The ABODE magazine article prompted lots of interest from many quarters. We have been particularly intrigued lately by some of the uses folks are considering for the OLU. An office for an organic nursery. A master bedroom to be added to a traditional house. Classrooms for a private school connected by decks that become outdoor rooms. Keep thinking folks! We love these ideas.
Here's a nice article in the March, 2016 edition of ABODE
Alejandro Arevena, the winner of this year's Pritzker Prize articulates one of the ideas that drove the development of the OLU:
“We transform the lack of resources into a principle of incrementality,” Mr. Aravena said. “Let’s do now what is more difficult. Let families take care of the rest through their own means.”
Link to New York Times article here.
I'm interested to know how people feel about this idea. The product we have out there currently is a kit that provides everything for an energy-efficient, sturdy and unique structure - building panels, windows and doors, roofing, siding, loft. We are leaving the interior finishes and the exterior painting to the buyer to allow people to add their own personalities and/or make more economical or more luxurious choices. But are people really willing to do this or do they want a complete package? Please discuss on our facebook page.
Here's an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how to get good design for less money. Interesting that the per-square-foot prices are mostly way above what the finished cost of the OLU will be for most folks.
Here are recent articles about the house kit.
the first appeared in the Amherst New Era Progress and the Lynchburg News and Advance.
"For years, Craig Pleasants has created sculptures that were “architectural in scale.” Now, he aims to capture a piece of the tiny house movement by selling home-building kits for small, octagonal homes...."
the second one is from Midcentury/Modern, and online journal about following Boomers into their third act.
".......Sell the big house, buy an undeveloped lot somewhere and then order a 450-square foot octagonal house kit from Virginia artist Craig Pleasants for $34,000. All in—land, kit and contractor—you could theoretically quit the rat race for as little as $100,000...."
Thanks to everyone who has expressed interest in the OLU kit house. There are a few questions that have been asked that these faqs will address.
What is the cost? We are currently selling the kit for $34,000. This price may fluctuate in the future, but once you sign a contract, the price is firm. See THE KIT for information about what is included.
What are the dimensions of the house? The house is about twenty feet across. Each wall is 8 feet. The total living space is 450 square feet on two levels; 300 on the main level and 150 on the next level, which is in the form of a mezzanine or loft that covers the front half of the house and overlooks the back half. This provides a cathedral ceiling over half the space making it much more airy.
Where are the kitchen and bathroom? In short: the kitchen would be at the double windows you see above and the next wall over, providing 15 feet of counter space. The bathroom would best be upstairs just above this. We will provide suggestions on where these will be more precisely in the plans and instructions. However, any buyer can re-arrange the interior space to fit their own needs. An art studio might not need a bathroom, for example.
How will it be heated and cooled? This will be up to the owner, but we are suggesting a 9,000 or 12,000 BTU mini-split. These are very popular in Europe and Japan and their efficiency is making them catch on in the US. So far this winter, the prototype, at the foot of the Virginia Blue Ridge, has been heated with a single 110 volt plug-in oil-filled radiator that you can buy anywhere for barely more than $100. and it has been amazingly comfy. There is lots of passive solar heat gain. The door and windows you see above are facing South. There is even more glass on the other side and that side could also be oriented to the South.
What is the R-value? The panels arestell and expanded polystyrene 5 1/2 inches thick. It is an effective R-value of 33. For more information, we suggest you visit the web site of the panel manufacturer Thermasteel. www.thermasteelcorp.com. They have lots of specs about energy-efficiency, loads, wind-loads, seismic tests, and lots more.
Do I need a special building permit? In our rural county of Virginia, we did not. A regular permit was all that was required. Some counties may have size restrictions. Check with your building official. These panels have been used for 30 years in most of the states and many foreign countries.
How do I access the second level? We are suggesting several options depending upon your planned use for the house: A regular staircase, a spiral stair, a pull-down attic stair, or a ladder if you plan to use it just for storage, as with a painter's studio, for example. The owner will make that determination, but we will offer suggested placements.
The Octagonal Living Unit was designed and engineered to make creating a small house as easy and affordable as possible. The SIPS panels we chose were selected because they can be produced with the correct corners and roof slope and door and window openings already cut. The complications of producing an octagonal structure are thus greatly simplified, the panels merely need to be screwed together with self-tapping screws.
The prototype was built primarily by just two people. The plan was to have two 20-something young women (my daughters) construct it, that is how easy we hoped it would be. The daughters did pitch in, carry panels, screw some of the screws, level some of the panels, but the scope was larger than 2 young women with no construction experience could handle.... Surprise!!
On the other hand, it was perfectly manageable for a 60-year-old sculptor and a 57-year-old carpenter. The panels weigh about 50 pounds. A 27-year-old carpenter's assistant who helped us for a couple of days could pick up and carry panels by himself. For two people the panels are a breeze.
Can you do it?
Are you reasonably capable? Are you comfortable spending the time and research it takes to serve as your own contractor? Have you worked in construction or are you able to hire experienced help that is either stronger or more skilled than you are? Are you willing to sweat? If the answer is yes, then you can do it yourself.
The primary skills needed are the ability to keep things plumb and level, the ability to drive screws into steel studs with an impact driver or similar tool, patience, and attentiveness. The ability to read and follow simple directions is a big plus, the house kit will come with a full set of illustrated instructions. While this panel system is not the norm of the construction industry (spruce 2 x 4s and plywood), it does use many of the same size standards (4 x 8 panels, studs 16 inches on center, 5 1/2 inch thick walls, etc.) The carpenter we hired to help with the prototype had never seen these SIPS panels before, yet he had no problem adapting his skills to the construction of this house.
If you think you will need to hire help, relax, the panels for this house are the structure, the insulation and the vapor barrier all in one. And these panels will come pre-cut so that they simply need to be screwed together. This means that the labor costs will be considerably lower than the labor for a conventional house. The entire kit for the prototype was put together in 300 man-hours, over half of which were unpaid. Even if you hire a carpenter or a crew, or a general contractor, you should save money on labor costs over traditional construction.
The house comes with panels, windows, doors, siding, and roofing.
What will you need to provide?
You will need to have a foundation or a cement pad (we provide the specs for it), you will need to hire out the wiring and the plumbing, and you will need to do the drywall or other interior surface and put in the fixtures and appliances you want. The lumber components for the roof structure and the sleeping loft will come un-cut so they can be adjusted precisely on-site, which will actually save time and labor costs in the long run.