Build a Small, Temporary Shelter For About $1,000

Would you like to build yourself a small, temporary shelter for a little more than $1,000? Keep reading!

| January/February 1985

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    Although the job of building with Starplate connectors may resemble that of assembling an overgrown Tinkertoy set, the 11-piece set can be used to construct a workshop, storage shed, small barn, corn crib or even (as seen here) a super-low-cost temporary shelter!
    PHOTO: NORM LEE
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    Although the job of building with Starplate connectors may resemble that of assembling an overgrown Tinkertoy set, the 11-piece set can be used to construct a workshop, storage shed, small barn, corn crib or even (as seen here) a super-low-cost temporary shelter!
    NORM LEE
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    We kept careful track of the cost of our Starplate cabin and, while our freebies and bartered items may differ from yours and prices will vary from one area to another, our cost list may be a useful guide. Here's how it worked out.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS EDITORS

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Like so many other home builders, my wife, Sherrie, and I needed a quickly and easily built temporary shelter to live in while our permanent house was being constructed, but we wanted one that was sturdy enough — and of a suitable design — to be used later as a workshop, small barn or guest house. It had to be inexpensive, since most of our funds had gone into a down payment on our land; but with winter coming on, it also had to be warm and windtight. The question was, what could we put together with these qualifications?

A neighbor's garage, built with Starplate connectors, was our inspiration. After a speculative look at the triangular walls, Sherrie decided that the pentagon-shaped dome (actually a truncated icosahedron having 15 sides) had potential as a heat-efficient, cozy temporary shelter with a loft.

Now, the loft idea was intriguing, but, as far as I knew, Starplate buildings weren't designed to be 15 feet high, allowing for two floors. The 11 steel plates that come in the kit are designed to bolt to the ends of 6-foot 2-by-2s or 8-foot 2-by-4s. Could they handle 10-foot 2-by-6s?

We called David Hamel, engineer and inventor of the Starplate connectors to find out. "Nobody's ever tried building a house with them," he told us. But, we asked, if the roof peak was supported by an oak post, why couldn't it work? "Either that, or run a cable around the eaves to tie the five roof struts together," Hamel suggested. Otherwise, he didn't recommend anything larger than a 9-foot strut. We considered the risks and the options and decided to go for 10-footers.



[EDITOR'S NOTE: Norm and Sherrie were fortunate to live in an area where the building code requirements present few problems. They needed a permit from the town in order to put up a building, and an inspector checked their wiring, but they had no other stringent rules to follow. Whatever you do, check with your local inspector — call the town clerk to find out who the correct official is — before making extensive plans or buying materials.]  

Frame, Footer and Floor

We used our VW camper to truck the struts to our building site: 20 10-foot 2-by-6s for the walls, and 5 12-foot 2-by-6s for the roof (the extra length was to accommodate the eaves). Drilling holes through the 6-inch width of the timbers, 1 ½ inches from their ends, was easy as long as we were careful to keep the drill lined up properly, and assembling the roof was like putting together an adult-size Tinkertoy set. In fact, the back-to-childhood nature of the construction attracted a number of onlookers who wanted to participate!





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