Hi folks, so glad I stumbled across this forum while researching. Here's my question: what construction method is recommended for a workshop building?
Certainly there are a ton of factors, so here's what I know so far. I'm needing at least 300 sq ft for woodworking/welding/sculpture workshop, I have a level chunk of land on the front range of CO, and would like to go as sustainable/green/low impact as possible (ie, thermal regulation in summer/winter, water collection from roof, locally sourced/renewable materials, photovoltaics in the future to run machinery). It won't need to be a space to live in (ie, doesn't need plumbing). I'd like to do as much of the work myself as possible as I have more time than money right now . I'm hoping I can get something up for under $3000. Fireproofness and good sound insulation are a must, as I throw a lot of sparks and noise with the metalworking.
Things I don't know yet are local building codes (we're in larimer county) and what type of construction to start researching -- I did an earthship building workshop in Taos a few years back and loved it, but I don't know if I can take packing tires for a whole season. So, am I even asking the right questions in the right place? Any good books that cover the pros & cons of the different construction methods? I'm pretty handy with tools but don't know what I don't know, you know?
Strawbale construction will meet your requirements for sound insulation and fire resistance, especially with a clay or lime plaster. I looked up some basics on building code in your county, and unfortunately, it looks like your going to have to get this one permitted, unless your willing to drop the square footage to 120 sq.ft. and skirt it by considering your project an accessory structure like a shed. The bad news on that is you will have to pay building inspectors which might add to the cost and make it more difficult to do everything you want with the budget you laid out, but not impossible depending how you source material. The good news is there was new IRC building code written back in October which makes working with and permitting bales a lot more friendly. A good start would be to read through Bill and Athena Stein's book 'the straw bale house'. Its a classic, but will tell you most of the things you will need to start your build. The new IRC ammendment for bale construction can be found numerous places... this link was the first one that came up on my google search. http://www.strawbale.com/irc-code-2013/ Scroll down to find the link to the .pdf Good luck, keep us posted.
If it were me, I'd consider a shipping container. Don't know what your neighborhood looks like, but I can hide the hell out of shipping containers and they make some great workshops. Already has doors, or you can add more doors, windows, stairs to an upper deck, what have you. Especially if you have metal working skills. Sure they look like hell when they show up, but you can cover that up real easy.
You might want to begin conversations with neighbors and tell them your hopes and ask them for input/advice. They would probably be able to give you lots of good information and guidance on the range of compliance, degree of neighbor acceptance, etc. which would help you figure out a plan to work with the county (or not). I think lots of people opt to get a permit on one small building and then figure out how to grow from there whether permits are used or not. For many years in Wisconsin people from Chicago were buying lake lots getting permits to build garages and then after the permit was closed they finished them out and used them as second homes. That practice triggered many Wisconsin counties to demand that a house be built first. People around here still get permits to build sheds with no electrical or plumbing and then go back later and do more without permits but they have houses on the same property. Colorado probably has many differences from the midwest. At any rate, neighbors can help you a great deal and I've found they generally appreciate you including them which shows respect and also begins to build your community network.
Regarding roofing, my preference would be epdm, especially for a small structure. Pluses: quiet, insulated, pre-filtered water. negatives: in your area you will probably be absorbing lots of water on the roof so it might not get you much water. My second choice is metal.