When my younger (and only) brother was earning his first university degree (in Planning), he had to do a thesis. Mark’s topic was comparing the materials costs of a stick built (stud wall) Habitat for Humanity home, versus the same building as a post frame (or pole) building. The results were a savings in the building shell, above grade, of nearly $1000. This amounted to about a 3% savings on the entire cost of the project!
Why? Stick frame construction is designed for ease of construction, not practicality of materials usage. Many members are merely redundant. Ever notice the huge piles of wasted materials around a house under construction? It is not unusual to allow for a 10% overage in materials, in stick framing, just to cover waste and errors!
Notice I mentioned, “above grade”? Let’s take a look at what happens below grade in an average building, of say 40’ x 60’ with a frost line of 24”.
In stick frame construction a trench must be excavated in order to place footing forms. Depending upon digging conditions, allow $400 to $2000 plus the cost to move the equipment in. To construct the footing forms, figure two men can average about seven lineal feet per hour, so 57 man hours to set and pour. Add the cost of form material, stakes, 400’ of rebar and ties, plus 5 or so yards of premix. Before we even get as far as the foundation walls, it is easy to envision having spent four to five thousand dollars.
Concrete forms can be rented – plan on about $1 per square foot of form, plus delivery, pickup and the ties. Easily $1000. All these forms have to be placed, with rebar, and labor isn’t cheap. Plan on another couple thousand dollars. Eight more yards of premix. When it is all cured, labor to strip off and clean all of the forms, and then backfill.
In this example – if the footings and foundation can be done for $12,000, it was a bargain.
OK, I want you to just think about all those costs for a moment, or actually…. overnight. Come back tomorrow I will compare this stick building, to what the same building would cost using pole building construction. You may be surprised, so…stay tuned!