Building codes

  • I'm interested in using this method to build for clients. However my main question is, what do you do about building codes? It seems like many building codes would not work with this method. What have you done to work around that? How do you run your electrical and plumbing? Thanks !

  • Unconventional structures typically require a stamp of approval from an engineer or architect licensed in your county. This releases the county from liability. You'll have to check with your local building department for specifics. They may even recommend someone to you.

  • I am considering going through the process of permitting a dome structure in the county of Hawaii. Has anyone started this process or made any communications with the planning department? I will be looking into this and try to figure out what sort of hoops I will have to jump through to convince an engineer to sign off. I will update.

  • Major Contributor

    @pprentiss09 I’m really interested in how this goes for you.. I wonder if Melissa @yurts of Hawaii could point you in the right direction?

  • Little Dragon Tamer

    The effectual purpose of government oversight is to monitor and control the individual's actions, for the purported safety and general well-being of the masses. Most counties in the United States over the last few decades have adopted "national" and "international" building codes, thereby relinquishing what little independence and local responsibility the county did have. Trying to comply with these standardized building codes using non-standard building techniques and materials is impossible, by definition. Like the rest of the world that is oppressed and protected by such standardized codes, residents of such counties have five possible paths that I see for building non-standard residential structures:

    • Build your structure without putting any responsibility on the county (without informing them or attempting to get a permit)*, or
    • Work with a county or state recognized architect or engineer to have your building plans officially approved as a non-standard yet safe structure, or
    • Move to another location such as Scotland County, Missouri where there is no building department nor building inspectors, or
    • Work with or wait for the county to ratify a exception to the national/international cut and pasted building code that would include your building style,
    • Work with or wait for the International Code Council to officially incorporate new code that would include your building style.

    This list is in order of general feasibility from most to least.

    These are my personal views which are subject to change without notice and which do not necessarily represent the views of DomeGaia or it's other members.

    As a further note, we have only talked about building codes. Zoning codes are often an additional major hurdle for alternative builders because we tend to like multiple smaller structures instead of the standard single larger structure.

    *This does work in counties that demonstrate a don't ask - don't tell policy. The only thing that governments like as much as power is money, and they can be willing to trade one for the other. So, when the drone, satellite, or helicopter flies over and your property tax goes up because of that extra building they found on their infra-red imagery, don't contest, just pay cash. Your county assessor may not have a routine of comparing notes with the building department, because counties that want more money encourage folks to build, build, build through their "don't ask - don't tell" unwritten policies. Collecting taxes on unpermitted structures is a good deal for the county because a) it's money, and b) they don't assume the same liabilities as they would with permitted structures. While I've seen this done successfully by many empowered individuals, I have also seen it backfire resulting from dispute with neighbors. If anyone reports to the county that you have an unpermitted residential structure on your property then the county becomes legally responsible for the structure and have no choice except to permit or condemn it.

  • Little Dragon Tamer

    Here is DomeGaia's somewhat official statement on aircrete domes and building codes. I like that it is much more positive than my personal view.

    First, check with the local building regulations. Usually you can build unpermitted structures up to a certain size. In Hawaii you can build unpermitted up to 200 sqft on residential land, and 600 sqft on ag land.

    You may find that it's not a big deal to get your Aircrete structure permitted. People build unconventional permitted structures all the time. Typically a stamp from an engineer licensed in your area is required to release the county of any liability. Here in Hawaii the authorities only interfere if there is a complaint. You could go to your neighbors and show them your plans to build without a permit. If they are like most people, they'll want you to build one for them too!

    Unconventional structures, such as Aircrete domes, typically require a stamp of approval from an engineer or architect licensed in your county. This releases the county from liability. You'll have to check with your local building department for specifics. Your building department may even recommend an engineer or architect to you.

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