3rd Step – Check with your Building & Zoning Dept.    

About obtaining a building permit:  See below for our property checklist and zoning checklist which lists questions to ask to see if the round concrete Aidome can be built on the property you own or want to purchase:

Here is a pdf to read and print out for the  Property Checklist to build an Aidome

Here is a pdf to read and print out for the  Zoning Checklist to build an Aidome

  1. First call the building department that governs the property who will issue the building permit, show them our web site (photos of domes) and explain you are wanting to build a round concrete dome that has no shingles.  Can you obtain a building permit if you submit Building Plans and structural calculations sealed by an engineer licensed for your state?  If live in the Caribbean and not in USVI: will they accept a USVI engineer seal or a Florida seal (or do they require engineer licensed for your country) and their other required documents (energy report, site map, survey, electrical/plumbing/hvac diagrams, window and door specification sheets, etc.)?  Of course we understand during plans review a check list may come back of items to be revised. Ai and the engineer will make the changes at no cost with the buyer of the plans resubmitting the plans per the building department’s requests.
  2. Get all relevant questions answered that are in the property checklist document
  3. Second call the zoning department and give them the property’s tax ID number you are considering buying or own and ask the questions in the zoning checklist that are listed below.
  4. Once you have obtained approval from the building department (and if needed preapproval loan to build the concrete dome), then order the building plans. Once plans have been ordered, if there is a question as to if the dome can be build, if you provide Ai with the property address or tax ID number (for the property you own or are considering purchasing) and the name and telephone number of the building department which issues the building permit. Ai will contact the building department, email them sample set of dome building plans and find out if they will accept the prefab panel as is.  We will not start the design of your plans, until we have verified what is required to issue a permit on the Aidome.

If so the building plans, engineer seal and REScheck Energy Report can be purchased from Ai.  In Florida, California and Washington private companies complete the required Energy Report after Ai emails them wall dimensions and you provide specific exterior door and window info. During Plans Design Ai emails elevation views of each entryway and dormer showing the rough opening size area with recommended door and window sizes. 

On our web site file building permit, we list most frequently asked questions about obtaining a building permit.

BUYING LAND/PROPERTY CHECKLIST & ZONING CHECKLIST

FROM AMERICAN INGENUITY – AIDOMES

Here is a pdf to read and print out for the  Property Checklist to build an Aidome

Here is a pdf to read and print out for the  Zoning Checklist to build an Aidome

American Ingenuity (Ai) is happy that you are considering our Geodesic Dome Building Kit for your future home. You have made a big decision to build your dream home, and building with an alternative housing structure whose prefab panels come with 225 mph wind and F4 tornado warranty that saves 50% to 60% on heating and cooling over conventional house is a smart decision. Below please find information to determine when budgeting for your home, financing alternative housing, and most important buying land.  At the end of this document is a checklist for you to use when considering properties.

Please paste this link in your browser to read about the Planning Process:  http://aidomes.com/planning-process/

This document covers things to look for, and ask about when considering building a new home. You can build our dome kits on any type of terrain, or climate…on a standard slab, basement, and pilings or stem wall, etc. At the bottom is a checklist for your convenience.

DETERMINING NEW HOME BUDGET: Prior to purchasing your land or if you own property, first determine the overall budget you can afford for your new home, land and land development.  It is sometimes best to purchase a small piece of affordable land instead of large acreageWhen determining your budget don’t lose site of the fact that our kits are not complete homes (we sell just the prefab panels for shell). Although you dream about a 3,000 sq. ft. home (48′ kit) it may not be affordable.  A quick way to determine what size home you can afford is to look on real estate websites and do a search in the area you are looking to build in (keep in mind that those prices include agent fees). Look at recent builds (5 years or under not built within a subdivision), for the size home you want. As an example if a 1800 sq. ft. home (comparable to a 40′ diameter kit) is selling for $300,000 (after real estate agent fees) and you can afford only $200,000, you may not be able to afford to build that size home, and will need to downsize.

Then to get a rough estimate on the cost to build a home in the area of your choice please view this cost to build link on my website. We have listed there a website that can give you a clearer idea on cost to build in your desired area. When using that website, enter the parameters given by Ai (please note the estimate provided will be for a conventional home with a standard shingle roof not at Dome). We have a video on our website that will provide you a general idea of an Approximate Cost to Build a 40′ kit on a basement If you will need financing for your home please review our Financing section on my website and also read the Financing Booklet

 DO YOUR HOMEWORK:

Ai’s culture is to be open and honest with our clients, we are committed to assisting our clients through the many steps involved with building their dream home. One of the major steps is procuring land.

For clients looking for land or own land,

Since for many of our clients this is a first time experience there is a lot to ask about and know when you go looking for property. It is not as easy as seeing a listing on web based real estate sites or having the realtor show it to you. Do not assume that all properties being sold are buildable! It is the proverbial buyers beware!

Recently we have clients looking for land that have come across many roadblocks on the properties they like. With the housing market now going back to full swing many people are selling land that they purchased years ago. What has happened is that zoning and environmental requirements have changed. What may have previously been a buildable lot is no longer doable, or may not be desirable.

Below are a few important things to ask about and determine when looking at property.  Examples when available are also shown on next page.

 1. Is the land within a homeowner’s association? If so, are there architectural design restrictions, house size restrictions, garage requirements, limit on number of structures?

Ask to see HOA documents it is usually within the first few pages.

  • Ex: we had a client who purchased property, and planned to build a 48’ dome (average 2700 sq. ft) with a garage dome (800 sq. ft). Only to find out that the minimum house size required was 5,000 sq. ft. plus a garage, this was way out of their budget, they ended up having to sell the land and start the process all over again.
  • Ex: HOA requires house to have a cedar shingled roof.

2. When was the lot platted? What is it zoned? If the property was platted years ago, has the zoning requirements changed? Is the lot considered conforming or has it become a non-conforming lot? Non-conforming lots do not match current lot standards, and are usually grandfathered in so they can be built upon. They may have different set back requirements than conforming lots with the same type zoning, but generally require the same land percentage restrictions as current zoning (% of land that is buildable). You may find that although homes surrounding the lot are of a certain size, with new percentages your home would be much smaller than you desire. In addition there may be architectural restrictions, such as homes built need to follow a certain style as to roofs and exteriors.

  • Ex: Lot was zoned Agricultural/Residential (AR), it was platted in the 1980’s and is ¼ acre in size, homes surrounding the lot are larger homes (with over a 2,000 sq. ft. footprint). Current AR zoning is for 1 acre and above. The older lot fell under non-conforming, and the setbacks adjusted to the lot size. However, the AR zoning allows only 15% of the land be built upon. Based upon the size of the property the client could only have a home with a footprint of 1,550 sq. ft. This would not allow him to build a 45’ dome (footprint over 1489 sq. ft.) and a garage unless he builds a garage below his home.

 What are the required setbacks?  Will you be able to build the size home you and your family want and need (see above)   Ex: A lot that is 60’ wide and 100’ deep with 7.5’ side setbacks will limit you to a 40’ dome, with only two entryways (front and back of home).

  • Is the property in a high fire hazard area?  In some areas like California, where fires occur, building code requires water sprinklers inside the house.  This means a water source needs to be near to fill an onsite water tank.  Is there a city or county maintained road adjacent to the property which allows for fire truck turn-around? Check building code to find out the requirements when building in a fire hazard area.
  • Does the property use a septic system? If so what are the current setbacks from the septic field to house? To the well? To the water line? To the road? To your neighbor’s house, or well? To a body of water (i.e. lake, river, canal etc.)? This will determine the location of the system and where and if a home can be built on the lot.
    • Contact the Health or Environmental Department and have them review what the setbacks are for that property, and where the septic tank and drain field is for the properties adjacent to your property.
    • If they are close to your property line, ask what the set back is from the adjacent properties septic system and find out where a septic tank and drain field can be installed on your property.
    • Ask what size tank and drain field is required for the number of bedrooms or bathrooms you are planning on building. Find out if the soil will perk for the installation of a septic tank system (sometimes the health department has knowledge of perking in an area).
    • Ex: Here are two examples of property issues regarding septic setbacks:
      • Property platted in the 1980’s: houses on each side on lots equal in size to the lot for sale. Problem the county changed the setbacks on septic, the required setback from septic to house was 100’. (no exceptions from county), the lot was 103’ deep by 73’ wide. This lot is UNBUILDABLE!
      • Property platted in the 1960’s, houses on each side on lots equal to, larger or double lots. Property Is Lakefront. Lot is odd shaped approximately 100’x60’. Septic setback from lake is 75’ leaving only 25’ for septic tank, possibly less due to surrounding houses. This lot is iffy on buildability.

Wetlands? Are there wetlands on the property? If so, will you need to bring in fill to build? How much of area is buildable? Will you need to build upon a foundation other than slab?   Ex: Client has 40 acres of land much of which is wetlands. Of the 40 acres, he is only able to build upon less than one acre.   Ex: Clients land is on wetland, to build he needs to bring in fill that is three times the amount normally used in non-wetland properties.

Flood Zone: Is the property in a flood zone? What zone? And how will this affect you building your home?  Does the building department require a certain type foundation – elevated?

Soil: What type of soil does the property sit on? This will determine if the land will require special treatment or foundation. You can then determine if the added expense is within your budget, or if you will need to forgo on the property (If your foundation is other than a monolithic slab Ai needs to hire a local Florida engineer to calculate load and give Ai design details).  This requires a Soil Report, which contains foundation recommendations for that type soil.)  If there is no soil report, Ai designs the foundation for 1,500 psf soil which is a 6” thick slab and 20”x20” footers versus 4” slab and 16”x20” footer for 2,000 psf soil.

    • Ex: Client bought land that contained high quantities of clay, this required expensive soil preparation and foundation type. They ended up selling the lot and bought another on which to build.
    • Ex: Clients land is in an area that has a frost line – (can be 24”, 36”, 48”, or more). To keep the footers below the frost line depth a stem wall was required.  A stem wall can be built with concrete blocks, Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF’s), or poured concrete.  Although this was an added expense, the client proceeded with the project since he was in love with the location.
    • Ex: Client bought land along the Atlantic shoreline. This land requires that the home be built upon pilings. The cost of building on pilings is very expensive ($100,000 to $150,000); this project is on hold until client can afford the foundation.
  • Access to maintained road: Many building departments will not issue a building permit for property that does not a butt a county/city maintained road. Find out if the property has access to a county maintained road.  Their logic is that the road needs to be maintained so a fire truck or ambulance can get to your residence if needed.
  •  Sinkholes: This is something you want to avoid at all costs. If it is known that sinkholes are prevalent in the area (you can google sinkhole map and your area i.e. sinkholes Brevard County Florida), has there been a geologic survey done? If not how much will it cost to have one done prior to purchase.    Several years ago, a sinkhole opened up beneath a home in the Tampa Florida area. This occurred quickly, and a resident of the home lost his life. His body was never recovered. More recently, a sinkhole occurred in San Antonio TX, an off duty sheriff was killed when her car tumbled into the fast occurring sinkhole.

 Below is a more detailed question list for you to follow.

If the building site is already owned by you,  use the below information to determine what will be needed to build on your property.  If purchasing land, and the information is not on the real estate listing sheet American Ingenuity highly recommends that prior to purchasing property obtain answers to the following:

  1. If not known: Call the Tax Collectors office that governs the various properties you are considering purchasing, to determine if the land falls within county or city boundaries. Who is the taxing authority for the property? Properties sometimes can be governed by different tax entities even when located close to each other.  Find out what the property tax rate are per each sq. ft. or assessed value per thousand for a house, per location.   Obtain an example of their property tax bill to see what all is on it. Comparing property tax rates from one city to another city or one county to another county may save you a lot of money on your annual property tax bills.
  2. If not known: Call the zoning department to find out what the zoning for the property is. If zoned residential Ai can email them an elevation view showing the dome with cupola roof pitch in degrees.  Sometimes zoning can also want the roof to have a traditional roof form and appearance. If roof form is one of their requirements, explain the roof is concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh that gets primed and painted light tan, light blue, light green, etc. and verify that they will allow a dome be built. See checklist list below.
  3. If not known: Impact fees: As an example in Florida, because there is no state income tax, government agencies get revenue by assessing impact fees. They figure new construction, brings more cars on the road, greater need for fire trucks, schools, etc.  As a result, they assess impact fees based on the square footage of the house.  What are the impact fees on that piece of property?  Impact Fees can be $5,000 to $20,000. Due to the recession, some cities and counties are waiving some or all of the impact fees, if the fees are waived when will they be going back into effect.
  4. Check the deed for any architectural restrictions (want the house to have shingles or be brick, etc.) or minimum new size house square footage, etc.
  5. Call the building department and obtain a list of what is required to obtain a building permit;
    • Will they accept buildng plans sealed by an engineer licensed for your state?
    • Site plan? Survey?  Fire Sprinklers are required in California.
    • What date do you have to receive your Certificate of Occupancy (CO) before impact fees will be assessed?
    • If you purchase a property, which has already been developed, that has a mobile home that will be removed or older building that will be torn down, are you still assessed impact fees to build your new home or are you exempt?
  1. Any Building permit application fees?  Once you get a permit, how long is the permit good for, can you get extensions on your building permit?
  2. Can you get electric to your property or does a neighbor have to sign an easement so you can connect electric? What is the cost to access closest electric poles?  Contact the local electric company for information.
  3. If you do not have city water available to hook up, what does it cost to drill a well? What is the fee for city water hookup (if available)?  What is set back from well to septic system and to house?
  4. Driveway, how long will the driveway need to be, culvert size and how much fill and rock will be needed to make it drivable?
  5. Contact the Natural Resources department – for that city and county.
    • Endangered plant and animal listing –determine if there are any on the perspective properties.
    • Are there any running streams on the property? If so, what are the setbacks as to how close you can build to the stream and how close a septic can be to a stream?
    • Flood plan maps, and make sure your property is high and dry.
    • * If your property is in a Flood Plain, the finished floor elevation has to be stated on your building plans.
    • * Call F.E.M.A. or local government offices to find out what the finished floor height has to be. This height will determine how much fill has to be brought in and the type foundation that has to be built; slab, pilings, stem wall, above ground concrete columns, etc.
    • * Are there any wet lands on your property?You may not be allowed to build on wetlands.  If you are determined to build on that property, talk to local gov’t natural resource department who handles wetlands. Land mitigation may be available.
    • Perk Test for Septic System if city or county water not available. Assure the soil will perk for a septic system. See above about calling the Health Department.
    • Soil – For standard foundation, Ai requires the soil be compacted to 98% density for a minimum of 2,000 PSF of bearing pressure. Compaction can be less if slab is thicker and footer enlarged.
      • Does any fill need to be brought in before foundation is installed, if so what height will the fill need to be? (foundations usually have to be built so many inches above the crown of the nearest county or city maintained road)
      • What type of soil? Clay soil is the most difficult to build on as it absorbs water and expands.  In the foundation area, the clay soil may need to be removed and replaced with a mixture of gravel and soil. Your building department will know what you need to do if you have clay soil. If you are building on a basement or columns or pilings, Ai needs to hire a local engineer to calculate load & provide design details. The Engineer requires a Geotechnical Study (soil report) which recommends the type foundations which can be built on that type soil.  Usually the soil criteria is – Soil compacted to 98% density for a minimum of 2,000 pounds per sq. ft. (p.s.f.) of load bearing pressure.  If there is no soil report then we design the slab and footer for 1,500 psf soil.
    • Zoning department: to determine if there are restrictions; e.
      • Minimum home size requirement?
      • If garage is required – minimum size – attached, detached?
      • If homeowner associations – get name. Contact asso. for covenants & restrictions
      • Setbacks front, rear, sides. If corner lot can be another set back. (which will determine the maximum size home you can put upon the lot) (Health Department determines setbacks from septic or well.)
      • What percentage of property can be covered with structures?
      • Height restrictions?
      • Accessibility to the land…is there a county maintained road to the property?
      • Zoning on property requiring certain roof pitch and requiring traditional roof appearance?
      • Is property in Flood zone? Are there wetlands?
      • LAND AND ARCHITECTURAL RESTRICTIONS: Over the last seventy plus years, it has become common for developers to buy up large tracks of land, plat it out and resell the individual lots to perspective homeowners. By doing so, they created subdivisions. These subdivisions may, by additional entities of a Homeowners Associations/ Property Owners Associations or Planned Unit Developments. All of these entities may have restrictions on size, style and materials for homes to be built within the subdivision. Before you buy your land, view the MLS MLS listing will show if the property is within a subdivision, HOA, POA or PUD. If there is, ask to review the governing documents to see what restrictions may be in place. Documents for the above are registered in the state located. If the agent or landowner is unable to provide you with the document, contact the Clerk of Courts for the county where the property is located. They will have on file documents that pertain to the subdivision. These documents are generally free to review; there may be a small fee to get a copy.
      • SUBDIVISONS: You may find a property that although not governed by a homeowners association, property-owners association or Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) may still be within a Subdivision. Subdivisions are land that has been plotted by a developer, and have legal documents that have been submitted to the state. These documents cover RESTRICTIONS AND COVENANTS pertaining to the subdivision and contain information on what can or cannot be built upon the property (type of structure, rooflines, materials etc.). It also may contain the minimum/maximum size home that you can erect on the property.  Review the document and look for above restrictions, also look to see if you will need to contact the developer or agent to get approval for your home. Keep in mind that if the subdivision is older this may not be possible.  If so, and there is no restriction on the style of home or materials to be used listed within the document (other than size), as long as you receive an okay from the building department there should be no issue with building one of our dome kits..
      • PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT (PUD), is a type of building development and also a regulatory process. It may cover multiple Subdivisions. Meaning that there are covenants and bylaws regarding what can and cannot be built regarding size, style and materials. As a building development, it is a designed grouping of both varied and compatible land uses, such as housing, recreation, commercial centers, and industrial parks, all within one contained development or subdivision. Generally, there are building restrictions within a PUD although not as stringent as a HOA. As an example may require that all structures on property have the same style of architecture, so if a structure is Colonial in style any additional structures must also be in Colonial style. Documents will state if you need approval to build, if so get any approval in writing.
      • HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION In the United States, a homeowner association (or homeowners association) (HOA) is a corporation formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling of homes and lots in a residential subdivision. Elected board members govern HOA’s. Generally, there are building restrictions within a HOA, and HOA’s are usually the most restrictive. Within a HOA will be limitations on size, style and finishing materials. These restrictions may exceed the restrictions listed within the subdivision documents and PUD documents. Documents will state if you need approval to build. If granted approval, get it in writing so subsequent boards cannot reverse the approval.
      • PROPERTY OWNER ASSOCIATION: POA members may be residential homeowners, but they might also be property managers or business owners who contribute to the real estate industry. POAs do not necessarily have regulations the way HOAs do. Instead, their purpose is to support the local real estate industry and provide members with networking and education opportunities. Generally not part of building process in terms of what can be built.
      • Access to maintained road: Many building departments will not issue a building permit for property that does not a butt a county/city maintained road. Find out if the property has access to a county maintained road. Their logic is that the road needs to be maintained so a fire truck or ambulance can get to your residence if needed.

The zoning questions are not listed here.  Please print out the pdf above named Zoning Checklist to see the Zoning questions.   To print out the Property Checklist or can be called buying land checklist see the Property Checklist pdf at the top of this post.