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Community and Q&A

Multipoint Space Frame Foundation for Unstable Soils and Floodplains

Scott Wilson | Posted in General Questions on

I found this company after reading about the types of foundation systems being used in the Arctic.

http://multipoint-foundations.com/

It’s designed to be used in areas that are subject to permafrost conditions and unstable soils, as well as in flood prone areas. Although I plan on building my cabin in the southern part of BC Canada I think that this system looks like an excellent solution for quickly building a stable, solid foundation. There is no excavating, no concrete, no form work and no heavy machinery needed and best of all the foundation system can be shipped to your site in boxes and assembled in one day using unskilled labor.

Has anyone used one before or have any thoughts or opinions?

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Replies

  1. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #1

    Scott,
    What is your site like? When I build here on Vancouver island I find the depth of my excavation is often determined by how much organic overburden has to be removed to get to bearing. It's an interesting product, but there is no way you can just set it up on most sites without removing existing vegetation and soil.

  2. Scott Wilson | | #2

    I am currently in discussions with them right now about the engineering requirements and installation layout for the space frame. They sent me some further information about the process and apparently because the design is very similar to those old Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes several support points in the foundation frame don't even have to be touching the ground and the whole system will remain solid and stable. It says that you don't even have to put down a gravel bed or install concrete blocks under the load points, just build it right on whatever ground you have. It can even go on sloping ground.

    My site has some slope with a few flat spots but I really like that I won't have to haul bags of concrete up to the site and pour piers by hand for a foundation. I'll let you know about any further developments when I get their quote.

  3. Scott Wilson | | #3

    From their website:

    MultiPoint avoids the need for site excavation, ground leveling, piling, concrete or masonry construction, seasonal re-leveling/re-stumping, and select & laminated timber beams. Other benefits include lower foundation costs and faster construction in many cases, no delays waiting for special equipment or materials, no damage to the environment by heavy equipment or alteration to the natural topography, and predictable and better long term structural performance.

    MultiPoint is designed to suit each building plan. MultiPoint is more easily installed than alternative foundations; a typical house foundation is assembled by 3 men in 1 day, using simple hand tools. The frame is delivered to site as a compact kit for hand assembly by local labor, or is shipped and unloading of pre-fab buildings.

    The Multipoint Foundation is clearly advantageous in the following conditions:
    •Soils subject to freeze: thaw cycles,
    •Wear or un-compacted soils,
    •Sloping sites and sites leveled by cut and fill (variable bearing strength)
    •Soils exhibiting large moisture content changes, (often seasonal),
    •Soils with varying bearing capacity e.g. expansive clays,
    •Sites prone to wind & water erosion,
    •Sensitive environmental regions supporting native flora & fauna,
    •Replacement of traditional pile and pier foundations where ground conditions are changing

  4. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #4

    Scott,
    It might be just the thing for a small cabin like you are proposing to build. That still leaves the problem of getting services up from the ground without freezing. Have you had any more ideas for that?

  5. Scott Wilson | | #5

    Malcolm, in reading about various methods of bringing utilities up from the ground without freezing I discovered that the best resource for information is to find out how they do it in the Arctic. Since most of their residential buildings have to be built up off the ground due to concerns of heat escaping through the foundation and melting the permafrost I figured that they would be the experts. I'm currently studying a research paper on how to build an insulated pipe chase to route the water and grey water through.

  6. Scott Wilson | | #6

    Here are some more drawings showing how the multipoint system adapts to soil conditions and compares the system to other methods of supporting buildings.

  7. Chris Harper | | #7

    I have a cabin partially on piers and getting underneath that section and checking for damage from squirrels or other rodents is important to me based on problems other people in the area are having.

    My main concern with this system would be if this were possible. But with that said I absolutely would have priced it if I had known about it. I hope you post more information as you get further into the process.

  8. Scott Wilson | | #9

    Chris, the usual height of the multipoint system is about 3 feet and can go much higher. I think it would be easy to move between the posts and cross bracing to access any part of the underside of a cabin.

  9. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    It looks as if Scott has chosen to start a new thread to discuss the freeze-protection aspect of his question.

    Here is the link to the new thread: Carapace Heat-Line freeze protection for off-grid water lines.

    -- Martin Holladay

  10. Scott Wilson | | #11

    Well, I've received engineered drawings for the foundation. It's going to cost about $13,500 Canadian for the full foundation (cabin and decks) plus shipping to the site. The company rep says I could place the foundation system right on undisturbed soil and assemble it with a couple of friends in about 6 hours. All the posts are adjustable so there's no need to do any leveling of the site or even build footing pads. On top of each post there will be a bracket to bolt the floor beams to and once they are in place I can start laying the SIP panel floor. A very easy, quick system for a DIYer to build ( especially out in the boonies).

  11. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #12

    Scott,
    I hope you return and post pictures of the completed foundation. It 's something I've never seen.

    Just a small caveat though: "Undisturbed soil" has a specific meaning. You still have to remove the organic layer on your site to reach it.

  12. Joshua Elliott | | #13

    Scott,

    Any updates on your experience with the multipoint system? I'm looking into it for a project and would love to know if you used the multipoint or some other method.

  13. Scott Wilson | | #14

    It is on order. I have had the opportunity to visit several building projects built in Vancouver Canada that used the multi-point system and had a chance to talk to one of the company representatives. The buildings in question were 4 story residential townhouses built for low income families. The foundations were assembled on site and each post rested on a pad that sat on the ground. No excavation, no pouring concrete. The crew built the entire foundation for 30 units in 2 days.

    I like how the system can be easily adjusted for changes in ground elevation. No worries about frost heave shifting piers or shallow foundations, and no digging out a full basement with all the drainage and waterproofing that entails. I'll keep you posted as things progress.

    1. Eli R | | #15

      Any updates? I tried looking for newer threads but hadn't seen anything. I've thought about how this would be in a much milder area in the southeastern US that could also work well with a regular crawlspace but provide the benefit of exact dimensions, DIY friendly, and not having to worry about foundation settling over time.

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