Permits and Professional engineering Required

  • Hello I am in Austin, TX and considering building one of these. I a may even want to host a workshop out here.

    But I am bit confused on permitting and engineering. I have done research on what permits I need to build her in the city , but I want to know what extra hurdles I will have because this is a new type of home. I have checked and am aware of all the STANDARD permits and inspections so don't need to go over that. I am just looking for TYPICAL roadblocks..

    So far I am guessing some blocks may be:

    1. Community or Homeowners association Rules / (minimum sq. footage to build)
    2. If a professional engineer signs off on the plans, is that usually good enough for the city? (Can we transfer the sign off from Domegaia's engineers?) Do they need to do their own testing?
    3. Impervious/Pervious ground Cover and setbacks on land
    4. FireMarshall Rules?
      Anything else??

    I know that in the county it would be easier, but found a couple small pieces of property in the city limits that work well.


  • Major Contributor

    I built a concrete house a few years back following the stablished rules of the county where I was living so maybe I can help a little bit. I dont recommend a HOA, for any type of building, even for a regular one, but they would be the firsts you should consult if you already went to an engineer. They can impose you limits and that would be the first step before putting any money towards land. You said that you already checked all the standard permits in your area, but that would be for a regular house, not aircrete and not a dome. As far as I know, there are no engineering standards for the type of celular concrete that Domegaia does. A regular concrete house uses concrete block that it is manufactured to certain standards and will be readily approved by an engineer. You would have to somehow fabricate several celular concrete block and send them to the engineering firm you are using, so they perform strengh tests and give some numbers and see if they are good for your county regulations. Regulations change by state/county. Any plan that you get or make, even if it have been use before thousands of times, would have to be analyzed and signed by YOUR local county and state approved civil or structural engineer for your location and property. Your county might have also additional inspections required by a county inspector beside an engineer, and other counties accept the engineer signature as final. There might be necessary soil tests to decide if your land can support a concrete foundation and also a percolation test if you are going to put a septic tank instead of connecting to the city waste water plumbing. An engineer will not usually "test " your design. He will apply the engineering standard imposed by your county to whatever you bring him, and will tell you if it can be approved like that or need changes. To give you an example, I have a co-worker that built a concrete house in Texas, and by some snafu of the county, after being initially approved and built the house, he said that his permits were denied later and he was charged with doing an ilegal building. Monolithic Domes in Texas have available engineers that have approved plans, but they use a different method of construction which is not my favorite because they want to charge too much for a plastic inflatable dome to use as a mold. But , their engineers might be able to design or redesign domegaia plans to your county rules. There is no typical roadblocks. every construction will have its own roadblock based on thousand of variables that you will only get to when you start building, even for a regular house. For example, I had people at the building site waiting for a big concrete pour of both colums and ceiling, and when the concrete came and the engineerig tech did the test, the concrete did not pass and I had to dispatch them back. Those kind of things are unexpected, and then you have a very anxious crew of people wanting to finish and go home, and have to deal with the concrete company to send the correct ratio concrete. That is just one upon thousands of "typical" real roadblocks that I had. I could write several books of all the shortcomings that happen at the moment and I was not expecting. Getting informed about your particular design, regarding your county regulations is the first step, and then finding what type of engineer or inspector will approve your plan and IF he would approve it. If I knew all I know now, I will have probably saved 30% of money or more. It took me a year of planning, getting permits, etc, before actually starting building , so make your careful homework, get your local regulations and the approval authority person and plan ahead and you will save a lot of money and headaches. Good luck.

  • Joe, WOW, thank you kindly for your, deep, thoughtful and insightful post. I knew it was going to be bad, but not that bad! :0 You should write a book.k

    So from the top down, I will start with an engineer who can lead the way a little, maybe someone who has done domes in my city/county.

    In the meantime, I will bark around the HOA for limitations, but the nice thing is I am trying to fit inside the Accesory Dwelling Unit, which is small by nature.

    If am in the city, does the city have a approve the plans in addition to the county and state engineers?

    Are you building a Dome home? Holla if you need help with your website. In fact, you can use my easy Website builder for free in return for your help.


  • Major Contributor

    I would not specifically know if your particular area is ruled by the county or city engineers. My best guess punching at the air would be that the particular city nieghboorhood you are will have a ruling body over this matters.Mostly if you are in the city, their offices will mimic and comply the state laws. If there is no county or city codes, then the state code should rule over everything. Again, when you go to a local engineering firm in your area they will properly tell you what would apply. If your project is only going to be approved by an engineer at the end, then you have more price options because every engineering firm charges differently. In my case it was as low as 800 for complete approved plans, up to some firms that wanted 6 to 10 percent of the finished project total cost or expected valuation cost. I paid about 1500 for the finished, approved and engineer signed plans and 800 for the 8 inspections required, which all could be done by the engineer, and the county had to abide by whatever the engineer approved. In some states, the county will still send their own inspector, because they want to charge you for it, but there is nothing to be done if that is your case. To have no problems, you should at least design and engineer to the minimun requirements of your area. I went overboard and asked for 4000 psi for concrete(minimum was 2500 psi), as an example. There is no problem in making it safer. The problem is when you do it less safe and the inspector just does not approve it and you lose your money and effort. For any dome structure like this I recommend rebar as a reinforcement, because celular concrete have low tensile streght. A good idea that I have given here before but have not tried yet, although I am planning to, is to use celular concrete as the inner dome to hold the rebar, which ideally would be basalt rebar , that dont corrode, then put an inner layer of magnesium oxide concrete by the shotcrete method( which is stronger than normal concrete and allows for a thinner layer), And then a normal concrete mix layer in the outside and a good finishing polyerethane or vinil paint. I do plan to build a dome in the future, but in the way I just described and with engineered plans that fit my state. Also I plan to build in the country side with less restrictions if possible. No point in building an energy efficient structure and still be bound to the city laws about how I can energize or water my house. That would be a hold back for me. In Florida for example, a woman was forced to connect to the services based on an INTERNATIONAL LAW, not even a state law. That is the direction this country is going , sadly, and one that I plan to not follow the longest that I can avoid it. Thanks for the website offer , at the moment have no use for it but will consider it if I need in the future. When I do my method and get some engineered and tested examples I will share and post for the benefits of others.

    Check this page and all the links at the bottom. Each one is a PDF book. The main book itself is 3000+ pages long and have enough information for you to at least do 1 complete project. Share with others so they learn to be free. They also have some building sections that might help. Good luck.

  • I believe in most cases all that is needed is a stamp from an engineer licensed in your county.

  • Thank you again Joe! that is great top down info.

    I did talk to a local engineering firm, and he said since there is no precedence in the city of Ausin it will take 2 yrs or so to get it through in the city!

    He tried geting Hemp based walls approved, and it went in circles. He said it was impossible to get "sheer wind" rating that they wanted without building and testing it.

    He said hire an expediter, which I think would be a good idea. I look forward to talking and conversing again joe.

    @hajjargibran , would the Google sketchup drawing for sale be enough to get an approval from a licensed engineer, or do we need test from a lab on strength?


  • By the way @Joe , here is a great sheet to help you figure out the size and type of rebar (welding not allowed it says? :0 )

  • Major Contributor

    Thanks. Normally rebar is tied. I have not seen it being welded in approved plans. It is an engineering specification. The rebar I suggested is basalt rebar, which is mineral in a composite medium, so it can not be welded. But tying up along with the concrete should suffice. It is much more lighter than metal rebar, so handling should be easier. Hemp wall is a natural fiber and there will be no precedent as the strengh of the fiber will vary according to who manufactured or processed it. Now,. I think they are trying to gauge you becuse of your special requirement, because doing several blocks or even several columns (which you could do) and then testing them should give them approximate numbers to submit for strenght. It is good to shop around between engineering firms. Once you have engineering developed numbers by testing, the process of approval by the city should be the same as any other house. For example, when I built my house, the initial facade was going to be with angled walls in the front (like half a pentagon), in 2 sides of the house. The cost of everything almost doubled. After many engineers giving me prices one finally was honest and told me " the problem is not the construction method, it will take the same amount of time and materials as any other wall, it just looks different and expensive "--- so yes, you would get a lot of different companies giving you different prices just because it looks uncommon. A test for a compressive and tensile strenght should be no more than 70-100 dollars per 4 cylinders. Get different opinions and quotes from different firms. What may be a big problem for a firm that have not done it before may be a piece of cake for other. Usually when someone is selling you a service and start stretching it and adding additional services, (like an expediter) , you can expect that this will be the case for every step of the way, and you will pay much more each time they have to scratch themselves. Maybe there is some spot of land not in the city but not far from it that you will get less codes and regulations? Let me know how it goes.

  • Welded rebars are not permitted indeed, though mechanically pressed steel couplers sure are as far as I know. Tying up would be enough, but that's a way more reliable and durable method. There's a company called Hardman that uses rebar coupling systems in building, here you can take a look They make the component in Germany, so they're high-quality and environmentally friendly. I worked with them once and now I can't help recommending it.

  • @seanster just saw this post. How is it going?

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