When planning the construction of your new dome home, best to consider this Planning Process and whether freezing temperatures could stop your kit assembly.  Do freezing temperatures occur in your area in November or December or January?  Once you know what cold weather dates you want to beat, calculate backwards and determine when your dome kit assembly needs to start.  If your freezing temperatures start in November then commence your kit assembly by mid September.   If your freezing temperatures start in December, then commence your kit assembly by mid October.

The Building industry moves slowly. We cannot stress enough the importance of starting your preparations early for all aspects of building. What you think may take two months can easily consume four or five months or more. To have any hope of beginning the actual construction on time you must at least double the time you think it will take to acquire blueprints, financing, building permits and contractors or subcontractors. Optimists should triple their expectations. Blueprints are usually the first step once your land has been acquired.

If you intend to begin building this fall, order your plans prior to May and accept delivery of your kit by August.

If you intend to begin building spring of 2017,  start the process by September of this year. Other expectant homeowners will be clogging the system during spring, so if you are the early bird they will be waiting behind you instead of vice versa.

Hummingbird in dome front yard.

Hummingbird enjoying spring time flowers. To accept delivery of your dome kit in the spring time, order your kit Nov – Feb.

 

18.17 second floor door & window P2260008

This dome owner completed his kit assembly before the cold, snow season occurred.

During the winter, he is living snug as a bug in his cozy, warm American Ingenuity Dome.

General Planning Timeline

Prior to purchasing Building Plans and an American Ingenuity Dome Building Kit,  assure you have answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the deed for your land have any restrictions on alternative housing such as domes?
  2. If there is a Home Owners Association governing your land, check with them and make sure you can build a dome.  Click on Association to learn more. 
  3. What is required from your building department to obtain a building permit….engineer seal, energy report, site map, survey, soil report, septic tank permit, well permit, etc.
  4. Ask your building department if there is a minimum size new house requirement.  Ask if they require a garage be built with the house. If so is there a minimum size garage requirement?
  5. Do you have your financing secured? Or will you build your dome with boot strap financing, meaning purchasing the dome kit and building as you have money?   Click on Financing Overview to learn more.
  6. Review 10 Steps to building an Aidome.
  7. Review Approx. Finished Price and determine which size dome fits your budget.

Owner builders can acquire their own building permit and do any of the work that they are capable of and that passes code.  To learn more about assembly click on Owner BuilderDome Kit Assembly and  Construction Overview.

ONE TO TWO YEARS OUT,  DETERMINE DOME SIZE, PURCHASE BUILDING PLANS AND PURCHASE LAND:

1. Determine Dome Size(s): because American Ingenuity’s dome kit is so reasonable in price, sometimes our clients forget that the major costs involved in building a home is the site preparation, utility hookups, permits and the interior finishing costs.

To determine the dome size, you need to estimate what it will cost to finish the dome. To view American Ingenuity’s stock plans which show square footage by floor and a to-scale ruler, click on Stock Plans and scroll down the page to the hyperlinks.

Reviewing the different floor plans will help you determine which size dome is the best size for you. To determine the approximate finished price, multiply that dome’s square footage times your area’s square footage construction cost.

  • If you do not know what a finished house costs per square foot to build in your area, contact a local builder or local real estate agent and ask them. To learn more about square footage costs click on Is the A.I. Dome Home cheaper to build than a regular stick built house?
  • For example if you chose a 2,000 sq.ft. dome and if the square footage cost is $100 for your area, then the estimated finished cost for your dome will be $200,000. Lenders tend to want 20% to 30%. So for a $200,000 house they will want $40,000 to $60,000 down. The lender will accept any equity you have in your land towards this down payment. If you cannot afford this down payment, then you may need to build a smaller dome first and later add a larger dome when you can afford it.
  • Figure Finances. Use American Ingenuity’s Financing Booklet for a financing overview.
  • Estimate Building Costs. The web site rsmeans sells Home Building Software for Owner Builders that assists in estimating your building costs.  For those who have never built a house we want to clarify that it is quite easy to make a mistake that will cost you $300 or more. The purchasing of Home Building Software can really help you get a handle on all your building costs and hopefully help eliminate estimating problems.
  • Decide on a floor plan. If you do not find a stock plan that fits your needs, American Ingenuity can modify a stock plan or design a custom plan from your sketches for a reasonable price.  Modified stock plans can take five weeks and custom designed plans can take 8 weeks to design from the date you place your plan order.  It all depends on what plan orders Ai has in queue when you place your plans order.
  • Call the Building Department and print out a list of what is required to obtain a building permit for a new Residential House….Engineer Sealed Building Plans? Energy Report? or just Building Plans?  Site map, survey, septic tank permit, well permit?  Are there impact fees?
  • Order building plans by returning the Plans Quote Form signed with payment in full for the building plans, the Energy Report and the Engineer seal if these two items are required by your building department. Request an exterior door and window chart from American Ingenuity so you can research your doors and windows.  If your building department requires an Energy Report, you can purchase this report thru Ai.  For Ai to complete your plans and Energy Report specific door and window info has to be provided to Ai.   Ai will email a questionaire that lists the info required. You do not need to purchase your doors and windows, but you must select them in order to give Ai specific heat transfer (U factor) and SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) info from the vendor spec sheets.

2. Prior to purchasing your land: Give Ai your parcel ID number and building department name and Ai will call the plans examiner, email generic dome plans, etc. and ask what is required to issue a permit on the dome and will the dome panel be accepted as is under the Alternative Materials and Methods Building Code Section.

Please contact your building department and see if there is a minimum size new house requirement.  Ask if they require a garage be built with the house. If so is there a minimum size garage requirement? Also ask the building department what the front, back and side set backs are. Decide if you want to drive around your dome to access the back yard. Determine the largest size dome(s) that you want to build on the property; this will determine the width of the property that you will need. For example if you decide you want a 40’ dome home linked to a 27’ two car garage you will need at least 77’ plus the side sets and drive around space. {40 + 27 + 10 (Link); + side set backs + drive around space}.

Prior to purchasing your land check out these items to assure you can build your dome and review our buying land info.:

  • Assure there is no Home Owner’s Association governing the land and restricting what can be built on it.
  • Assure there are no Deed Restrictions stopping you from building an alternative type home such as a  dome.
  • Assure there are no environmental (Flood Zone or Wetlands or running streams) or rare animal or plant species concerns for the property.
  • Ask if your area has impact fees…fees to pay for new roads, schools, fire stations.  In Florida the impact fees to obtain a building permit can be as much as $10,000 or more depending on the area.
  • Ask the building department if you would have to build your home on pilings and a platform. This can drive up your costs up $60,000 to $80,000 or more. For example one of our Buyer’s soil report showed the soil on the barrier island where she wanted to build required wooden pilings to be driven forty feet into the ground!  Due to water surge, the home had to be built 11-12 feet off the ground.  As a result her foundation design also had to include a grade level concrete beam to connect the pilings together, pile caps to connect the piles to the above ground concrete block columns and 11′ tall concrete block columns with concrete beam to tie the columns together an.
  • Determine if the ground contains rock that has to be blasted out before your foundation can be built. This would drive up your excavation costs.
  • Determine if your soil is clay.  If it is clay, a local company will need to be hired to complete a soils report which will determine your site preparation, footer depth, etc.  If you are constructing a basement, different fill will need to be brought in to back fill your basement.
  • Ask the building department if any fill has to be brought in before you can form your foundation. Or whether you have to build on pilings and a platform.  Usually the foundation has to be so many inches above the crown of the nearest road. For protection from flooding, the building department knows what height the ground needs to be under your foundation. If it is low lying ground, you might have to bring in four feet of fill or more. This could amount to several truck loads of fill. You want to know about this possible expense before you purchase the property.  To view information about possible foundations, Concrete Slab, Pilings, Basements, click on Foundations.

Purchase your land under the following conditions (see buying land doc for all items):

  • If you do not have city sewer, assure the soil will perk for your septic drain field.
  • If you do not have city water, assure that water can be found on the property. If you have to drill a well, how many feet did your neighbors have to go before they found water…..100 feet, 200 feet, 300 feet. How much does it cost per foot in your area to drill a well?
  • Electricity is accessible to your property. Sometimes your neighbors have to sign easements to get electricity brought to your property.
  • There are no environmental concerns (wet lands, flood zone) or plant or tree or animal concerns.
  • Call Zoning and find out zoning on the property.  Some zoning requires certain pitch roof and roof conformity. Also find out side setbacks and front and back setbacks to assure they do not stop you from building the size dome(s) you want.  
  • That you can build on it. If there is a spring or flowing water sometimes building departments determine how close you can build to water. This might cause the property to not have enough buildable space left on it.  Check with your building department to find out how close you can build next to water.

3. Building Plan Items:

  • Decide on a floor plan. If you do not find a stock plan that fits your needs, American Ingenuity can modify a stock plan or design a custom plan from your sketches for a reasonable price. Allow 5 weeks for modified plans and 8 weeks for custom plans.  To view stock plans by dome diameter size, click on Stock Plans.
  • Call the Building Department and ask what is required to obtain a building permit for a Residential House….Engineer Sealed Building Plans? Energy Report? or just Building Plans, Site Map, Survey, Septic Tank Permit, Well Permit, Soil report, etc?
  • Order building plans by returning the Plans Quote Form signed with a check in full for the building plans and the Energy Report and the Engineer seal if these two items are required by your building department. If an Energy Report is required, Ai will email a list of specific technical data that Ai requires on your exterior doors, windows, water heater, AC/furnace, etc. in order to fill out the report.

SIX MONTHS TO ONE YEAR OUT:

  • Obtain a survey of the site
  • Obtain contractor bids (see two months out) on the foundation and finished dome. If your contractor has never assembled an Ai Dome Kit Shell, ask him to hire the Kit Assembly Consultant to supervise his workers to get the kit assembled. Then the Contractor’s subs apply the second layer of seam concrete, apply the finish layer of concrete on the entryways and dormers, prime and paint the exterior, install plumbing, electrical, framing, doors and windows, complete the interior finishing and wallboard finishing, etc.
  • Layout building location and driveway on your site
  • Obtain a site map (ask at the building department for names of companies that perform this function)
  • Apply for financing. Click on Financing Overview to learn more.
  • Obtain an appraisal. Mortgage lenders require an appraisal to help them determine how much your property will be worth once your new home is completed. The appraiser will make a judgement as to the value of your completed dome based on many factors including:
    • Market value of the homesite based on zoning and sales value of comparable properties in the neighborhood
    • Improvements to the property such as fencing, ponds, docks, outbuildings, or extensive landscaping
    • Advancements available to the homesite such as sidewalks, drainage, streetlights, or fire hydrants
    • Type of construction
    • Square footage of living and utility areas
    • Luxury fixtures included in construction
    • Quality of construction
    • Marketability and sales price of the completed home and property if the lender must take possession

If possible obtain one appraisal that is acceptable to all the lenders you are considering. A single appraisal will save you time and the extra expense of duplicate appraisals. An appraisal from a designated professional appraiser, such as an SRA or MAI, will be the most comprehensive and most widely accepted, but may also be the most expensive.

It is also very important that you select the appraiser and spend whatever time it takes until you get someone who has a positive attitude about domes. After you have paid your money, you don’t want to find out that they are as resourceful as a square house. A pessimistic appraiser can kill the whole deal. Ask what they will do about comparables and assist them in locating unique houses in your area.  Ai knows of an appraiser who visited a 15 year old Aidome and completed an appraisal for Wells Fargo.  This appraiser allows us to give out his name and number for other appraisers to call him. 

Many appraisers find it difficult to establish a market value on a dome house. They may also believe that it is necessary to have a “comparable” sale of another dome in your area. Fannie Mae (see Secondary Mortgage Market” page 22), the nations largest source of home mortgage funds, gives special consideration to unique housing.  Mr. Kang at Wells Fargo allows for appraisals of conventional houses with similar square footage without requiring dome home comparables.

Be sure your appraiser is aware of the Fannie Mae “Selling Guide” manual concerning unique housing. Chapter 4, Section 401.01, pages 755 and 756 explains this.

Geodesic domes, etc. are eligible if both the appraiser and the underwriter (lender) determine there is sufficient information to develop a reliable estimate of market value. It is not necessary to have comparable sales of other domes if the appraiser is able to determine sound adjustments for the difference in the homes used for comparison; he can demonstrate the marketability of the dome based on older sales. Sales in competing neighborhoods or the existence (without a sale) of similar homes in the area, or any other reliable data.

FOUR TO SIX MONTHS OUT:

  • Order your Dome Building Kit by returning the Building Kit Order Form signed and include a personal check to equal a 30% to 40% deposit based on the building kit size. Click on Special discount to see the deposit amount.  If your dome has upgraded insulation, the deposit will be increased to cover the thicker insulation costs. 
  • Place deposit with Kit Assembly Specialist to secure him coming to your site. Research where the Consultant/Specialist will stay. 
  • Obtain septic tank permit or sewer hookup
  • Obtain building permit. Click on Building Permit to learn more.

THREE TO FOUR MONTHS OUT:

Find Subs by asking your neighbors, asking your local home building association or looking in the yellow pages under subcontractor listings:

  • For site clearing, look under the sub listing: grading, hauling, site preparation.
  • If you are drilling a well, look under the sub listing: drinking water, pump and tank sales/service
  • To find slab or basement construction sub, look under the sub listing: slab on grade, carpentry formwork, foundations, patios. (If you are in Florida we know of a slab sub that will travel any where in Florida forming up and getting the slab poured.  Plus this person will talk to your slab subcontractor to explain about installing dome slab.
  • If you are installing a septic tank and system, look under the sub listing: tank, drain fields and filter beds new installation.
  • For an electrical subcontractor look under: residential, new construction
  • For a plumbing subcontractor look under: residential, new construction
  • For obtaining temporary electric hookup, find out who sets posts, installs fusible switch and meter can. Ask an electrical contractor, a neighbor or the power company. Be prepared to act as soon as you receive your building permit.
  •  Hire the laborers & concrete workers who will assist the Kit Assembly Specialist with the dome shell assembly.
  • For interior framing of walls, steps and floors look for a building contractor or a framing subcontractor. Click on Choosing a Contractor and Subcontractors and Assemblers/Builders to learn more.

ONE TO TWO MONTHS OUT:

  • Construct foundation.
  • Coordinate the rental of a fork lift to unload the dome kit from the semi truck. Depending upon the size building kit you order, you will need two to three people to assist the fork lift driver in the unloading of the truck. Assure that the semi-truck has enough space to drive to your site and exit from the site. If there is not enough space at your site for the semi-truck to turn around, you will have to figure out where you can off load the kit and then transport the panels to the site using a trailer or “bob cat”.
  • Research which type of hoisting mechanism you will use when erecting the dome shell. Coordinate the rental of the hoisting mechanism.
  • Determine where the building kit will sit on your site.  Prior to winter, the kit can sit outside 2 to 3 months before assembly.
  • Write out directions to your site from the nearest interstate and email to American Ingenuity
  • Take delivery of your Building Kit. (Before the kit shipment, pay the balance due on your kit in the form of a cashiers check or bank check.)

ONE TO TWO MONTHS OUT:

  • If you are using the Kit Assembly Specialist, coordinate his arrival.
  • Confirm that the Kit Assembly Specialist has a place to stay.
  • Confirm the concrete workers are available to assist the Specialist
  • Order supplies for the shell assembly: bags of Portland cement, sand, mortar mixer, wheel barrows, hoisting mechanism. Once you have paid the deposit on the dome kit and signed Kit Order Forms, Ai will mail an Assembly Manual.  It includes a list of items needed at the job site for kit assembly.  (If International Buyer, list can be emailed as Manual is shipped in the container.)

Planning Overview:

The Building industry is not only behind the times, it moves slowly. We cannot stress enough the importance of starting your preparations early for all aspects of building. What you think may take two months can easily consume four or five months or more. To have any hope of beginning the actual construction on time you must at least double the time you think it will take to acquire blueprints, financing, building permits and contractors or subcontractors. Optimists should triple their expectations. Blueprints are usually the first step once your land has been acquired.

If you intend to begin building next summer start the process before the end of this year. Other expectant homeowners will be clogging the system next spring, so if you are the early bird they will be waiting behind you instead of vice versa.

Items to be aware of:

  • Some Building Departments require that blueprints be sealed or approved by one of their state architects or engineers prior to giving permits, which takes more time.
  • Some Building Departments require an Energy Report. The dome buyer provides Ai with techical data on the exterior doors and windows…..U factor and SHGC number, etc. that is utilized to fill out the Energy Report – which can take 2-3 weeks to obtain from your window and door supplier.
  • A survey and site map takes time.
  • Mortgage lenders can take more time.
  • Remember to allow time for having the land cleared, prepped, and ready for the foundation.
  • All permits pertaining to electrical, water, septic tanks, sewer hookups, driveway, and building will take time.
  • Review our Stock Floor Plan Booklet in the Planning Kit and decide what size dome is the best for you and your budget.
  • Purchase your land, so you can determine which direction you want your dome to face, etc.
  • Choose a stock floor plan for the size dome you prefer or have us modify a stock plan or design a custom plan based on your sketches.
  • Take your building plans and obtain your building permit, septic permit, etc.

Conventional mortgage lenders tend to be ultra conservative when considering a dome. Mortgage brokers or indirect sources for financing may be more flexible and quicker for you. Refinancing other property or acquiring loans for other sources may be easier while avoiding the restrictions and requirements of conventional construction loans. Another popular option is the pay-as-you-go method. Combined with partial financing, this can get you into your new dome. For a helpful, in depth look at financing read our Financing Your Dome booklet.

If you obtain financing through a bank, etc. they may require you to have a contractor whom will sign a contract as to what he will charge to totally finish your dome. We know of some independent subs, which can work for the contractor and assemble the dome kit. The contractor can best provide local laborers to work on the dome shell. The contractor can also hire conventional subs to do the interior framing, plumbing, electrical, flooring, etc.

Construction Loans are difficult to acquire. An appraiser takes the Building Plans and determines a value for the finished house and will also appraise your land.

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