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What are the true costs to build a super insulated structure.

Martin59802 | Posted in General Questions on

I would like to build something similar to the above link for $55 a sq ft or less yet daydreams and reality seem to clash in uncomfortable ways. At least this is what i am feeling today. The daydream is that I can build a passive solar home with double 2×4 cellulose insulated wall for $55 a sq ft with some decent features like rain screen siding, great flashing and a no maintenance exterior. The reality is that my number crunching brings totals to more then $100 a sq ft and that still doesn’t include cabinets or site work.

The Project would be in Stevensville MT where we experience about 8,000 heating degree days. Building codes are not an issue but time is critical because i am trying to make a sale able product. I think we are right about the national construction cost average with potentially a cheaper labor pool.

I suppose the real question is how do I value engineer the crap out of what should be a simple modern structure? Does anyone have thoughts on how to go about doing the above. I realize that you don’t have even half the information that you may need but I guess I am looking for cost saving ideas. A membrane roof instead of metal? No inside Trim? Even though that simple modern look is actually quit hard to get. What about TJI for studs rather then double 2×4 to get the thickness. This does leave some thermal bridges though. SIPS are out of the range.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. user-659915 | | #1

    * Where are you? Construction costs vary considrably across the US. So does the value calculus of e.g. double stud walls.
    * There's no such thing as a 'no maintenance' anything, at least not associated with a house.
    * Mostly, simple trim is less costly than no trim. To misquote Mies: 'Less is more trouble'.

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    If you build it yourself (free labor) and scrounge recycled or free materials, anything is possible... It just takes a very long time, and a jurisdiction without building codes.

  3. user-757117 | | #3

    Martin F,
    I agree with Martin H.
    If you are up to it, probably the single largest cost saving can come from building the house yourself.

    In general, simpler will cost less.
    Depending on your climate, consider omitting the rainscreen cladding.

  4. wjrobinson | | #4

    Get your glass for free somehow. You have lots of glass! Build all from raw materials. Buy a bandsaw mill and moulding machine and planer. Build your own cabinets and sinks. Hand dig the founadtion. Hand dig the well. My grandfather actually did all this. His well ended up being 100' deep. My grandmother pulled up the buckets of dirt nightly after my grandfather had worked 12 hours at the carpet mill.

    Good luck.

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