done
this before, or who to stay away from. Or how thick the steel should
be. Things like this. Instead I got something entirely different.
None of it wrong, just not what I was looking for.
Always? I'm not an engineer, but the basic idea is that the load
ultimately has to be transferred to the soil beneath the foundation.
So if your interior load bearing wall is to transfer that load down,
it will need a footer to spread the load out over the soil.
I contend your viewpoint is at best as narrow-minded thinking as you're
accusing others here of, and at worst simply and blatantly wrong... :)
Those things a simple phone call will answer far more precisely for
your area than anyone here can tell you. But as you pointed out
before, those are immaterial of the question of the style of house
If you have that kind of disposable income to save a hundred thou or so
in a couple of years, power to you...not many do.
None of which are available to anyone here in other than generalities,
Not knowing any of these other "sources" nor what they're contention is
about what, it would certainly be hard to refute them. As you say, in
the region of applicibility, they may well be right. OTOH, they might
not be. Either way, it's not enough undoubtedly to be able to make any
real decision on.
And, from my visits, they tend to have a different definiton of
"convencience" than I... :)
Fine objective, if you can arrange it. Some can, some can't...
OK, as noted above, all these could be fairly easily determined by
using the yellow pages and a telephone.
How thick should the slab be? When are footers required
These kinds of questions are only answerable for a specific design
other than again the generalities of regular floor slabs are usually
about 4", and footers are needed where there's sufficient load to
require them (doh!). How much load is going to be where is going to be
a function of what you build and how it is built which is why so much
of what you're asking about isn't possible to be answered.
Did you hear about this or that
I think you're looking for essentially the impossible in a forum such
I think there have been other suggestions, none of which seem to meet
Good for you! People who think for themselves are an endangered species.
Unfortunately we've become a nation of sheeple - people who let others do
the thinking for them - foaming at the mouth, right wing, extremist hate
radio propaganda has convinced millions that war mongers and corporate
whores are on the side of the people, endless commercials upon commercials
on the brainwashing machine (TV) stimulate an insatiable appetite for more &
more things, politicians who try to convince you slaughtering innocent
people & stealing their resources is "democracy", medical "experts" who try
to convince you you need their expensive, dangerous drugs to cure made up
diseases like acid reflux "disease" which is really sitting on my fat ass
eating too much of the wrong food disease. In case you're interested this is
the brain washing technology corporations & politicians use to manufacture
consent and acquiescence:
We've lost the ability to do critical thinking. We rely on "experts".
Experts are usually people with vested interests. You should do it their way
not because it's better but because there's a profit in it for them. People
always want to have their own decisions validated so they'll try to convince
you what they have is what you should have. What kind of car do you have by
the way? I'm thinking of getting an air cooled engine car because it's
easier DIY maintenance.
THIN SHELL REINFORCED CONCRETE BUILDINGS
If you're in tornado country you should definitely look at thin shell
reinforced concrete technology like AI Domes & Monolithic Domes. People who
know nothing about it and have never done it will give you all kinds of
nonsense because they can't profit from it. "It's too expensive, it's too
hot, it's too cold, doesn't do this, doesn't do that." BS. Stick frame, even
steel can't hold a candle to thin shell reinforced concrete on any objective
parameter. I encourage you to find out for yourself.
I'm building an AI Dome in Norwalk, CT. Before I decided on a building
technology I first went to the MD workshop in TX
http://www.monolithic.com/workshops /. I spent $1500.+ of my hard earned
money and a week of my time and a lot of effort because my initial
impression was favorable but I wanted to be absolutely sure before plunking
down the big bucks. I would encourage anyone thinking of an MD to take the
workshop. It's a bargain considering how much you'll learn. Nobody knows
more about concrete or polyurethane insulation. Even if you hire out the
work you'll be more aware of potential pitfalls.
Then I went to Rockledge, FL to check out AI Domes http://www.aidomes.com /.
They don't do a workshop; just a sales pitch where they explain the system
but it's pretty thorough. It made more sense to me because there's no
special equipment and complicated procedure involved unlike MD. AI is more
DIY because it's a prefab modular system and should be somewhat cheaper (90%
of the performance at 75% the price - in theory anyway). The only thing I'll
have to hire out is foundation, electrical, interior finish, plumbing & gas
like any house. All you need for the shell is a few day laborers (including
myself), a scaffold, cement for the seams and paint. No roofers, no siders.
Goes up quicker than any stick frame tho not as quick as DI fiberglass Domes
Good luck whatever you decide.
Why build a tornado room when you can build a tornado proof house at about
the same cost as stickframe? What happens if a tornado comes along at night
and you're not sleeping in the basement? As long as you're thinking out of
the box look at these:
Monolithic Domes. The ultimate in strength, low maintenance, energy
efficiency.Virtually fireproof, tornado proof, hurricane proof, earthquake
AI Domes. I'm building one of these in Norwalk, CT. Most of the benefits of
Monolithic Domes at 75% the cost.
Fiberglass. Cheap, no maintenance, most of the benefits of the above.
That seems to be totally under your control--if you're custom building
you can control the layout...
Have you considered the difficulty and cost of heating and cooling this
volume? All the warm air is going up to the ceiling 15-ft above head
level and without interior partitions to contain any of it, you either
heat the whole thing or none of it...
Depends on how much load you design in--you'll need a structural
analysis to actually determine it. Only practical way I see to do
something like this and be able to actually move partiions would be to
have a fixed exterior area(s) to support the 2nd floor joists and use
essentially something like the office partition systems inside it.
And, of course, that leaves the question of how to arrange for
rearranging the utilities (HVAC, electrical, perhaps even plumbing).
Open plenum like office buildings is, of course, possible, but while
relatively inexpensive for installation, certainly not
at least double this, probably closer to 3x by time do site prep,
forming, finishing, etc.
Any of the steel building guys can tell you precisely, but I'd guess
you're low by 2x here as well.
I'd say you're at least 2-3x low on most every item except (perhaps)
the well although I have no idea what you'll have to do to get a drain
field/septic system to handle the size of family you're talking about.
I think it's probably conservative to guesstimate by the time you get
something habitable you are at least 2x low overall. It depends, of
course, on just how primitive you're prepared to be and how much you
want to trade off initial cost for continuing operational cost(s).
(The operating HVAC costs of what you're proposed at least initiall,
are, imo, going to be absolute killers in a cold climate).
I'd say, at least 350k for something reasonably habitable--again, it
depends on whether you want to camp out on a concrete slab or have a
comfortable home so finishing costs can obviously vary wildly.
Well, sort of. The problem is that as soon as you say custom builder,
the price goes through the roof. So in the past, we ended up with
semi-custom builders or whatever. The end result was that there were
always limits to what we could do. Unless you go to an architect and
design the house from scratch, you have to start with some model from a
builder and modify from there.
We have thought about it. And I think we can control everything with
effective placement of rgisters/returns and with ceiling fans. In our
previous houses we have always had problems with stratification. The
upstairs is always 5-10 degrees warmer than the downstairs. To me,
this is a sign of bad hvac design. Even with the dual zone system in
our current house, it's still a problem. So the goal probably would be
to heat the entire building at once, but keep the air churning to
minimize the problems with heat rising to the ceiling. We're also
considering a radiant floor heating system which should help that
Probably the way to do this is to produce several (maybe up to five)
sets of plans, each with different phases of interior construction.
That way the entire picture will be clear before hand. We'll lose most
of the ability to move walls around, but we'll at least still be able
to do things in phases.
I'm figuring double what we're paying now. Which isn't so bad. We're
in 3900sqft now not counting the basement. The building we're talking
about is 4000sqft, but double the airspace since it's taller. I think
it's managable assumbing we get typical residential R values in the
walls and ceiling, which we should be able to do. We may even do
better since we'll have 6" exterior walls instead of the normal 4".
We're also considering geothermal a/c and heat. That would make the
monthly operating costs really low, but has a huge up front cost. It's
something like $20k to install. From what we've read you get that back
in just a few years. In this case, it may make the difference between
being able to do it and not.
We're probably more austere than most but I wouldn't call it camping
out. I see where you're getting the 350k number from, but when you
consider that you can buy the house we're in for that including the
land and completely finished with a full basement, I still have to
think the steel building is cheaper. My inlaws built a 3000sqft house
with a 1000 sqft finished basement apartment for 300k iirc not
including the land. And they went nuts with imported tile and high
dollar door knobs.
What I'm describing to start has the amount of electrical and plumbing
work that would go into a two bedroom one bath house plus a rough-in.
There's fewer interior walls, although they're larger. Only the
interior walls would need drywall. I would probably do the floor
coverings myself and only a third of the building to start.
It's probably really somewhere between our two numbers. We need a lot
more research. It may make more sense to do a smaller building of some
kind and add on to it later.
But, otoh, you need those services from _somewhere_, and it's
unreasonable to expect to obtain them essentially for free. While true
it's possible you may be able to draw a floor plan showing room
arrangements you like, this is no little two-room cottage-type project
and there are some serious design and construction issues to be
addressed, of which only some of the really obvious ones have even been
mentioned here. It doesn't make a lot of sense to invest $200k and
several man-years of labor and end up with something that has serious
problems down the road for lack of competent engineering. This could
take the form of anything from failing structural members owing to not
getting adequate supporting foundations to inadequate HVAC or any
number of other things if simply continue to try to "wing it" and throw
ad hoc solutions onto a building shell.
So, who is going to do this "adequate" design in a structure of this
size? If it's hard in a 3000 sq-ft house w/ normal 8 ft ceilings, what
is it going to be in 4000 sq-ft of 20 ft (which in the end you're
essentially trying to turn into 6-8000 sq-ft? This is a _serious_
volume to heat/cool, and a couple of residential units aren't going to
do it adequately. When you compound the size with the discussion of
open floor space and movable partitions of a significant size and the
eventual addition of a second floor, the complications are legion to
get adequate circulation and capacity.
The idea of zoned radiant floor heat is one obvious partial (at least)
solution, but there goes the floor slab installation cost from minimal
as a conflicting item demonstrating yet again there is "no free lunch".
The geothermal-sourced heat pump is a reasonable consideration as
well, particularly if your site will have adequate water to have a
water-sourced instead of ground-sourced unit. I have had one of the
ground loop variety (Water Furnace brand, I can recommend them highly,
btw) although in a more moderate climate than there and it is
definitely true they will cut the operating cost vis a vis a
conventional system. But, as you note, the installation is somewhat
more expensive owing to the requirement for the exchanger loop. This
can be ameliorated somewhat in new construction by doing all excavation
work on site at the sime time to save a little on the equipment costs,
but this would be a big system and undoubtedly would be pretty
expensive initially. OTOH, I suspect it could have a fairly short
payback in that climate but again, only a detailed analysis will really
answer the question.
I think the biggest problem/difference in extrapolating a conventional
home to the warehouse is simply the single large open space is going to
be far harder to control comfort levels in and when combined with the
other stated objectives going to lead to a lot of difficulty in
designing the system to be both comfortable and reasonably efficient.
Not that it can't be done, but I don't think it is going to be cheap
and both effective and comfortable at the same time. It's primarily
the point that the objective of doing this on the cheap to me negates
the likelihood of it being very satisfactory in the long run.
But, that has fixed walls and had the advantage that a significant
amount of the engineering and architectural support services were
almost certainly amortized over a number of other houses as well as it
undoubtedly follows pretty conventional techniques and probably shares
a basic floor plan with others as you've previously mentioned. Here,
except for the shell which I'll grant will be less on a square footage
basis, you're talking of everything being almost totally unique and of
trying to "wing it" on how to solve various problems. While you can
undoubtedly build something cheaply that way, I think it's a pretty
sizable risk of not getting your money's worth in the end.
Don't see how that would be even barely livable given what you've said
about the size of the family. It would seem almost mandatory to have
quite a bit more than that initially to me, but then again, that's me.
We've already discussed various levels of what one considers
I had a fellow who was one of the cofounders of a company for which I
worked the last few years before retiring who, with his wife obviously,
through a combination of adoption and foster-parenting have had at last
count I knew 35 children for whom I believe something like 25 at last
count were they either the adoptive parents of or at least full legal
guardians other than temporary. Of these something approaching half
have special needs of various sorts. While not something I could have
done (our own four were more than distracting enough), I certainly
admired them and anyone else who is able to do such for a bunch of kids
that desperately need such help and attention, so I do hope you can
That, I would agree with as the most logical thing yet... :)
BTW, another person back in TN (an ex-Marine drill sergeant and pizza
parlor proprietor) took upon himself to take in court-appointed
troubled and in trouble kids and mentor them and provide
guardian/support services. In his case all were of at least 12-13
years old, so not quite the same thing, but his housing solution was a
dormitory-style annex for sleeping quarters and study halls added onto
the residence with a large common area. The other family had simply a
large, more nearly conventional home similar to what it sounds like you
are presently in with several wings that were semi-specialized for age
I would be surprised if there were not support groups or services for
such families in general that would be a good resource for solutions to
the various problems you're encountering although I certainly don't
know of any specifically...
Again, good luck,
There's some, but not much. The resources I've found have more to do
with adoption in general or psychological considerations and nothing
about the logistics of funding and living a life like this. I've
considered creating a website for this (I'm an IT guy) but haven't had
the time to work on it.
Wow, who would of thought that this idea would generate so much low level
I'd have to guess that thousands of people have done something similar. I'm
aware of quite a few. The ranch across the road from me has two metal
buildings, both around 300' long and they have a very nice two story home
built in one end of one of the buildings.
I've been to "airplane communities" where everyone owns one or more aircraft
and the homes line the private runway. Every home is a large metal hanger
with a home built into it.
Quite a few commercial properties in industruial parks will have living
Several people my brother knows (in the midwest) have built their homes in
metal buildings. It's a growing trend in his part of the country.
Subscribe to "Metal Construction News" (it's a trade magazine), and you'll
get a good idea of how varied and how nice of a building you can buy.
Fortunatly this is still America, and if you want to live in a house that's
a little different, or a lot different, you still can in most areas.
I think what derailed this thread was primarily the emphasis on the
"cheap" end of it and what appeared I think too overly optimistic cost
savings and too simplistic planning for solving real problems on a
In essentially all the examples you mention, I suspect the residence
itself is essentially a conventional structure inside the frame and
that the actual cost on a square footage basis isn't that much less
than if the home itself had been built free-standing (counting only the
residential space, of course). I've seen several similar as well and
know that in those instances that is definitely true, the savings is
that since the other building was to be built anyway, some savings
could be effected on the outer structure. Also, in all of those
instances, there wasn't an attempt to make all the modifications ad hoc
solutions without the use of design and engineering services.
Plus, of course, it's usenet... :)
I think this sums up the reason for the comments from those of us who have
been down this road before.
I don't "hate" the OP. I just think he was being way too optimistic in
evaluating the use of a steel building for use the shell of a residence.
As the above indicates, the "idea" isn't wrong-headed. What is "wrong-
headed" is the apparent lack of adequate foresight and apparent lack of
willingness to hire local design professionals to help evaluate the
concept. This will not be a simple project by any means.
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
As I said before, I was asking for ideas about different kinds of
materials, designs, or techniques. I was also trying to put together
ballpark figures for the various steps involved while acknowledging
that some of the things may be difficult or impossible to estimate.
Instead I got stomped for having an idea that didn't fit the norm.
I don't have foresight because I'm looking for ideas and nothing's been
designed or planned.
I'm not willing to talk to professionals *now* because I have no idea
what I'm building.
Like I said, I'm looking for ideas. Instead of suggesting more and
smaller buildings, or a smaller building with additions later, or one
story instead of two, or radiant floor heating to get around the
problem of heating a larger airspace, or this type of window instead of
that type, you told me that the way you've been doing things for 30
years is obviously cheaper than a steel building and that I'm nuts for
even considering the idea when I have a dozen other sources telling me
otherwise and over a dozen examples of other people who have done
exactly this to get a cheaper house, or a larger house for the same
Instead of arrogance, how about open-mindedness?
Bob Morrison wrote:
Brian, You can build a metal bldg. with Foam panels (metal skin inside &
out) on the walls & roof and get a heck of an insulation factor plus a
completely open bldg. free of internal supports. You can free span 150+ feet
if you want and go to 20, 30, 40 foot eaves as well.
However, I really believe you need to decide, and list, a definitive set of
parameters that will fit what you're looking for to get some best result
answers here. Anything can be done as long as you have the money to pay for
it......Anything else is probably guesswork from any responses you'll get
Appreciate your almost steely conviction about this newer method.In
fact,I do wonder how, with so much possibility of DIY using steel,
there are not a lot of people who prefer or argue in favour of
building steel houses.The problems may be deeper than what they appear
to be upfront, especially those from the cost of pioneering.Due to
exports,steel is now more expensive than before.Those who follow are
wiser about earlier pitfalls. Some ideas:
A rudimentary computer stress analysis or calculation for structural
loads, especially at stress concentrating joints.
Lightning conductors and circuit breakers against danger of
Aesthetics and neighbourhood issues. A cuboid steel house may be an
eyesore in spite of other advantages and could be pulled down in court
A limited sponsorship from the steel builders, who could offer
readymade structural elements not yet available in Home Depot.
A regular contact by blogging on the net among interested steel house
builders. An individual's gutsy is a thing apart, combined action could
build a quicker all around confidence.
Benefit of high strength from wind loads and earthquake.The latter
advantage is an advantage for example in CA when two steel floors can
be more easily implemented due to extra structural stiffness. etc..
Good Luck. Narasimham
Well, I'm back to a wood frame house 3-2 with attached 2.5 garage. I
like the Barn home look, something like 40x 48 with a 24x40
greatroom/kitchen. Single story with a 12 ft ceiling peak in the great
room. Bedrooms would be on either end and attached garage in back.
My shop will still probaley be metal but detached and out of sight.
Now the next questions, post and beam or stick frame?, crwal space or
slab on grade, regular or extra crispy..................
I like the post and beam inside look.
My brain is on overload...............
Kay Lancaster wrote:
For energy efficient post and beam you might think about using SIPS. You
erect the post and beam frame then infill with SIPS. They provide both
lateral force resistance and energy (and sound) resistance.
SIPS work best in rectangular structures and can be used for energy
efficient roof structures too. This type of construction is not the least
expensive, but the house will go together very quickly and the energy
savings can pretty quickly amortize the extra constructions cost.
As for foundations, I generally like to see crawl space or basement to
allow for easy access in the future. However, if you want one story with
in-slab radiant heat, that's not a bad system either. The high ceilings
make the use of radiant heat a good choice -- these systems tend to keep a
comfort zone in the 7 feet or so closest to the floor and the rest is
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
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