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architects and builders Options
skruzich
#1 Posted : Sunday, June 01, 2003 12:04:07 AM
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If your city requires a engineering stamp on alternative housing, then your going to have to pay that fee anyway to get the stamp of approval. Thats part of the problem i am running into in building anything other than approved by the county structures. Last week they outlawed singlewide trailers in the county. They are basically running anyone without money off. To make things worse, they raised taxes on any property over 2 acres. Their idea is that the rest of the land is taxed too low because most people separate their house and 1 - 2 acres of land from any other acreage they may have to lower their unimproved lands tax to the agriculture based tax. So the county has decided to tax agricultural land as much per acre as if you had a house on it. Oh and next year their plan is to raise taxes on improved property (ie with a house)
Right now, i have a doublewide home on 1 acre of land, and i pay 550.00 per year in tax. When i bought the house, 5 years ago, i only paid 125.00 per year.
Now tell me that isn''t taxation out of control.

Not even sure i will be able to keep the house since my income won''t suppor the house on social security. :(
steve
coastal hermit
#2 Posted : Sunday, June 01, 2003 12:32:25 AM
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A good architect is worth it and so is a good builder. By far. Tragically, the operative word in that advice is ''good''. A mediocre one will eventually get the work done but a bad one will cause untold grief. Before being an arbitrator and mediator, I was a real estate developer for just over a decade. My first architect was an ego-maniac who did nothing but ''swoosh'' lines across white boards and offend everyone. Charged a lot, too. But my second became a long time friend. When we had to move a caboose to the front of one of my buildings (that is not as easy as it sounds), he was there with his staff in jeans at 5:30 am to help me push it with my jeep. I''ve had good builders, great builders and complete nincompoops. Choose neither by the fees they charge - schoose them by ''gut'' feeling and references which you check out thoroughly.
Or else you could do what I have learned to do: there is not a lot of need for architects anymore (sorry, folks). Just about everything has been designed somewhere. Apply that slightly incorrect statement to the fact that the bureaucracy forces convention and you may as well spend your energy ''looking'' for the right design. Amending one a bit is no big deal. Then you simply order the whole thing up in SIPs (structurally insulated panels. These puppies go up in minutes. No skill required. You almost don''t need directions. That is the way my cabins are going up. Check out my supplier: www.energreenbuildingsystems.com
I figure to build a 1000 sft cabin to ''lock-up'' in one day with only my wife as assistance (and a crane) for one customer. Check out www.robinsonplans.com for the design - the 1108.
No - my cabin company is not Energreen nor Robinson. I just think they do a good job. I will spare you any adverts on me.
Bottom line: a good architect is worth it but not as necessary you might think - your taste and needs are probably NOT all that unique. A good builder is a Godsend unless you use a system which is so simple that Leggo seems complicated. Zat help?
coastal hermit
#3 Posted : Sunday, June 01, 2003 12:34:45 AM
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The ''Mr.'' is right if you go to a ''kit package''. I would not try to design from scratch with no experience. And, like I said above, it is not necessary. Robinson plans are only about $5-700 for complete sets. And John R is just one of many. Look around. He just happens to be my favourite.
andydufresne
#4 Posted : Sunday, June 01, 2003 6:56:25 AM
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Steve:

A friend of mine in Waco, TX who was near 80, went down to ciy hall to protest a property tax increase. He was a mild looking fellow who WAS mild but had a sharp tongue when he felt it necessary. A young reporter from radio station KRZI wanted to interview him. She asked why he felt it necessary to come down and carry a sign and demonstrate against a tax that really did have a lot of support on the city board. He answered, "The government has had it''s had in my pocket so long they''ve worn a hole in it. I intend to stop them before they grab something else".

I miss ole Gabby
Sheila
#5 Posted : Sunday, June 01, 2003 7:23:21 PM
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Just to clarify: We''re planning to build with straw bales, and to start with a really small cottage (under 500 sf) that we can expand later.
DanR
#6 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 2:24:04 PM
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Sheila:

Go down to the building inspectors office and ask a lot of questions. They will tell you what you will need to build. As all cities are different, some will let you do more than others. But always ask first, that way the building people will get to know you and will be easier to work with. If you go in demanding you will turn them off, but if you go in asking for help to "do it right" they will turn out to be your best friends. Just my two cents worth.
springtime
#7 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 5:23:33 PM
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Sheila,
About five years ago, my family built a new home. The six of us managed okay with the help of my fathers'' background in carpentry, but we learned the hard way on a lot of things. First, architects were out of our price range, so my parents took their sketch to a senior architect student who drew up all the plans we needed for $50. Now, this student couldn''t do the type of extras you mentioned in your post, but this could be an alternative at least for drawing up the plans themselves. For us anyway, those plans were all we needed for building permits, etc.
Whether you go with your architect or try for an alternative, I would say that the expertise of professionals (especially to oversee construction) is well worth it in the long run. We tried to do almost everything ourselves and ended up regretting our decision. That having been said, while I completely respect "gut" feelings, I urge you to check references over and over again and to keep close tabs on the people you hire. Only you know exactly what you want, so don''t be afraid to speak loudly and often! Good luck....it sounds like you''re going to end up with a great place!
StreetLegal
#8 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 5:47:00 PM
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If all you''re talking about is 500 square feet...well...no offense, but there is only so much you can do with 500 feet. You won''t need an architect.

If you are already working 60 hour weeks at another job, trying to maintain a family, etc, and take up this type of construction project, then you''d better hire an architect.

I''ve seen husbands and wives nearly come to blows over such simple things as which direction a bathroom door should swing...few things can generate the stress levels that building a "dream home" yourself can create.

If when you start talking about drainage and ponding, sewer system, utilities, parking, covenants, association guidelines and by-laws, traffic patterns, green-belts, etc...that''s a lot to research and learn.

If you can take that knowledge and use it to make money, then I say go for it!

Sheila
#9 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 5:56:06 PM
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Thanks, all, for the imput. Street: My thinking is that if we want to keep it under 500 sf, the services of a professional to help us use that space as efficiently as possible would be a benefit.....Dan: We''ve been to the city and know what all we need. Site plan, septic layout, foundation plan, roof plan, sections, elevations, locations of all electrical outlets marked, plumbing indicated, plus the engineer''s stamp and Title 24 certification (that''s an energy thing here in CA.)

My next general question would be, if we don''t hire an architect, and we don''t know how to render blueprints, where would the plans come from? Would we hire a drafter?
coastal hermit
#10 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 6:14:30 PM
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S - plan sellers are everywhere. Even MEN advertises a few. Sheldon designs, I think is one? And don''t forget Robinson. But, if it''s only 500 sft (probably a rectangle), any good builder could do that without plans. I am a bad builder and did 300 sft without plans. To code. I have a SIP plan for about 550 sft with a little loft. It''s mine to give away. Mind you, a SIP home does not need constrcution plans - the walls come built - so you would only see the plan and elevation. Write direct if you want to see it.
DanR
#11 Posted : Monday, June 02, 2003 6:20:34 PM
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Sheila:

From what you have posted, it looks like the architect is the route to go as that will get you all that you need for the city. Around here, I could draw up the plans myself and the inspectors office would tell me what needed to be added, subtracted, changed, ect. While some of the rules may seem overly redundent, they will help you insure the home when you finish. Like I said earlier, every place is different.
Sheila
#12 Posted : Tuesday, June 03, 2003 8:25:27 PM
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Perhaps we could build it without plans, but we couldn''t get permits without plans.....we''re thinking this will be the way to go. Thanks everyone.
JSmit369
#13 Posted : Friday, June 06, 2003 8:20:03 PM
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I just read a artical in the Minnepolis Star newspaper where some one had built a straw house. At the time everyone thought it waw great. But the owners started having mold problems and the building inspector condemed the house and had it torn down. The property owner is stuck with a mortage and no house.
DanR
#14 Posted : Saturday, June 07, 2003 12:37:17 AM
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JS:

Around here it is the "underground houses" that have the mold problems due to the humidity. Can you give us more info, such as the web site where we can look at this article? Remember, even experiments that fail teach us something.
Sheila
#15 Posted : Saturday, June 07, 2003 12:58:02 AM
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With SB construction, it''s imperative to begin with dry straw and to seal it properly with a breathable surface. Clay and lime plasters are hdyrophilic and will actually wick any moisture in the bales out to the surface, where it can evaporate away. It''s a good idea to keep plumbing out of bale walls too. Adequate overhangs and a "toe up" from grade help, too. Where we plan to build, the relative humidity is usually in the neighborhood of 20%, so I''d be surprised if mold is a problem.
FilthyK
#16 Posted : Monday, June 16, 2003 4:54:58 PM
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Well, Sheila, it''s just like a man to ([;)]) to tell you you don''t need outside consult on these matters, but if you''re going to have to get a "stamp of approval" from an engineer, you''re just going to have to do it. And don''t underrate what they have to offer to a project. Even a mediocre engineer may be the difference between you doing something critical correct or incorrectly. Especially considering you''ve NEVER built a house before.

BTW, there are some really cool plans for SB houses here at http://www.balewatch.com/, if you have''nt seen them yet...

Good Luck!
Sheila
#17 Posted : Monday, June 16, 2003 6:06:23 PM
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Thanks, K. for the link.

I understand that I can buy plans all kinds of places, but what about the foundation plan, the roof plan, and all that stuff?

BTW, on a hunch I checked with the city and discovered that the minimum size they''ll allow us to build is 750 sf. Glad I checked into that before we got too far along.
coastal hermit
#18 Posted : Monday, June 16, 2003 6:16:52 PM
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Foundations plans, Shiela, are unique to each site. This is a good place to employ an experienced person. Architect, engineer or just a good contractor will do. But your foundation is 90% of whether or not the house is easy or impossible. From what I''ve read of SB construction, that previous statement is even more true. If you buy a good set of plans, it will include the roof. Thpse ''floor'' plans and elevations you see on websites (like mine) are NOT plans. Real constrcution plans get ino the details. And the details include a roof structure. 750 sft is such a size that I would ''wing it'' if I was using stick frame or timberframe. ("Winging it" means: I''d draw my own plans but they would be to code plus and I would follow them).
Sheila
#19 Posted : Tuesday, June 17, 2003 4:22:50 AM
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Thanks, Dave. How does one render the plans so that the permit folks will accept them? Are there any sources to learn how to draw blueprints?
coastal hermit
#20 Posted : Tuesday, June 17, 2003 10:20:14 PM
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I heard it said that (but it could be untrue) that ''neat'', accurate blueprints are NOT required. Hand drawn but accurate will do. I saw one of your sketches and it would NOT do because it was just a floor plan. But, if you drew elevations, floor plans, structural and supplied ''specs'' (actual sizes of timbers and doors and windows, etc.) then it should ''pass''. I know that 750 sq. ft of ''barn'' or ''garage'' would likely go through in my area but habitable dwellings may be held to a higher standard. The plan checker at the local Stalag headquarters will tell you. Use a false name. Don''t tell them the address and give them as little information as you can until you have it presentable. These people seem to have a knack for putting a dampner on plans. Good luck.
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