In Seattle, where I live, my property tax statement tells me that my (large, nice) house is worth roughly half as much as the land it sits on.
Given that these domes don't float, you still need a place to put 'em. If your goal is to opt out of the cost of housing - an evil which this blog post expounds upon at length - your first order of business isn't so much "what to live in" but "where is it going to be".
And I don't have a mortgage on my 2500 sq. ft. house. No living "in the country" necessary. ;) Similar house prices can be had in Denver proper as well, though I'm in more of a suburb.
Programmers can make a lot of money. If you don't waste it all, it's not hard to save up a lot. I only do paid work about half the time now; the other half I work on my own projects.
I'm glad that I did, as I completely dodged the disaster that was the housing bubble as a result -- my rent always looked like a killer deal compared to nutso house prices. On the other hand, I know those who "had to have a house" who are now seriously underwater on their mortgages. But good thing they weren't "wasting capital on rent!"
Even lots of programmers here on HN eagerly brag up "good buys" they made on their houses, characterized as "good" because the house "went up in value".
As for the "wisdom of embedding wealth into dirt": Long term, if property values drop, so what. You lose a little bit on your purchase vs. renting in that case, but you get massively cheaper housing from then on if you opt to switch back to renting and/or the value for money will be massively better if you decide to trade up to a bigger house. But if property values rises dramatically, owning a property is a very effective hedge against seeing your living costs skyrocket. See it as insurance.
In that respect people do make good buys when the house goes up value: It means they largely locked in their housing costs at a lower rate and their insurance is paying off.
No, the rent vs buy question is a lot more complicated than that. Renting can be and often is financially better even over the long term when house values are appreciating at historic rates, or even faster. As just a couple more factors to consider, property tax and maintenance costs go up as property appreciates and along with inflation, respectively. Remember that renters don't make any downpayment, and that that money and early term savings over mortgage can be invested in assets that tend to grow at rates much faster than house values.
And the rent vs. buy issue that's hard to resolve is for comparable homes being rented or owned. The fact of the matter is that many people buy more home than they need, when they could have happily been renting a smaller home, and trade up only when necessary, skewing answer more toward side of rental being more cost-effective. (You could do this with a house, too, but people tend to buy more house than the need at the time, perhaps partly b/c of practical difficulties of selling a house and the large commissions that get paid to brokers.)
I don't know much about the market conditions outside of SoCal, but here the housing seems to have recovered to 2005-2006 levels. It doesn't look like it has much fuel to go up for a long time, but those who bought 2009-2012 are definitely comfortably in the black. Some could be up as much as 50-60% from especially distressed properties. Doesn't sound bad to me...
Factor in ridiculously cheap borrowing costs (even a couple months ago, there were 30 yr. mortgages for around 4%), and you have pretty decent investment opportunities.
In an unbalanced market, one can always find ways to realize short-term gain. Trick is to not get suckered in and overplay the hand.
See purchasing as a hedge. "Worst case" your property becomes worthless, and you're left with nothing when the mortgage is paid down and may have paid more per month on average until them (but if so, while you may have lost vs. renting, properties are now ludicrously cheap, so who cares?). Meanwhile, if prices skyrocket, your equity likely rises at roughly the same rate.
In the long run even those you know who are now seriously underwater are likely to do just fine as long as they can afford to sit tight. Of course people can "play the market" and do a good job timing when it's better to rent and buy again later, but as with anything it's very easy to mistime.
It's extremely hard to come out badly if you are prepared to hold a property long term, though, as long as you don't overstretch, and can afford to sit tight for a few years if you go under water early on.
Even if you end up paying more per month for a mortgage initially (I never did), chances are you'll be able to remortgage and bring the rates down to below rental costs within a couple of years once you've built up a bit of equity, and from then on save money every month on top of repaying the capital on the mortgage and be left living "rent free" apart from maintenance costs and insurance at the end of it.
I'll never go back to renting - if I'd bought as soon as I could, I'd had roughly about 200k pounds more equity today, and would have had roughly the same monthly costs for most of that time. As it is, I'm now paying half as much on a mortgage as I would to rent the same size property, and my debt is dropping in absolute terms, and my interest rate is below inflation, so in real terms I'm getting fantastic value.
You seem to equate some appreciation in house value with "not coming out badly". Well, if that's all you want, then fine. You can consider things as not having come out badly.
However, if your definition of "not coming out badly" is actually more like, "having done better financially than renting" then it's a much more complicated question. Renting can leave you with better financial outcome even in cases where a hypothetical purchased house appreciates greatly. Not always, of course, but appreciation in value of the house is just one among many factors in the rent vs. own equation.
This is a major sticking point for many people, particularly once you factor in opportunity costs.
In the UK (and I assume the USA) the landlord can (with a few months warning in most cases) throw you out, raise the rent arbitrarily, pretty much whatever they want. It's their property, after all!
When I moved to Germany there was significant cognitive dissonance when I was asked to provide a copy of my work contract to prospective landlords, to prove I was worthy enough to pay them money. It turns out even if you stop paying them it's extremely difficult for them to legally evict you, hence the caution.
The rental policies there must then suppress house prices because its much more cost effective to rent than to buy, especially if you can put the extra money you didn't spend (on purchase of a house) into another form of investment.
I wonder if that system is better long term than the ups and downs of the market like the US/UK's.
It's not that straightforward: Someone have to buy the units that goes onto the rental market as well, so it depends on how attractive property investment is vs. other investment opportunities.
In the UK, cheap access to "buy to let" mortgages coupled with high returns as people were unable to afford to purchase and thus bid up the rental market certainly helped push prices up during the bubble (thus pricing more people out of the market).
Adding good new stock takes time. Its not simply a matter of the time to build a new house. Its the time to develop the new area, zoning, commercial properties people want close, infrastructure, etc. It can easily take a decade in highly regulated areas.
So supply can't shift to meet demand. Prices rise because lots of people see mortgages they can afford, and jump on it. Then speculators get in the game, and tie up stock without anyone living in it. Flippers are fixing up houses, instead of letting them out. So a bubble is formed because people with good intentions made mortgages too easy, and prices climb.
It's isn't. The idea that it's wasting money, or that you're paying someone else's mortgage, or whatever other argument is thrown out there are part of one of the biggest financial misconceptions going.
Do the cost/benefit of renting vs ownership, accounting for maintenance, taxes, interest rates, macro-economic conditions and whatever else and the costs should be very similar. Of course, it ebbs and flows with the markets, but at the margins is where the decision should be made. Owning is never a clear winner in all circumstances.
That said, with the drastic drop in house prices since 2007 and historically low interest rates, buying has been (in the US at least) a financial gift from the heavens for the past few years. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed.
That I believed this was assumed, and that I was comparing _renting to purchasing a house_ was also assumed (but probably not so clear!). I was comparing renting to what the dome-builder was doing. With that said, renting vs. ownership is obviously situational.
To live 2 miles (walking distance) from downtown Denver:
~650 for rent
~150 for a garage w/ electricity
~100 for utilities
When I looked into buying in Denver anywhere in the same distance, I was looking at $1250 month w/ no garage, unless I lived in the Arts District (a bit rougher), and most of those houses needed to be torn down.
Other factors need to come into play when you own a home. My rent was about $1000/month with utilities for about 1000 sq. feet. I now pay a mortgage of $1375/month + about $75 in average monthly utilities. But with that I get a home with 1600 sq. feet living space, not including the finished attic or the unfinished basement and the 7500 sq. foot lot I now have to mow, minus the garage and house space. Per sq. foot of space, you're likely to do really well, if space is what you need.
There are three main reasons I bought: 1) I have a young daughter and I thought she might like a yard. 2) I'm tired of the noise from apartments and 3) the interest rates were about as close to free as I think they'll get for a long time and I plan to stick around here for at least the next decade or so.
In your case, you might not need the space or want the hassle of maintenance.
Personally I think making the rent vs. buy argument into an investment argument is ultimately worthless. There are better investments out there, like your time. Shelter is not an investment, it's a basic human need. Buy/rent exactly what you need and nothing more. It's a lifestyle choice. Put your money to work in real markets.
Living in a geodesic dome will probably ruin your social life, but if you don't need a social life, great!
Note: This obviously applies more to renting an entire house than an apartment in an apartment building.
You'd probably kick you out too if you'd caused enough trouble to overtake the cost of finding and inducting new tenants.
Sorry, I am not from the USA, so I don't know the peculiarities of your peculiar housing market.
Couldn't you just negotiate a rental agreement that gives you more protection?
As for negotiating a better rental agreement? Why would the landlord give you more protection? He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so. The reality is that if you're a good tenant (don't trash the place, pay on time), no landlord will want to kick you out if he doesn't have to. I've been a landlord; good tenants are money in the bank!
That's why it's called a negotiation. You have to give the landlord something they want in return. E.g. slightly more rent is the most obvious choice.
As for a sale: Just negotiate in your rental agreement that the new owner is bound by the same terms as the old one.
- $900 rent
- Rent increasing 3%/year (default)
- $356,000 home with 3.5% down (FHA minimum), closest I could get to a $1,400/mo mortgage since the parent said $1250 didn't get the amenities of a $900 rent
- Home values increasing 2%/year (default)
- 3.75% mortgage rate (my current rate)
- 1.25% property taxes (default)
From the NYT Rent v. Buy calculator: "If you stay in your home for 30 years, renting is better. It will cost you $209,282 less than buying, an average savings of $6,976 each year."
At this point it's a lifestyle decision. Either you want to own a home or you don't.
* Landlord can decide to sell the house any time
* Improvements and diy projects are a pain, have to negotiate with landlord (if possible at all)
* In the category of standalone house type properties, rental inventory is vastly inferior to inventory available for purchase
* Hard to do any lasting improvement or landscaping with the axe of eviction via rental sale hanging over one's head
At some point, buying is definitely the best investment, often times if you rent, you are basically paying the mortgage without any of the incentives of owning.
From Shiller himself:
In fact, a study (I can dig up the source if requested) found that owning a house vs renting has very, VERY rarely made financial sense in the last 50 years in the USA. Yes, real estate exploded, but so did many other investment vehicles. Keep in mind you can rent a ranch-style home in the suburbs, not just metropolitan apartments.
If the net cost of renting is lower than the net cost of renting money to own a mortgage, then you've still got the option of investing in other assets which may appreciate over time. Say, a business. Which represents real net economic growth, not merely asset inflation.
If you plan to be in a location for more than a year, it's worth buying a home.
Stating that as a blanket recommendation is so false it's not even wrong.
A buy-vs-rent decision depends on a great many factors, including transaction costs (high for real estate sales), moving costs, appreciation risks, etc. There are many areas where even a 10-15 year tenancy may favor renting over buying.
Mortgage payments (minus interest) are then just going back into your own pocket.
Not if your property's under water. Haven't we learned anything?
Even in the big inflation years I recall the over under on this as closer to seven years. Depends on your circumstances of course.
So run the numbers: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/buy-rent-calcula...
To paraphrase another response, this is so wrong it physically hurts. This type of nonsense is exactly what causes people in their early 20's to buy a $350,000 house and end up foreclosed on 18 months later.
Running any rent v. buy calculator for my area shortly before buying my home (at the end of 2010) told me that I needed to be in the area (e.g. within a 30-minute commute by car) for 7 years to break even on the purchase of a home. After that the benefits of buying quickly took over the benefits of renting, but for those first 7 years it is technically a financial loss.
This is just flat-out dangerous and wrong "advice."
Please see the tiny housing / simplification movement for discussion about the trade offs of relocating and living simply. It's not for everyone.
Then I had two kids =)
EDIT: added smileyface.
Restrooms is not the problem here, the problem is this focus on frameless structure. Why not just doing a tent, like in so many traditional cultures? It must be easier to build and may even be more pleasing to the eyes.
While I am well aware that ther are billions that live in lesser conditions than the hipster-dome under discussion, one of the points of the article was that there is "inefficiency" in the home rental/ownership paradigm; while this may be true - I do not see how this is solved by sacraficing something as crucial as a bathroom (or kitchen [I lived in my house during a kitchen remodel, and I cooked using my backpacking gear for 2 months, and that FARKING SUCKED])
So - Yeah - this would be a great fort, or cool guest room, I'd not want to actually live there.
Ever have to walk from your "room" to the bathroom when there is a monsoon-like storm outside which you must traverse (at 4am). No thanks
Mass producing the dome parts seem like a nice proposition. Might not even be for housing at first but as an addon for a existing house. Say you wanted to clear your garage and store your stuff somewhere else in the property. Maybe for government-sponsored housing programs.
Or, I don't know, Africa? There are places where shelter is more important than the land.
I worked on a project that tried to bring new types of homes to Haiti. This was a HUGE problem because if the locals don't like it (no matter how cool) your idea won't take off.
The fact is that most Haitians thought that wood and corrugated metal were what a "house" was (assuming you couldn't afford a concrete home).
This isn't only African's. You could look at forward swept wings in a similar manner (I'm oversimplifying some of the technical difficulties there though).
for instance someone had built communal latrines which were unused.
his starting point was asking the villagers what they wanted to do
they said "the chiefs house is a mess" - so they worked on that first, then built individual latrines for each house and made other improvements - they were able to do this by finding out what the locals wanted and working on that, if he'd just gone and built a bunch of stuff that he wanted to he would have been much less successful.
As said elsewhere if one is willing to move out into a remote area you can definitely pick up land for less money ($2k cash for your own land with mountain views is blowing my mind and making me cry on the inside). Unfortunately, so much IT work is centred around metro areas and property is very expensive.
I live out in the country and have a bunch of building projects that I never seem to get to. I need to see stuff like this to get me off my ass :-)
Yes, there are building codes (which I meet). Colorado actually has some sheisty codes compared to Chicago (where I'm from), so in many places I went overboard, which I think is OK. It's still a bit like the Wild West out here!
For me, getting down to the cabin full-time was the hardest part. 4 years of trying to build a small cabin and building myself up professionally took its toll on what I _wanted_ to accomplish with this project.
So, now the house design and CAD consumes my evenings - I want to be able to document it like the dome chap!
So you need a satellite uplink and a second dome covered in video, wired to a telepresence drone made out of a cheap tablet on a broom handle stuck to a roomba.
All that said, to afford land without a mortgage in BC I'd have to move so far north that I it wouldn't be much fun at all.
I purchased 5 acres for $2,000 of Craigslist. It's worth about 5-6 getting it from a real-estate company.
4" deep, 8" deep around a 1' perimeter..1100 sq ft total
- 18 yards concrete, $2200
- Bobcat rental (days w/ gas), $450
- Rented tools (concrete blankets for cold, et), $150
- Rebar/tongue-groove insulation: $1000
Currently, I run off a generator, which was about $500. On the cheap end they seem to last a few years. Solar is cheap, though, and a decent setup from Arizona Wind Solar would cost about $2500 (4-5 panels, controllers, converters, wire, and extra batteries). You'd have to be careful with what appliances you used, though.
I purchased a wood stove for $200 for the small cabin. Eventually, a nice Morso one will run me about $1500.
- 16, 16' 13/12 gable trusses (building this by myself, so it's a modern pole barn), $1500
- 15 3'x 5' picture windows (it's fucking dusty here), $2500
$8,000 50' out, piped 4' down to the house.
That's as far as I've gotten on the new build costs and well forecast. The costs are in the _slab_ (which will be stained for the floor) and the _well_.
Initially, I did not know about the "theft" problem. In 4 years owning this property (and having an unfinished cabin w/ easy entry for about 2 of those), nothing has been stolen. I'm not sure there is one, but I have heard stories. That said, I'm 3 miles off the highway, and you can't see me from the road.
I'm half-way in b/t San Luis and Fort Garland, which are each about 15 minutes either way. Currently, I bring in water. It sucks!
The weather extremes are actually a good thing! Plenty of sunshine for solar-powered anything. That, combined with the 30 degree temperature difference in day and night helps ease the load on fridges running off solar; during the winter you just pull in cold air :)
I dislike the current compost systems that are out there for under $5,000 - the toilets all are so flimsy. So, I've been designing one that uses a no-flush, wall-hung stainless-steel toilet. Because it's custom, I don't expect that to be done until at least Christmas with all the other building going on. I'm debating on a waterless urinal installation as well, but quite Frankly, peeing around the perimeter (as a male) keeps most of the larger animals away. Except cows.
Also, because I'm weary of introducing compost smells into the new house (in case I mess up the mix), I've designated a small walkway between the house and the 6x6 louvre room. The shower still sits inside the main unit, though.
I actually have neighbors...sort of. There is a permanent resident of _extremely_ poor individuals 1.5 miles from me (they're quite nice when I've run into them), and next to them is a vacation residence put up years ago inhabited by a retiree on occasion.
This land is "open range", and there is a large cattle farm I can see about ~5 miles away whose cows occasionally wander out this way and graze.
Living out here means monthly trips to larger cities to visit friends, check in with work HQ in Denver, and pickup all the decent food I can (I can't stand the markup at Whole Foods, but they have the best bulk foods of anywhere I've been).
Will be more expensive than a dome, but they have ideas and systems for building a complete off the grid house.
See also: http://www.garbagewarrior.com/
They _do_ have great passive qualities to them, but this _can_ be done with stick-frame construction, it will just cost you more (and be slightly less "environmentally friendly").
This structure and the post about it is art.
Thank you for sharing.
My only issue with this awesome dome is that because of its shapes it wastes a lot of material. I'd like to see some kind of cube or cylinder shaped home built from square pieces that maximizes the material's use.
This has been an idea I have been pushing around fro a while.
Building a living platform floating in the SFBay.
Admittedly, this has been nothing more than a day-dream - so I am unfamiliar with what imperial entanglements attach themselves to the reality of this....
But assuming that it can be done, what would be the barrier to entry for the following scenario:
* Standardized deployment platforms.
* Assume a Hex shape
* Standardized MEP+IT infra in the base of each platform.
* Set solar capacity for each platform
* A range of models of living spaces
* Communal-esque structure for shared work/meeting type spaces
* [a range of other options, I could go on and on]
I do not know the legal preclusions to an idea such as this... and clearly there are costing issues. But if you can have an open design for the platforms, figure out how to get them economically built - and provide the standards/spec requirements for the on-platform structures.. it may be viable, and while this has long been just a thought-exercise for me; I'll just ask the obvious: Anyone else interested in this type of thing?
And a lot of zoning rules also prohibit nonstandard construction. It's terribly frustrating when you're looking at alternative building methods.
In some states you're pretty mostly stuck building in either really rural towns or in unincorporated locations.
My own favorite alternative building technique is a "monolithic dome."  You get a form (an inflatable balloon in the shape you want the house, effectively) and literally spray a concrete and foam mixture on the inside; you can make a small house like OP or a huge building. Insulation is amazing, and it's weather-proof. They're rated safe against tornadoes, for instance. As a bonus, it's also fireproof, so you can put one up in the mountains and not worry about forest fires destroying it.
The frameless dome is a neat trick and an elegant design, but there are a dozen other techniques I'd rather use to build a "simple" home. It's more art project than practical building method.
crying shame, I was excited to live in a monolithic dome, they're certainly cool.
A hybrid approach -- earthbag and shotcrete dome -- might be an interesting approach. A ring of earthbag construction as a foundation with a shotcrete dome on top could get you lots of interior space.
"2.5 acres [10,117 m2 or 108,900 ft2] with a large flat area at the front of the block and some scattered timber at the back. Electricity at the front of the block and rural/town water available."
Of course, that puts you in the middle of nowhere, but it's like $240 an acre.
That Montana property is beautiful though. Sometimes I'm jealous of you folks in the US; not only do you get rain, you're allowed modern firearms as well.
The alternatives include taking on a longer commute or being farther from the action.
However, while many US jurisdictions might not require a building permit for this structure due to its size, it would typically not be exempt from building codes and as a habitable structure and more importantly as a dwelling, the design does not meet fundamental principles embodied in modern building codes.
While the principle of occupant safety is fairly obvious and its susceptibility to liberatarian objections predicable, the code embodies a further less obvious principle, that of first responder safety. Doors and windows have size and operational requirements to allow fire-fighters to get in and back out. Structural systems have structural requirements and combustibility limits for the same reason. Buildings need to be anchored to keep them from blowing into neighboring structures in a storm.
Most people are urbanized, and the structural problems of housing is harder than can be solved by tents in the wilderness. Anyplace that this is a viable alternative for long term dwelling, it is likely that so is a used trailer or a building of recycled and scavenged materials.
Again, I appreciate the design and the aesthetic effort and the ideas it expresses. I just can't get carried away over an academic exercise.
As an extreme libertarian (an anarcho capitalist) and as a pretty experienced builder, I'd like to say that no libertarian I've met is against the concept of occupant safety. We are, however, fairly likely to be against the assertion that government regulations are the only way to achieve this, or the best way.
Underwriter's Labs is an example many libertarians invoke: a private free-market safety licensing firm that other firms voluntarily pay for, so that they can advertise to consumers the safety of their products.
I note that government regulation is subject to regulatory capture: one-pipe urinals (non flushing) are made illegal because it would result in less work for plumbers, efficient PEX pipes are delayed again because of concerns that it would lower housing costs, engineered lumber that is approved in one area is not approved in others, etc.
I build to code (and well above code, sometimes) because I care about safety and I care about craftsmanship, but there is a LOT that's stupid in government regulation.
The insurance under-writers (the "U" in "UL") were the driving force in establishing building codes and fire fighting as a public service. Of course the next turtle down is that property insurance allows banks to finance real property in accordance with financial regulations. [edit: the last turtle being legal title to real property recorded at the courthouse - and title to which in many places can be traced back to royal grant.]
Anyone active in the US housing industry ought to be aware that the current requiring fire sprinklers in single family dwellings is a direct result of insurance industry lobbying on the ICC. Or to put it another way, UL is part of the establishment and its members lobby heavily in favor of regulation.
While UL is certainly nice enough, how many people know to look for it when they buy appliances? And how does this avoid in general the problem that if UL becomes too onerous, the affected appliance makers simply start their own voluntary licensing firm with better results?
"Oh, but people would never fall for that!" Sure they would, that was the whole point to the "Intel Inside" marketing campaign.
So while I deeply appreciate the types of examples you point out (getting to see them every day from within the bowels of Mount DoD), I worry that when people talk about the problems with "government _______" that they focus on 'government' and don't pay attention at all to the inherent problems with _______.
But just as government can't fix the issues inherent in problems, they are not always the inherent problem themselves.
(P.S. guess who is the only entity to ever tell me to 'look for UL'?... the government, that's who, during our yearly fire safety briefs).
Indeed, regulations can suck no matter who creates them.
The great thing about the non-governmental world is that there are CHOICES. I vote with my feet (and my dollars, and my contributions). I switch from MSFT to Red Hat, from Red Hat to Debian, from Debian to Ubuntu.
I don't know about that. Where I live, the only Internet provider available is Comcast. I would guess that many people here have the exact same problem.
Sometimes regulation can eliminate choices, but at other times it can enable them. For example, when the government forces cab companies (via regulation) to not discriminate based on neighborhood income, what it is doing is creating more choices for areas people can live in comfortably without worrying about whether they will have a fairly essential service (i.e. transportation).
Tell me: how would libertarianism solve that problem?
Government is involved in regulating Comcast, for sure. But as far as I can tell the issues that make telecommunications hard for new entrants has more to do with the sheer cost of building-out a suitable network than any amount of government regulation.
At some point the costs become so high that it's possible the costs become comparable to the costs to switch to an entirely different government, too.
So you're basically free to build your own house (for better or worse).
From the article: "The three shapes we derived above amount to a remarkable simplification in fabrication and construction. We have decimated the complexity of the dome."
"Decimated" is the perfect word for it.
Here's a related gratuitous simplicity quote from Rich Hickey (of Clojure fame):
"Simplicity is hard work. But, there's a huge payoff. The person who has a genuinely simpler system - a system made out of genuinely simple parts, is going to be able to affect the greatest change with the least work. He's going to kick your ass. He's gonna spend more time simplifying things up front and in the long haul he's gonna wipe the plate with you because he'll have that ability to change things when you're struggling to push elephants around."
(Decimated means "reduced by 1/10th" ... not, as is popularly believed, "reduced to 1/10th")
Words change meaning based on usage.
> to destroy a great number or proportion of: The population was decimated by a plague.
If the acceptance criteria of for use as 'the perfect word' is that it matches as precisely as possible to its definition then I think the OP was on track.
I think it is interesting trivia that the origins of the word come from the violence of the Roman army, but to assert that is the only way the word is used in modern English is wrong. I blame Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast for the recent surge in smug people 'correcting' the use of this word.
p.s. I want to put in a plug for Bob Ware's dictionary gateway site www.onelook.com -- a front end to multiple general and specialized dictionaries, and a great time saver.
I think my favorite part was "I have iterated on this idea a bit." where you post the fails.
It can get discouraging looking at all the beautiful stuff posted and thinking it just sprang out of nothing. Clearly this is neat because you put a lot of work into making it so.
Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share it.
What is your solution for a bathroom? Where do you shower?
This "house" is missing a lot of viable (standard) infrastructure to be considered what we usually call a house in North America. It's closer to that of a very small travel trailer, or a tent. All in all I still love the idea.
"If you are considering a canvas dome, teepee, or yurt you should consider building a frameless dome"
For bathroom activities, I would suggest some kind of humanure solution.
I'm also curious how this will hold up against strong weather conditions... heck even light weather conditions
A search for "toilet" "bathroom" and "poop" yielded no results however, as did searches for "kitchen" "cook" "stove" and "range." Assuming OP eats food (hackers still do that, no?) and poops, it seems there is more to this living arrangement than is described in this article.
I don't know the situation but put a gun to my head and force me to speculate and I'll say "This guy is living on a friend's land & relying on the resources in his friend's house." There's no shame in that but it's disingenuous to sweep it under the rug and pretend your abode is an "alternative" to a house when it in fact relies on a house.
Don't get me wrong; I found the article really cool. Really cool. Inspiring, in a way. And major props to the author for hacking this all together. But I agree: there's a side of this story not being discussed, and it's a pretty important side. Implying that someone can live on little more than $2,100 in building materials seems like a bit of a stretch, and I'm curious to know how much of one.
A few of my generation picked up the torch in the nineties, and I happen to know of one off-the-grid dome lived in by a classmate of mine. Though he's married now and no matter how much "Little House" she has read, I find it's a rare wife that wouldn't prefer a conventional stove by year five or so.
So when I see these posts I smile for my own parents' optimism and naivete. And I also feel desperately, overwhelmingly homesick. That garden reads as Eden to my eye. So props to the builder. I hope you make lots of great memories there.
This sounds extremely flammable. Are any of your materials actually code-rated for a living structure (as you're using them)? Last I checked, stuff like blue foam board needs to be used in specific ways, such as behind fire-rated walls. You cannot leave any of it exposed, or it's a fire hazard.
Have you ever invited girls home, and if so how did they react? I think your dome looks awesome and fascinating, but I don't know if everyone would be so enthusiastic?
Some standup comediant joked that if women agreed to have sex in cardboard boxes, men wouldn't buy houses.
This link is written by somebody with quite a lot of experience with domes. http://www.shelterpub.com/_shelter/domebuilders_blues.html
> If I want to spend my time writing blog posts, exploring new programming languages, and other things that I want to do but I am unlikely to get paid for, it’s helpful to opt out of certain common expenses. Housing is a major expense that is ripe for pruning.
I'd say "the intended use case" here is clearly to replace your primary residence, which is both what makes the project interesting and what casts the ignored topics in sharp relief.
From the article:
"If you are considering a canvas dome, teepee, or yurt you should consider building a frameless dome as well."
I'd say that if you're considering replacing your primary residence with a teepee, you're looking at certain lifestyle expectation that don't necessarily include building codes.
Thanks for sharing this.
There are issues with domes that aren't apparent to the novice builder. Besides questions about if being an efficient use of space the numerous angled joints make them very difficult to weather seal/roof so they tend to leak.
A simple, passive solar rectangular design from sips (structured insulating panels) is much more efficient and quicker to put up. You order the panels pre built and routed for doors/windows/plumbing. Rectangular panels means you need to bolt them together in fewer places.
I think david wright's high sierra cabin is a great example of what is possible using this construction method:
THough i have also seen simpler plans more in line with this dome.
But this is a really good question which applys to all structures that use this material.
We get a fair amount of snow, so if I went about this, there would probably be a frame underneath. There are plenty of tutorials on the web for the assembly of geodesic structures.
This touches on another project that didn't quite take off called the "Icopod" http://eksith.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/icopod
The idea was very similar, but I think the original designer became disinterested and moved onto other things. The fact that you provided exact shapes and sizes makes me more hopeful.
Assuming you have 10-20 people to house, each person having their own dome seems less efficient than building a more traditional house with shared kitchen, bathroom, etc. facilities, since the dome cannot contain those, at least without scaling up significantly at which point its utilization of space becomes really inefficient.
To clarify I'm assuming that:
A) He's living a commune with this, and sharing cooking/bathroom facilities with others. Thus my comment abotu 10-20 people to house.
B) The point is efficiency/ease of housing people. I don't think a bunch of individual (or 2-3 person domes) is any more efficient than one or two traditional houses to hold everyone and all the facilities needed.
It's innovators like you who make this world a better place; keep up the great work and don't ever let the critics get under your skin!!
Live in your car and have a hackerspace and gym membership:
Hide out at AOL office
Be homeless in Swedish forest
Move to foreign country where it's cheaper to live
Move to a dome
Added it to the list!
Oh wait, I forgot this whole thing was about status and "conspicuous authenticity", not about actually living cheaply.
I've never not lived with the second kind of roommates (as an adult), but in a city like NYC or SF, that still is much more expensive than the stuff on the list.
In college I and many other adults had literal roommate, including some who lived in off-campus apartments. My father tells a story, back in the 1960s, of a place he lived for a few months where there were more people than beds. They used hot-bunking, since some worked nights.
In any case, if your reference is living in a city like NYC or SF then the item "Move to foreign country where it's cheaper to live" should be changed to the more generic "Move to a place where it's cheaper to live."
The emphasis on "foreign country" is why I agree with jquery's comment that the list is 'about status and "conspicuous authenticity", not about actually living cheaply.'
If you can work in a forest in Sweden, then you can also work in Buffalo, where the cost of living is about 1/2 of that NYC. Or for that matter, you can work from a forest in New York State, and save the price of airfare.
When I lived in the Bay Area, during the dot-com era, people did actually camp in the state parks because it was so hard to find housing. There was a one week limit per park, so they would rotate through the parks.
Not sure how to reconcile the shape with societal expectations, as we're trained to expect 3+ rooms with rectangular layout (even "tiny homes" adhere). Does look a bit tight inside, at least for usable floorspace juxtaposed with headroom. Cost is impressive (low), but might need something of a sales pitch to motivate living in the 4-digit expense.
I'm most impressed that you did it. Would love the opportunity to try it myself (alas, priorities).
Beds, tables, chairs, etc. are mostly rectangular.
That said, there are ways of protecting your air-form, and if you do that, these things look to be nigh indestructible.
for this to scale up, we are looking to replace having a traditional house right nearby, right?
are you doing all takeout or something like a camping stove outdoors ?
I'm a big fan of thinking outside the box (pun intended).
Somewhat related to his thoughts on home structures is the shipping container home movement that has been gradually picking up steam. Insulated shipping containers make great home frames and it would be nice to see similar grassroots discussions on the challenges of setting them up as well as success stories.
Yes, you can spend a lot more on one and get nicer finishes, but the end state is the floor sags and none of the doors shut.
I dare say they are better built than the flimsy plastic tent we saw linked in the OP.
One example was living in a trailer in New Mexico, which can be winterized by surrounding it by straw bales, then turned into walls, and expanded as needed. Another was living in an old wooden boat, on land, where it was trivial to cut a hole if you wanted it.
That's much in line with the philosophy behind this dome, which several others here agree with.
However, Brand also specifically dislikes domes, because they are difficult to expand, or to add internal divisions. For a single person, who does not need partitions or extra space, this is not a problem. (Nor would it be a problem if it were cheap to tear down and rebuild an entirely new structure.)
For a family or group of people, it is less tenable, as others here have also pointed out.
You can always add more insulation layers and get more R value.
Clearly your approach is not for everyone, but it's great that you have taken the time to share your experience since it will likely push likeminded others towards experimenting as well.
As an aside, I have some limited experience with these: http://shelter-systems.com/ and it has been a fun and simple place to start. Since they're without a foundation I think they're considered 'temporary structures' in California so they don't require any permits.
Then we could print out own version of what you created, and use some kind of fastener (tape? glue?) to put it together...
Photo taken in Chloride, AZ. Many of the small homes in the town have their original iron siding and are well over 100 years old.
This book has more information: http://www.amazon.com/Corrugated-Iron-Simon-Holloway-Morneme...
If everyone on Hacker News pitched into a fund, bought some land out in the middle a beautiful but isolated place in the rockies and created a weekend getaway for coders using something similar to these little Geodesic Dome houses.
Read this http://www.shelterpub.com/_shelter/domebuilder's_blues.html and see how many of the concerns are addressed in this design.
Lloyd was passionate about domes, but came to realize their flaws. Most of these are applicable today despite the materials improvements over the last 30+ years.
Some architect correct me but isn't a spherical-shaped house the worst case scenario for insulation? you have the biggest volume of air to heat/cool down with the largest surface to insulate and for heat to come in or go out, plus a pretty small surface footprint.
And if you check the post carefully, you'll see that it is carefully designed so the pieces overlap like shingles.
This guy's a classic: "My name is Jamie, and I have decided to build a giant robot damnit!"
I priced out the materials for building a small "office shed" with no electricity or running water, and came up with a price tag of something like $2000 for a 10x10 structure, assuming completely conventional 2x4's, fiberglass insulation, and off-the-shelf doors and windows. I've not yet followed through on it, but I feel pretty confident that you could build a pretty serviceable pretty conventional structure for not-too-much-money in not-too-much-time.
If you go to a typical Home Depot, at least around here, they have a wide variety of outdoor "garden sheds" on display for all price ranges from $1K to $6K or so. You're talking about one around the $4K size, just a little too small and underengineered to frame a garage door opening.
Then you need to add the additional stuff, insulation, windows, etc. You can add that as you go. Its cheap to frame in a window opening and later install a window.
My grandfather turned a very large garden shed into what amounts to a workshop when I was a kid. I guess a workshop with plumbing is a small house.
I would advise anyone making an outdoor workshop or whatever to do the substantial structural reinforcement needed to install doors at both ends. Not just for convenience of driving cars thru, but the incredible opportunity for shade and ventilation two doors provides. The structural reinforcement required was huge / amazing all I remember was multiple 2x10 beams.. without a cross member its susceptible to folding from wind unless the joints are ridiculously overbuilt, which they were... An a-frame would have been infinitely simpler structurally than trying to make something that looks like a conventional garden fence.
About half the cost -- if I recall -- was doors, windows, and skylights, and the other half was the walls, ceiling, and floor. So you'd expect a structure with roughly double the surface area to be roughly $3000 instead of $2000. Depending on material choices, you would probably end up with a cost of between $2000 and $4000 by the time you put the last coat of paint on it. Again, having not actually followed through I don't have a final bill of materials. I could have over-estimated the cost of something, or forgotten something else entirely.
But the point is the same. Is $2100 really that cheap, when compared to a $4000 stick-frame structure with comparable function, or is it only cheap when compared to a $40,000 house with a bathroom, kitchen, furnace, water heater, and appliances?
The cost to build a house is essentially per square foot. In my area, about $140 / square foot for decent quality. Not the best quality, but good enough. So a small house (1000 sq ft) costs about $140,000 to build, and a large house (4000 sq ft) costs about $560,000 to build. That's parts, labor, permits.
But if you're willing to build what amounts to a studio apartment, you can totally build it for next to nothing. The smallest standard set of plans I found online was 213 square feet. Even adding in the $2500 they're wanting for that one (most standard plans are around $500), that still gives you a price tag of $32,500, which gives you a $7500 margin between the estimated budget and the stated $40,000, for cost overruns and furnishings.
Of course, the point wasn't "You can build a house for $40,000, that's totally cheap", it was "Now, a $2100 dome is 20x cheaper than even a minimal house, which is fantastic, but it's nearly half the price of a $4000 stick-frame structure with identical functionality. Is that cheaper-enough to declare domes the way forward on price alone?"
But to the extent it's true, my theory is because most plants are by nature immobile. Sunlight is everywhere so moving much would be a waste of energy. So plants grow, shrink, open, close, turn, hibernate, but they can not move to a more sheltered location. They must stay where their roots are and face whatever hostile conditions they might encounter (winds, cold, snow, rain, predators, etc.). Mobile, food-hunting animals, on the other hand tend to have fewer natural defenses against harsh environmental conditions and predators. So they rely on shelters (found or built) for protection instead. Mammals adapted to a particular type of harsh conditions are less likely to seek shelter from them. (eg American Bison, for example, are adapted to handle cold and snow.) Cold-blooded reptiles may use shelters but at times environment may compel them to leave the shelter in order to bask in the sun to increase their body temperature.
It's also partly a semantic issue. "Environment" tends to imply a background that contains mobile actors. Stationary plants thus are environment, moreso than animals.
This drastically brings down the costs.
There are still disadvantages, of course -- the inflexible shape and lack of large, flat, vertical surfaces is a problem for most applications -- but the dome is now so much cheaper that, in some niches, they're worth a second look. I can well imagine, for instance, mass-produced geodesic haybarns based on this design.
Have you considered applying aluminum foil to the outer shell with contact cement, to eliminate solar gain and plastic breakdown?
There isn't enough innovation in alternative housing. The cost of buying a house in the UK is astronomical. Even a flat-pack build is still very expensive although a fair bit cheaper than brick and mortar, but you still have to buy land and deal with regulatory policies with regards to construction.
I may come back to you personally for some more information at some point .
The biggest challenge in the UK for any kind of alternative construction is still the price of the land. Have you discovered any ways to overcome this challenge?
If I were you I would look about 40min or 1hr commute out by train for special situations (long term land minding, basic groundskeeping on estates for free accomodation, etc.) and/or try to ingratiate yourself with someone with significant landholdings who wouldn't mind carving off a portion to a friend at an agreeable price. Honestly though, why not just leave the UK? It's not really that exciting. France is far cheaper, you get brilliant food, and the people are less football thug slash coke-snortin' bankerish. If you really want to go to London, you can live in Brittany and get a ferry back now and then for not that much money.
That said. I do know someone with some land in France . Maybe I could have a chat with him!
Let me know if you have any ideas.
If it's cool with you, I'm going to build one of these to house homeless is Satoshi Forest (http://bitcoinmagazine.com/6939/seans-outpost-announces-sato...).
Seems like a rather elegant solution.
What I had in mind with the dome of plates was something that would almost stand out as a feature in the garden.
I guess an issue with the dome approach that'd need solving was making it fairly airtight so warm air and moisture would be retained.
Key question: do the ladies like it?
the dome looks nice but is stuff like this really a viable alternative for anyone other than a small well-off slice of the population? how does the cost of not having a kitchen compare to what you save in building materials?
Why wouldn't you build a log cabin instead of something like this?