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Hoop/quonset hut type building for temporary living structure  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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I've toyed with lots of ideas for "non-permanent" shelter options. My financial situation is such that once I quit my job, I need to be able to inhabit the land and begin developing the property right away. Keeping the financial end of the business in mind, this means building the final house is a project for year 2 or 3. In the interim, I need a livable structure that is lightweight, low-impact, easy to build, easy to heat, and will withstand the winters here in Maine. Oh, and I'm only allocating a total of $3000 for material outlay.

I'm now considering the feasibility of quonset hut type building. Johnny's sells an awesome little hoop bender for galvanized fencing top rail that works rather well - http://www.johnnyseeds.com/assets/information/hightunnelbendermanual.pdf

Since I already need a few hoop houses on the land for both our market crops and season extension, it makes sense to maximize the use of these materials. I'm considering building something similar to this but with aluminum fence rail instead of stimson bow trusses



I really like the idea of using these tuftex type corrugated polycarbonate roof panels. They are uv rated, shed water and snow well, lightweight, easy to install, flexible, don't cost a fortune, etc.

My plan would be to set the posts in an insulated trench (possibly with a french drain to keep water away). Setting the poles 24" on center and using a heavier timber ridge beam should give the structure plenty of rigidity. I would place 2 overlapping layers of 1" polyisocyanurate insulation boards over the purlins, followed by the polycarbonate roofing giving me an r-value around 13 or 14. A simple insulated earthern floor should suffice. The end walls would be framed with some smaller timbers cut from the property and infilled with slipformed clay-straw or woodchip light clay (r-value of 20+) with a generous overhang to protect them from the weather.

What have I not considered going into this? Code enforcement has no problems with me doing this. So long as I don't use any concrete footers to anchor my hoops I can get away with it being a "non-permanent foundation" and will be subjected to far less scrutiny (ie. no need for plumbing or septic permits).
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Saw someone else doing this, used a raised wooden deck inside and pitched a tent inside of that for another layer of isolated air.
Maybe one layer of the sheeting on the inside of the frame to create another layer of insulation?
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1491
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Why the preference for tubing over wood trusses? It has been many years since I priced the Stimson design so I don't know which would be cheaper now.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can always cover the frame with layers of meticulously crafted cattail mats.
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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Andrew Parker wrote:Why the preference for tubing over wood trusses? It has been many years since I priced the Stimson design so I don't know which would be cheaper now.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can always cover the frame with layers of meticulously crafted cattail mats.



In terms of material costs, I'm sure the bow trusses would be cheaper. But there's an economy of scale. I've already got a truck full of fence rail posts to be delivered and bent. This saves a lot of time.
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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William Bronson wrote: Saw someone else doing this, used a raised wooden deck inside and pitched a tent inside of that for another layer of isolated air.
Maybe one layer of the sheeting on the inside of the frame to create another layer of insulation?



R13 is far from ideal, but its a good bit better than something like a yurt would offer. The 24" OC spacing would still allow me to add wool batts down the line if desired.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Jeremy,

I get a sense that you have made up your mind about this and just what to see if you have missed something...from the verbal description (blueprint would be much clearer) it sounds plausible.

I have more questions than perhaps answers at this moment.

Are you reinventing a wheel here?

Indigenous folks have lived for thousands of years in Maine with not one item on your list for construction materials. There structures were often built in a mater of days and could last years if not decades before melting back into the earth (if that is what they desired.)

Do you really what to live surrounded by plastics...in a space that gets heated then cools, while the material outgases?

Have you live (for extended periods) under such primitive conditions before in a similar structure?

Will you be converting this to a "grow space" in the future?

I will say that for a living space wood is superior to metal and plastic in many ways, and I have lived in both forms. In Alaska, past the arctic circle, these types of structures are becoming common for outsiders" to fly in and use as hunting camps, and way stations for the oil/gas industry...I would not call them good, comfortable or sustainable architecture.

I would enjoy seeing elevation and plan blueprints, and look forward to following your farms progress. Thank you for sharing it here.

Regards,

j
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Jeremy,

I get a sense that you have made up your mind about this and just what to see if you have missed something...from the verbal description (blueprint would be much clearer) it sounds plausible.

I have more questions than perhaps answers at this moment.

Are you reinventing a wheel here?

Indigenous folks have lived for thousands of years in Maine with not one item on your list for construction materials. There structures were often built in a mater of days and could last years if not decades before melting back into the earth (if that is what they desired.)

Do you really what to live surrounded by plastics...in a space that gets heated then cools, while the material outgases?

Have you live (for extended periods) under such primitive conditions before in a similar structure?

Will you be converting this to a "grow space" in the future?

I will say that for a living space wood is superior to metal and plastic in many ways, and I have lived in both forms. In Alaska, past the arctic circle, these types of structures are becoming common for outsiders" to fly in and use as hunting camps, and way stations for the oil/gas industry...I would not call them good, comfortable or sustainable architecture.

I would enjoy seeing elevation and plan blueprints, and look forward to following your farms progress. Thank you for sharing it here.

Regards,

j


Nothing is set in stone yet, but an executive decision needs to be made in the coming weeks.


I hope not to reinvent anything. I'll be following a typical hoop house type construction just reducing the rib spacing and adding a load bearing ridge beam for added structural stability. The truly indigenous people of the area utilized simple structures like wigwams, benders, and wikiups for shelter in this climate for hundreds if not thousands of years. I'd like to think this would be a step up.

The other indigenous structure around here is the mobile home. The apparent popularity doesn't necessarily make it a good choice though.

I would love to build something with the timber that's on the land, but I don't have an abundance of good structural sized hardwoods on the lot. The plan for the eventual home is a more suitable insulated timber frame with metal roof. This is just something to give me a home while I work the land and get the initial site establishment done. I had my heart set on a yurt for a while. But even used I'm looking upwards of $5000+ for a yurt with decking, more if I want something fully insulated. I think I can beat that on price and absolutely beat it on insulation value. The structure wouldn't necessarily be as portable, but could be uprooted when eventually needed.


There won't be an abundance of toxic materials. The only plastic will be the polycarbonate roof which will not be exposed to the interior. Polyiso panels shouldn't cause any issues either. This is still far less toxic than something like an rv loaded with laminated plastics and high VOC materials. I like to call them toxic chlorox bottles.

This is hardly primitive at all by my standards. I've been sleeping in my truck camper shell lately

The ability to break it down, move it, re-use or re-purpose the material is a factor at play for sure. Since this will be temporary, it's location and purpose are surely subject to change.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My vote is always for a building that will be the garage or shop or barn when the house is done. Plenty of cheap garage kits around.

If you go with the hoop bender, do the gothic for snow load.

When we moved on our property, it had a large barn (with cement floor) but no power or water. We set up smaller tents inside to keep dust out of the beds and hold more heat.

Or you could go with something like this: http://store.colemans.com/cart/us-gi-10-man-arctic-tent-p-2369.html

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Jeremy Drolet wrote:The truly indigenous people of the area utilized simple structures like wigwams, benders, and wikiups for shelter in this climate for hundreds if not thousands of years. I'd like to think this would be a step up.


I liked the joke about trailers, yet I would call those an "effect of normative consumer culture," more than anything. As for the "step up," Well...I would have to place that into the highly subjective category, as I have lived in and built both, and observed countless others over the years come and go within this format. I still often will cut a timber frames on a remote job sites in a "tent structure" be that a quonset, a frame or gothic rib. They are fast, and keep your tools dry...live in one...not if I can avoid it at all, yet that too is subjective as I have slept outside almost my entire life.


JD wrote:I would love to build something with the timber that's on the land, but I don't have an abundance of good structural sized hardwoods on the lot.


Most "winter season" structures of the past built by Mi'kmaq, Abenaki and Passamaquoddy of the region was not much different than my own ancetories Wickiup. The largest timber would maybe be 150 mm in diameter, with most (almost all in some cases) built with structures of bound samplings of 40 mm to 60 mm stock. You may find this on your land or ask it of other around you as the thinning is often a good thing for the forest. For winter structures they are usually double walled.


JD wrote:The plan for the eventual home is a more suitable insulated timber frame with metal roof.


I couldn't be happier (I am biased here of course!) and will be glad to give you guidance when ready should you want it.

JD wrote:I had my heart set on a yurt for a while.


I have a 16' made of Ash that took about a month to make. Wickie up versions take about 3 to 5 days if insulated and only for 1 to 3 season use. Both can be had for under $500. If you use a good carpet padding and mineral wool the price may go up a tad but the insulation can be reused if the structure is build well. If you use leaf litter you need about 0.4 to 0.8 meters of it packed between the two frames of a traditional structure.

JD wrote:This is still far less toxic than something like an rv loaded with laminated plastics and high VOC materials. I like to call them toxic chlorox bottles.


I couldn't agree more...

I think if a truck has fulfilling your needs, you may find a simple Wickiup a luxurious up grade, but look forward to following along on your adventure.

Regards,

j
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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Jay, I really do appreciate your input! I know you have plenty of experience in the same climate/bioregion as me.

I'm hesitant to cut any timber until I've had enough time to completely go through the place and come up with a management plan geared toward maximizing long term yield and stability. I know for sure I have several dozen small clusters of birches and pines to thin. I'd rather wait before cutting any of these until I have at least a rough outline on paper though.

I've thought about just doing a sort of 'outfitter' style tent, but have you priced out tent canvas lately? For mold resistant fire treated cotton canvas I think I was looking at $1200-1300 for enough to do a 12'x20' wall tent. That seems excessive considering I can put up a 'permanent' roof for the same cost. I'm trying to find the holy grail balance between cost, longevity, and wise use of resources (aren't we all?).


I found someone who has attempted something similar with seemingly good results. Again, they are in a different climate which makes for some obvious differences, but this shows it could be done. The biggest difference would be closer ridge spacing, insulation, and structural ridge beam to help with snow load.

http://moderndaypioneer.com/2-starting_the_build/starting_the_build.html


I still am fairly set on building something which can be reused down the line. I have a feeling we'll end up with a half dozen or so similar outbuildings down the line.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Jeremy,

You are correct, comparing what was in your link (a desert biome) with that of Maine is a huge difference! If you did that there things would "rot out" rather fast. It would seem that you have a "set plan" and intend to test it out. I do believe that R. Scott share a tent that was less expensive than you suggested and I have seen surplus tents that even less. We use the Farmtech tents all the time for fast shelter to work under, yet find that more permanent installations that have insulation and are lived in by "things that breath" are inundated with moisture buildup issues and the rot and mold that comes with it. I am not sure the cobb, SB, or slip clay chip ends will mitigate this well enough...we will see. If you just bought batts of mineral wool and some local source 2x stock you could build a small space rather fast that all the materials could be reused. I would also support Scott's other suggestion of building a structure now that will be part of the domestic complex at a later date. The idea of "living in a greenhouse" sounds good, many are to mold and chemical sensitive to do this. Whatever your final design, I wish you all the luck in the world, and hope you keep posting your porgress, with photos, and what you think after a seanson of living it it.

Regards,

j
 
Kevin Gant
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Location: Oklahoma City
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So, you're looking for an Arched Cabin?

http://archedcabins.com/

Q. What is the height of an Arched Cabin?
A. The 14' wide Arched Cabin is about 12' tall, The 16' wide is about 14'6" Tall, the 20' wide is about 17'4" tall and the 24' is about 19' tall. All these heights are to the top of the ridge beam which is 4" thick.
ArchedCabins.PNG
[Thumbnail for ArchedCabins.PNG]
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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Kevin Gant wrote:So, you're looking for an Arched Cabin?

http://archedcabins.com/

Q. What is the height of an Arched Cabin?
A. The 14' wide Arched Cabin is about 12' tall, The 16' wide is about 14'6" Tall, the 20' wide is about 17'4" tall and the 24' is about 19' tall. All these heights are to the top of the ridge beam which is 4" thick.



This is great. I wish I would have seen this earlier. It would have saved me some trouble in figuring out the details of such a building!


I went ahead and built with the wooden bow-trusses. I'll have to upload some photos.
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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I decided to erect a small greenhouse first with the bow trusses to determine the feasibility of doing a more substantial structure and to work out any potential kinks ahead of time.



I opted to use the same size trusses, 2' OC with a beefed up ridge beam on a pier and beam foundation.



Everything is wrapped with reclaimed polyiso foam.



After playing with the tufftex roofing and comparing the cost to corrugated steel roofing, I opted for the steel. It ended up actually costing less to go with a custom cut length of metal roof than plastic. The metal roof should be good for 30+ years.



It's not quite done yet, but I'm hoping to have it closed in over the next few weeks.




In retrospect, there are a few things I would do differently. For a greenhouse, the metal ribs are a better choice than the wood bow trusses. They will last longer in the high humidity, and the cost is actually cheaper. Most 1x3 lumber is junk, and if you're paying for #1 or #2 clear pine or hemlock, things get expensive fast!
 
R Scott
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It looks awesome.

Almost all lumber is junk these days.

Is that concrete or rammed rock in the tires?
 
Jeremy Droplet
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Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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R Scott wrote:It looks awesome.

Almost all lumber is junk these days.

Is that concrete or rammed rock in the tires?



So I'm finding. After building a greenhouse, shed, and this building over the past few month; I think I'm done buying conventional lumber for a while.


The footers are rammed with crushed gravel. It's a gravel mix with stones up to 2" that still contains all the crusher fines. Works great as a road base. I pinned 3 rebar spikes though each and poured a cap of concrete to accept the anchor bolts. They are hugely overkill for the size and weight of the building, but it may eventually end up as a shed storing a tractor so it seemed like I may as well go for overkill.

This photo shows the concrete cap being poured in place.

 
Al Cart
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If you don't mind me asking, what was the total cost of materials? You had written initially that you wanted to keep it under $3,000...
 
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