Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Final Concept Approval

We got the final concept drawings back from Monolithic Domes yesterday and everything seems to be reasonable. These last few were elevations/profiles of the interior spaces. Domes have this habit to curving and making headroom not nearly a plentiful as the plan drawings look, so I wanted to see some profiles and measure things out. We have added a little loft area to the kids bedrooms (about 80 sq. ft.) and we wanted to see how that was going to look. Today I'm going to reply to them that we want to see one more full set of concept drawings and then we can give the final approval and start this ball rolling again.

This also allows us to authorize them to begin work on the airform (the big balloon which forms the shell) so that we can stay on schedule with that. The production of an airform takes 4-6 weeks (mainly getting in the queue). We won't begin that until after we talk to the city engineers on October 12 and make sure everything is OK with the concept and find out what silly hoops we will have to jump through (we've been told that there will be none and I sort of trust College Station government, at least as much as I trust any large bureaucratic body). One big question outstanding is whether the city will require full structural engineering calculations for this specific dome or if the general calculations for the domes will be sufficient.

Once the airform is done (actually when it is close to done we can start) we will schedule a time for them to come out and begin construction. Hopefully this can be done within a few weeks of completion, but it might be a month or more depending on how many other jobs they have going at that time. We're still crossing our fingers to have a dome up by Christmas.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Estimates for Constructing the Shell

I think we have the design phase complete, at least in the structural context, and we have been given a quote for the construction of the main home dome and the secondary dome. They are expecting to get us the garage dome pricing on Monday and then we can look at our finances and make sure everything is a go with the process. Assuming everything looks good we will be giving them the green light to finish the construction documents for the dome by the middle of next week. They have estimated 4 weeks to complete the documents, so we should have them by late October, only a week or so off our optimal timeline.

Before we give the final go ahead for the construction of the airform, I want to have our meeting with the city on October 12th and make sure everything is alright with them and find out about the utilities and everything. We have been given repeated assurances that the city has no problems with a monolithic dome home, but I want to get that in writing before we commit that much money to a project that could be shut down by regulations.

Also, we want to cover the dome in natural stone and there is a person who did this on a monolithic dome somewhere else in Texas. The Monolithic Dome company is going to contact them and ask about cost, difficulty, and time for us and tell us what they found out. So far dealing with them has been a very good experience. This is not intended to be a sales pitch, but if you are considering building and are willing to consider something different like a dome, contact them and at least see what they have to say. You can also continue to follow this blog and see how our experience turns out. I plan on keeping this blog active to discuss how the home works out even after it is complete.

On other topics we have begun discussion of the driveway and the yard.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Starting the Detail Planning Process

We sat down this weekend and tried to make up for most of last week. Our son brought home a cold and it has migrated through the family, so last week was mostly spent doing damage control on the family and not planning for the future.

We did get a quote from Monolithic Domes for the cost of preparing the formal drawings. Once we get a final concept with a few section drawings of the interior we should approve that and at least have that process underway. They estimate 2 to 4 weeks to complete the drawings once they get started.

We also spoke to another general contractor and he seemed interested in the project. He has built a geodesic dome in the past and the interior work is very similar to a monolithic dome, just the shell construction differs. He wants to see the final drawings before he can give us a true bid, but he definitely sounded interested and knowledgeable about the process.

We took the latest version of the house plan (which is 99% correct in terms of room arrangement) and discussed the layout of the electrical switches and light fixtures. We placed fans and such. Our eldest daughter asked about an intercom and we agreed that one in the main house is unnecessary, but connecting the separate domes with one might be useful.

Finally we discussed the site plan and sketched out roughly where we think the house should go and the driveway and garage. It is very approximate, since we are working from an aerial image we got from Google Earth. It may also depend on the location of the city utilities and such which we'll find out about on October 12th. We did find the survey and the aerial photo teh city provided to us, so we can go and give a copy back to the planning and zoning board of the city to help them prepare for our meeting. Yes I know that sounds strange, but when you deal with city government you realize that one division frequently does not communicate well with another. Sigh.

This week we will turn our attention to the kitchen and dining room arrangement. Where to put the appliances and sink, cabinets, the island, etc. We also want to start thinking about floor coverings for the whole house.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We talked this afternoon and while we did not make a lot of progress with specific items, we did try to generate a list of the various details we need to reach some type of agreement on by the end of September. These are:
  • Switch, Lights, Fans, and Outlets
  • Flooring
  • Kitchen Cabinets
  • Bathroom Cabinets
  • Kitchen arrangement/Island arrangement
  • Window style/size
  • Driveway location and design
  • Back Patio/Deck
  • Swimming Pool (if we want one or not)
  • Front Courtyard
  • Inside Door style
  • Wall covering/finishes
  • Closet Builtins
  • HVAC vents and system location
  • Outside dome finish
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Cable, Telephone, and Computer(Internet) connections
  • Water Feature under the stairs
  • Outside Doors
  • Railing for Stairs and Balcony
Some of these items we need to go out to the land and look around, some we need to either go to a store and look or go online. As we make decisions I'll keep the blog updated.

More planning and decisions

Getting the house built still seems like it is a long way off, but on the other hand there are a LOT of things we have to do to get ready.  This afternoon we are going to sit down with a set of the plans and talk about boring things like where to put electrical switches and lights, ceiling fans, outlets, the kitchen appliances and their arrangement, etc.

We need to talk about floor coverings, kitchen cabinet styles, interior doors, exterior doors, windows, plumbing, HVAC, and lots more I am not thinking about I'm sure.

One of these days soon we need to go out to the land and start thinking seriously about where to put the house, the garage, and driveway.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Meeting with Monolithic Domes

Wednesday afternoon we meet with the designers at Monolithic Domes to discuss where the process is now, what we need to do to advance the process and what kind of a time line we might expect in a best case scenario. They were very helpful and explained where we are now. Below is a checklist that esplains what all needs to be done before starting the actual construction of a monolithic dome:
  • Land Acquisition – If you don’t have land, the easiest way to find it is through a real estate agency, land broker, developer, or lending institution operating in the area you wish to live.
  • Feasibility Study – It’s a detailed report including a floor plan with elevations, notes and basic cost estimates. We go back and forth until our design and your desires match.
  • Constructions Drawings – These are the drawings necessary for contractors to construct the Monolithic Dome and required subsystems (plumbing, electrical, etc.) as required by the local building authority.
  • Obtain Financing – Set an early budget. Once you have completed pre-approval and are approved for a loan, begin searching for the best interest rate.
  • Building permits, special fees and licenses, insurance – In some areas, these are easy to get and construction requires no or few inspections. In other areas, construction can require specific inspections and approval, soil conditions verified, lab tests arranged, Stamped Engineering, etc.
  • Property Corners – Should be marked and building location staked.
  • Roads – An all-weather road needs to handle heavy, concrete trucks, especially to pump location.
  • Sanitary Facilities – There needs to be a sanitary facility onsite for workers.
  • Site Preparation – It needs to be completed, including leveling and/or pad build-up. Fill, if needed, should be brought in and packed. Generally, the best form of fill is granular fill (sand or gravel).
  • Adequate Drainage – It should be provided and able to handle a major storm.
  • Special Embeds – These should be on site with locations designated, if needed.
  • Water Provided – Water is needed to clean tools and mix concrete. If it is not available at the site, you must arrange for it to be hauled in by truck or tank fitted with a pump.
  • Power – Construction power per Proposal must be onsite and turned on.
  • Refuse Disposal – Refuse disposal arrangements should be made.
  • Additional Grading – After the dome is finished, additional grading may be needed for driveways and/or landscaping.
We have the land already and the Feasibility Study has been completed. We should authorize the Construction Drawings near the start of next week. There were a few tweaks we saw during the meeting so we have one more cycle to give final approval of the concept. It should take about a month to complete the drawings. So if we start on them by mid September we should have them completed by mid October. A little bit later since we have set up a meeting with the city engineer to discuss the project and getting things like an address and utilities to the site on October 12th. I'd like to have the drawings in hand by my birthday on October 25.

Once we have completed the drawings the Monolithic Dome Institute will begin the process of fabricating the Airform (the big balloon that inflates). They estimate 6 weeks to complete the airform. During this 6 week period there will be site work being done on the land to get the foundation poured and all the utilities in place. That means that we would hope for a St. Nick's Day present on have the Airform onsite and ready to inflate and create the dome by Dec. 6th.

The process of creating the dome will take a few weeks, so if we are lucky we will have a completed dome in place for Christmas Day!

While the drawings are being made we are looking for general contractors here in College Station to do the interior construction and secure the various permits and such for us. We talked to one today and will be talking to a few others in the next week.

This will definitely be a grand adventure. Hopefully I can post pictures of the proposed dome next week once we get the final design from the company.