Tag Archives: Building permit

Storage Barn to Dwelling

Storage Barn to Dwelling

Reader JD in FAIRPLAY writes:

“I have read over your blogs & my head is spinning. However, you obviously know your stuff. My question is this, do you have a trusted company or guy who can help me design & build a 30x60x16 RV garage that will meet the requirements of my county, Anderson County SC, to be converted into a human dwelling in the future? I own the land. There are no zoning issues as the property is unzoned & can be used for anything, providing the structure meets county guidelines. I currently have a permit from the county to construct a “storage barn” of these dimensions with concrete floor. However, I don’t want to proceed, only to find out later that what I want to do can’t be done due to an over site I made in the design, construction process. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.”

You will want to have your building engineered (as in engineer sealed plans specific to your building, on your site) for Risk Category II and R-3 (residential) occupancy.

Your new post frame building kit from Hansen Pole Buildings is designed for the average physically capable person, who can and will read and follow instructions, to successfully construct your own beautiful building shell (and most of our clients do DIY – saving tens of thousands of dollars). We’ve had clients ranging from septuagenarians to fathers bonding with their teenage daughters erect their own buildings, so chances are – you can as well!

pole building warrantyYour new building investment includes full multi-page 24” x 36” structural blueprints detailing the location and attachment of every piece (as well as suitable for obtaining Building Permits), the industry’s best, fully illustrated, step-by-step installation manual, and unlimited technical support from people who have actually built post frame buildings. Even better – it includes our industry leading Limited Lifetime Structural warranty!

Currently (and for the foreseeable future) there is a nationwide shortage of building erectors. Most high quality erectors are booked out into 2023. We would strongly encourage you to consider erecting your own building shell.

For those without the time or inclination, we have an extensive independent Builder Network covering the contiguous 48 states (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/find-a-builder/). We can assist you in getting erection labor pricing as well as introducing you to potential builders.

A CAUTION in regards to ANY erector: If an erector tells you they can begin quickly it is generally either a big red flag, or you are being price gouged. ALWAYS THOROUGHLY VET ANY CONTRACTOR https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/vetting-building-contractor/

Hardi-Plank Siding, Adding a Loft, and Blower Testing

Closing out the week with one more group of questions for the Pole Barn Guru. Today Mike answers questions about using Hardiplank on a pole building, the addition of a loft to an existing building, and performing a blower test for air leaks.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: We are going to purchase an older house with wood siding, but might end up replacing the siding with Hardiplank in the near future. I want to build a pole building for a workshop soon. Is it possible to use Hardiplank instead of steel siding on the pole building so that the pole building and the house look similar? MICHAEL in BLACKLICK

DEAR MICHAEL: A post frame building’s beauty is it can have any type of roofing and/or siding desired. We have provided numerous buildings with James Hardie brand or other equivalent cement based sidings, so this would not be an issue. Unless there is some sort of prohibitive covenant, you might consider using steel siding on your home. It will be your most durable and cost effective design solution.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have a 24×36 pole shop building and am considering building a 13×13 loft for storage on one corner of my shop. The girts are 2s6. My question is can I attach joist hangers directly to the girts for the flooring of the loft above or do I have to reinforce with 2×4 vertically spaced every 16 inches and hang the joist hangers from them? I plan on using 3/4 tongue and groove OSB flooring. CARLOS in CASTLE ROCK

DEAR CARLOS: No, you cannot hang your floor joists off from a wall girt.

You are doing a structural change to your shop – this requires a building permit. You should be consulting with an engineer who can examine your as built structure and determine what needs to be done to safely install a loft. For a space such as this your minimum design loading would be for light storage. Light storage requires a design live load of 125 psf (pounds per square foot). There is a good possibility your building’s wall columns do not have adequate area to support this type of load. Building stud walls is also probably not an answer – as your concrete slab is probably not thick enough to carry a wall with these loads.

Please do not just wing this – hiring an engineer is an inexpensive investment.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hi Mike. I’m getting close to start interior finishing and have a question for you. I am trying to get the house as tight as I can so I’ve built a blower door so that I can evacuate the house and look for air leaks. Obviously with the ridge and soffit vents, there’s no chance to de-pressurize the house at all. I have been thinking about drywalling the ceiling so I can separate the main living space and the vented attic. I think I can get the drywall pretty well air sealed then I can check for major air leaks while the walls are still open.

Is what I’m thinking a bad idea? I can’t really think of any good reason why not to do it and there would be a couple of benefits.

Thanks for all the help you and the rest of the Hansen team have been in this whole process. LONNIE in COLORADO SPRINGS

DEAR LONNIE: You have been a pleasure to work with and our team has been waiting anxiously for progress photos from you (hopefully you have lots of them to share).

Your idea is actually not only excellent but is recommended by Green Building Advisor’s editor. Please share your test results as it will be interesting to see what you find and points where increased sealing was needed.





Building Department Checklist 2020 Part II

Yesterday I covered seven of what I feel are 14 most important questions to ask your local building department.  This not only will smooth your way through permitting processes, but also ensures a solid and safe building structure.

Let’s talk about these last seven….

#8 What is accepted Allowable Soil Bearing Capacity?

This will be a value in psf (pounds per square foot). If in doubt, err to the side of caution. As a rough rule – easier soil to dig, weaker it will be in supporting a building. A new building will only be as solid as it’s foundation, and it’s foundation will be only as strong as soil it rests upon.

Some jurisdictions (most noticeably in California and Colorado) will require a soils (geotechnical) engineer to provide an engineered soil report, spelling out actual tested soil strength.  Other states may have requirements as well, so be sure to ask ahead of time.

#9  Is an engineered soils test required?

If so, get it done ahead of time.  Don’t wait. It’s easy to do and there are plenty of soil (geotechnical) engineers for hire.

#10 What is your Seismic Site Class (such as A, B, C, D, E or F)?

While rarely do potential seismic forces dictate design of a post frame building, there are instances where they can.  A high seismic potential, with high flat roof snow load and low wind load will be one case. Another case will be when you are considering a multiple story structure.

#11 Are wet-stamped engineer signed and sealed structural plans required to acquire a permit?

Some Building Department Officials will say no to this, yet during plans review process they request structural engineering calculations to prove design, or (worse yet) they make wholesale changes to plans, based upon how they think a post frame building should be constructed.

My recommendation – invest in fully engineered plans. It becomes an assurance a registered design professional has verified your building will meet Code mandated loading requirements. In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts for buildings designed by an engineer. It’s certainly worth asking your agent for one!

In some cases, Building Permits will be granted with only requiring engineer sealed truss drawings. We do not condone this practice, as it creates a false sense of security.

Are exterior finished (showing roofing and siding) elevations required with building plans? Will more than two sets of drawings be needed for permit submittal?

#12 Verify Building Risk Category.

Most buildings not frequently occupied by public (not a home, business or municipal building) represent a low hazard to human life in event of a failure and are ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Category I. This information can be found by Building Officials in IBC Table 1604.5 (not to be confused with Use and Occupancy classifications from IBC Chapter 3).

#13 In areas with cold winters, what is your frost depth?

All building columns or foundations must extend below frost line or be adequately perimeter insulated to prevent heave. In some areas, frost depths are as great as 100 inches!

#14 Does the Building Department have any unusual Building Code interpretations, amendments or prescriptive requirements for non-engineered buildings which could affect this building?

If so, get a copy from your building department for us, or anyone else who might be considered to be a provider for your building project.

Even though “the Code is The Code”, there are a plethora of local folks who think they have better ways or better ideas than the world’s smartest structural minds, who have actually written these Codes. And once again, I can’t stress enough: build only from plans sealed by a Registered Design Professional (architect or engineer). It will make life easier all around when it comes to getting your permit, even if you have been told seals are “not required”.

No one inside or outside of a permit office wants a construction process to be any more difficult or challenging than necessary.  Being armed with correct information (after doing homework of course) will be a solid towards your successful building!

Exciting Times for Post Frame Construction

Exciting Times for Post Frame Construction

Welcome to 2020!

My fifth decade of post frame buildings and I could not be more excited.

Pole Barn Guru Blog40 years ago today if you would have told me I was going to embark in an exciting career in post frame buildings I would have looked at you quizzically – and then asked what a post frame building was!

Now I realize 40 years is greater than a lifetime for many of you readers. Or, if you had arrived on this planet, you might have not yet been school aged even! A few of you may look upon me as being ancient. Trust me I know ancient –  probably 20 years ago my son (in all seriousness) asked me what it was like watching space aliens build the Great Pyramid!

 I have no qualms about being 62 years old – and am still excited to see what each new day will bring.

Well, back on task, if you would have told me a post frame building was a pole barn, at least I would have heard about them.

I had migrated from Northern Idaho to Oregon late summer of 1979, when home mortgage rates topped 10% and home loans were no longer available there due to a state mandated cap on interest rates. By January 1980, interest rate issues brought housing starts in Oregon to a screeching halt as well.

 My truss plant typically produced eight to 10 buildings worth of trusses a day. In January 1980 we had only four orders in an entire month! Not good – however there was a single common denominator among those four orders, they were all for pole barn trusses. I didn’t have the slightest idea what a pole barn really was, but it was time to find out. Long time pole barn builder George Evanovich allowed me to pick his brain and I was an apt student!

Frankly (knowing what I know now) these buildings were not very good. I suppose they do resemble some buildings I see people buy from their local lumberyards – a great price and not much else! At least I established quickly a firm policy of always supplying all materials to assemble a building. It might not have been much of a building, but it was all there.

Virtually every building 40 years ago was nothing more than a barn. Very few ever required building permits and if they did, engineer sealed truss drawings usually got a permit acquired!

Technology has changed our everyday lives. I grew up actually dialing a rotary phone! These same technologies allow us today to structurally design intricate post frame buildings for virtually any use – with walls up to 40 feet in height and three stories high (add 10 feet and another story for sprinklers).

True residential construction, not just a garage or shop out back, is becoming a driving growth force for post frame buildings. Today’s post frame homes (also known as barndominiums and shouses) are quickly becoming our business core. They can be erected quickly, even by DIYers, are more cost effective than any other Building Code conforming permanent structure and can meet exacting demands of energy efficiency.

Ready for your new building? Think no further than post frame construction. Call Hansen Buildings at 866-200-9657 and talk to a Building Designer today!

Building a Barndominium on an Existing Concrete Slab

Building a Barndominium on an Existing Concrete Slab

Whether a simple pole barn or an elaborate barndominium, shouse or post frame home, there are some challenges when it comes to constructing on an existing concrete slab on grade.

Reader NATHAN from PITTSFORD began this article when he wrote: 

“I have a 28x 80 foot pad. How hard would it be to build a pole barn house on the pad. It has a singlewide trailer on it now but want to build on this pad.”

While an existing concrete slab may be able to be integrated into a pole barn or barndominium as a floor, in most instances it will be inadequate to structurally support any structure, unless it has been specifically designed to do so in advance. In most cases, it will need to have been placed with a Building Permit and have had appropriate inspections by a Building Official.

Concrete slabs, such as Nathan’s, can be a resultant of several different circumstances. In his case, it appears to have been poured merely to park a manufactured home on it. Other times they have been poured with an idea of placing a future building upon, however without (in most cases) adequate structural considerations. I have run into more than one person who has an existing slab as a result of a previous building having burned down.

Usually I would avoid attempts to erect a structure on top of an existing slab unless I knew it to have been adequately designed and properly inspected, or knowing a Registered Professional Engineer had done a thorough inspection to determine adequacy.

If able to support a building, dry set anchors can be used to anchor columns in place (read about dry set brackets here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/12/dry-set-column-anchors/).

For flat slabs, without curbs or raised perimeter foundations, square holes for columns can be cut with a concrete saw to allow for holes to be augured and columns placed. Space between columns and saw cut edges can be later filled in with concrete.

A simple solution, for those who feel they must use their existing flat slab, is to build outside of slab edges. This allows for holes to be dug, without any need for concrete cutting.

Have an existing slab to be incorporated into a new post frame building? Please call 1(866)200-9657 and speak with a Building Designer today.

A Contractor for Your Barndominium Part II

A Contractor for Your Barndominium (Part II)

Liquidated Damages

For most people, you are financing your barndominium and have logistical issues prior to being able to occupy. Negotiate a hard date for project completion, using a start date based upon Building Permit approval. After this completion date, you will assess builder a monetary penalty for given time periods (daily, weekly or monthly). For some, loans need to be extended (fees), living arrangements changed (fees) and storage incurred. These fees should escalate over time. Don’t forget to add in extra for your time. Contract should spell out any mutually acceptable construction delays including “Acts of God.” Under no condition should you occupy any portion of your barndominium, prior to final completion.


For as little as a few hundred dollars, a legitimate contractor can acquire a performance bond (read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/07/contractor-bonding/) ensuring the contractor will complete the job according to your contract. If they fail to perform, this performance bond guarantees no money will be lost in bringing in another contractor to complete unfinished  work.

During Construction

Visit Your Site

Tend to your site often. Show up at least twice a week (if not daily). During your visit, take pictures, lots of pictures. Purchase a camera with a Date and Time Stamp. Identify areas, in picture, with some type of signage, “Master Bedroom from Door Entrance” would be an example. By your project end you should have hundreds of pictures of every phase. Get a thumb drive if needed. Be able to read your “Approved Drawings” as well as all Installation Instructions.

Site Conditions

I cannot stress this enough, it has been my experience the single biggest project quality indicator is organization. A good job site should seem organized. If your project site is disorganized, trashy, and cluttered, so is your project. This should be your indicator to take more pictures and notify the General Contractor this is unsatisfactory. Every sub-contractor should have a clause in their contract they should clean up their mess. It also means your General either doesn’t care, or is not holding their Subs accountable. If you do not want to be responsible for clean-up and hauling off trash, make certain to include that in the contract.

Under no Circumstances Provide Assistance.

An impulse to “help” or “get a job done” is natural. Remember once you touch something, or provide support in any way, you have some liability. Every trade should have all needed tools, power, and equipment for the job they are doing. They are supposedly Professionals.

Keep Meticulous Records

Keep every bill, every material delivery, and every correspondence. Always communicate in writing with the Contractor. If you have a phone call, back it up with at least an email summarizing your conversation and get a response. Never delete an email. You might want to set up a new account just for your project. Never, ever, take “their word” for anything. ANYTHING.

Hire an Architect to view your project at Framing. 

Have a Registered Architect do a “Site Visit” once framing is complete and before drywall. Not only will he/she look at structural components, but this is when to catch issues potentially causing future challenges. They should give you a written report regarding any deficiencies in quality per specifications in your contract, engineered building plans and assembly instructions. This is money well spent and will potentially save you thousands over your building’s life. Give this report to your Contractor and get a date by when these items will be corrected–in writing!


Drywall has two functions. Main function is fire resistance (not fireproof). A secondary function is architectural, as it is your interior finish base. In limited cases, it also provides shear capacity. In general drywall should be screwed at 7″ at the edges (minimum) and 12″ in the center. It should be 1/2″ (I prefer 5/8”) thick in most of your barndominium. With commercial bookshelf girts, drywall should be installed vertically (read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/09/11-reasons-post-frame-commercial-girted-walls-are-best-for-drywall/ ). Do not allow “mud” patches as they will eventually crack and fail.

Finish Work

This is more for aesthetics and functionality in your project. In construction, this is entirely up to you to get what you want and have paid for. Ensure instructions from suppliers are followed. Read them. Visit site daily at this phase. Take pictures!

See you tomorrow for Part III

Dear Building Officials

Dear Building Officials

I have met (either in person, via phone or technology) more than just a few Building Officials, Inspectors and Plans Examiners over my nearly four decades of post frame buildings. I have even been privileged to be a guest speaker for several groups of these fine folks, regarding Code conforming post frame construction. My expert opinion – collectively folks who work in Building Departments most genuinely go above and beyond their call of duty to assist building owners in building safe structures.

Several members of Building Departments are either subscribed followers of this column, or regular readers of it via Linkedin posts. These are most likely ones who are providing excellent service to those venturing into their offices.

My most recent two articles covered questions we require our clients to ask of their building officials in regards to pre-construction of a new post frame building. With these answers in hand, we can assure our contracted Registered Professional Engineers have data necessary to design, meet or exceed structural requirements.

Unfortunately, there does not exist a central clearinghouse database for structural design criteria by jurisdiction. For builders and RDPs (Registered Design Professionals) who provide services over more than just limited geographical areas, this would be a tremendous tool.

Now I do have a “hero” building department and will give them kudos here. Kittitas County (Washington) Community Development Services provides a parcel-by-parcel load analysis covering their minimum design requirements (https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/cds/building/cgdc-form.aspx).

Many building departments have posted climactic design requirements in their websites. When kept up to date, we find these to be quite handy. I would imagine RDPs appreciate availability of this information.

Recently, one of our clients in Wisconsin was facing a challenge – their Building Official would not provide them with minimum loading requirements for their proposed new building! Although rare, I have seen this occur before. In one instance, I had a Building Official refuse to provide accepted loading information. Instead they wanted us to submit engineer sealed plans and then they would tell us if what we had guessed for loading was correct or not!

Why this information was withheld baffles me. In some cases (especially where permits are issued without any sort of structural plan reviews) it could be a permit issuing authority just frankly does not know!

In my humble opinion, an expedient way to streamline permit acquisition processes would be to have readily available design criteria. For sake of public safety, I also feel all building plans not falling under prescriptive code requirements should be produced by a Registered Design Professional.

Getting Easement Permission in Writing

When All Things Apparently Go Wrong

Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer Rachel was contacted by one of her clients, who has had his building delivered and has begun erecting it. Client inquired about adding sheetrock to his building. As with many things, there existed a Paul Harvey (younger readers can Google Paul Harvey).

You can read client’s story, as related by Rachel:

Spoke with Sean to explain options he has.  Asked how things were going and he said bad….

Sean was putting his building up.  Posts in and he was just getting ready to cut purlins and get everything in order to knock this out.  One day an irrigation inspector came to check out a canal in his backyard and told him they have an easement encompassing his new building location.  He said county building department gave him a permit to build and irrigation inspector said they didn’t care, he couldn’t build there.   He spoke with county and they told him he should have known about easement.  He told them he specifically asked them about canal before submitting for a permit and they said there would be no issue.  He went to three permitting meetings where this had been brought up and they said there would be no issues.  County, even though he has never raised his voice, will no longer take his calls and said after this he would need to talk to his lawyers.

Reason for finding out about re-engineering – he may have to move building.  Building apparently lies eight feet onto easement.  If he moves it closer to his house they will require fire walls and he’s not sure what this would entail.  I advised him one wall (facing house) might be all he would need to sheetrock, but to get something in writing for what they would require.  He said he would for sure find out what they require.

He went out and bought tarps as he wants to keep his materials covered and out of elements.  Adding insult to injury, his neighbors are now complaining about a mess and one even called cops and said he didn’t have a permit.  Officer come to his place and accuses him of building without a permit – he (client) said he had a permit and it’s public knowledge.  Officer could have looked it up. 

This customer was very particular when I worked with him and I know he had lots of dealings with county building department where they first told him he wouldn’t even need a permit to build!.

A horrible example of things going wrong when you did everything right!

Like many of you gentle readers, when I have dealings with a professional, I expect their word to be accurate. Like Sean, I have relied upon one’s word, rather than getting things in writing. It came back to bite me.

In most instances, one cannot encroach onto an easement, this would be akin to building upon one’s neighbor’s property. With this in mind, when faced with an easement situation, get opinions in writing AND make sure you have appropriate permission documentation from easement grantee.

If in doubt, write it out.


A Tornado and a Pole Barn

Pole Barns and Tornados

(Excerpts from a July 21, 2018 Jeffersonville, Indiana News and Tribune article by Jenna Esarey are incorporated in this article)

“NEW MIDDLETOWN — With Bobcats, ATVs and chainsaws, many residents of New Middletown spent their Saturday cleaning up after an EF-1 tornado cut a swath through homes, barns and cornfields Friday afternoon.

The National Weather Service on Saturday confirmed that an EF-1 tornado, with winds of 105 miles per hour, hit the small community just southwest of Corydon in Harrison County around 2:16 Friday afternoon.

The worst of the damage was near New Middletown, though. Homes along Simler Road were buffeted by the tornado, however, most structural damage was to out buildings.

Just down the road, Danny Perry’s farm was severely damaged.

“I lost my barn, back side of my pole barn, the back of my roof and all of my fruit trees,” Danny Perry said.”

2018 International Building Code (IBC) shows for Indiana in Section 1609.3 a basic wind speed (Vult) of 107 mph (miles per hour) for Risk Category I buildings – these would be buildings unlikely to pose a risk to human life in event of a failure, or 114 mph for most other buildings (Risk Category II).

Given EF-1 tornado speed of 105 mph, there should have been minimal damage to any pole barn (post frame) buildings designed by a RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) and built according to sealed plans.

In order for this to occur, all jurisdictions should be conforming – requiring Building Permits for structures, RDP sealed plans in order to obtain a structural permit to build, and jobsite inspections to insure conformity to building plans.

Not only do many jurisdictions allow construction without RDP designed plans, but some do not even require building permits!

In this or other areas where buildings may be subject to higher wind speed tornados, building owners can opt for greater wind speeds than Code minimum (keep in mind minimum is LEAST). In many cases designing to withstand higher winds is a nominal investment, so why not?


Planning a New Post Frame Building?

Beware of Your Neighbors When Planning a New Post Frame Building
Even though your new post frame building may be entirely legal within the parameters established by your permit issuing authority, sharing planning with your neighbors might avoid upset neighbors and legal costs.

From a May 8, 2018 story by Mike McKnight at www.wowt.com:
“A dispute among property owners just west of Fremont has led to a court battle. Both sides are spending thousands of dollars on attorney fees.
Tensions are building between neighbors because of what’s being built by one on land next to the other’s. Dave Christensen said, “Come out and look at a building from your back yard every morning.”
Dave Christensen and Sandy Cadwallader share a home and dismay over their neighbor’s construction of 60 by 199 foot pole building. It’s 17 feet high and even higher on the base.
Cadwallader said, “It’s too close I can’t see anything out of my north windows, nothing because it will be too tall.”
Sandy has spent $6,000 in legal fees. That includes filing an injunction a judge took under advisement. But there’s no injunction order to legally stop construction.
The neighbor, Ron Vlach, declined an interview. He says he has city approved permits for what he claims is a noncommercial building to store collectibles and a few boats with no big increase in traffic on his lane. Vlach owns Victory Marine.
Vlach says he plans to build a berm around the building to protect the neighbor’s from drainage issues. However, unless a judge calls a halt to construction he’ll keep building.
Fremont changed its zoning rules just a few months ago which allowed the building. Though neighbors claim they didn’t know it the city administrator says there have been several public hearings on the change.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru comments:
Now I am not an attorney, but in my humble opinion any legal action taken by Christensen and Cadwaller against Vlach should be adjudged as a nuisance, thrown out of court and the judge should rule Vlach to be awarded attorney fees. The beef should be against the city of Fremont, not against the citizen who was merely following the rules.
Want to minimize or avoid these scenarios? If you are planning a new building which may at all incite a neighbor – discuss it with them in advance. Lay out your rationale clearly and concisely and listen to feedback from your neighbor which might allow for tense situations to be avoided.

Rare Desicion to Not Adopt New Building Code Causes Stir

Rare Decision to Not Adopt New Building Code Causes Stir

The following article by Brian Walker (in its entirety, without edits, appeared December 5, 2017 in the Coeur d’Alene Press). Tune in tomorrow for my commentary.

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County commissioners’ decision to not accept the most recent version of the International Building Code for new residential and commercial construction starting in 2018 puts the county in uncharted territory, said Chris Fillios, the lone board member who opposed the move.

“I’m not sure where this goes from here,” said Fillios, adding that cities and counties adopting the code is typically a routine housekeeping matter.

Community Development Director David Callahan and Fillios said the idea and corresponding vote on Thursday by fellow commissioner Marc Eberlein and Bob Bingham to not adopt the recent codes caught them by surprise.

“What made the decision newsworthy in my view was that the board has embarked on a new policy direction for the unincorporated areas of the county in which compliance with building codes will no longer be mandatory, but will instead be voluntary,” Callahan said.

The decision does not affect construction inside city limits.

Callahan said he’s been directed to develop a plan that would move the county toward the option of voluntary implementation of the building codes similar to Boise County — population 7,028, according to the last census.

That county, in which Idaho City is the county seat, requires that home builders or homeowner select one of two options. The options include a “Basic” building permit in which there are no building inspections or a certificate of occupancy (CO); or an “Upgrades” permit that includes inspections and a CO.

Eberlein supports the format because it gives residents a choice.

“Let people make their own decisions,” he said.

Eberlein said not adopting the recent building codes cuts bureaucracy. He calls the codes a “protection racket for special interest groups.”

“I didn’t go looking for this fight, but I can’t approve more bureaucracy,” Eberlein said. “If it wasn’t a protection racket, why wouldn’t you have a five-year warranty on your house (rather than a one-year warranty)? Having a building permit also doesn’t provide you with an absolute safeguard.”

Eberlein said he supports the choice option rather than doing away with building codes altogether like in Bonner County.

“I want sideboards (on the policy decision),” he said, adding that a Bonner commissioner is now interested in the choice option.

Eberlein said he believes it’s also unfair that a farmer in southern Idaho can claim the agriculture exemption to the building code when someone in North Idaho can’t on a pole barn.

The commissioner said he realizes that most residents, including himself, would want the “Upgrades” permit on their home or business, but many would prefer the “Basic” permit on some outbuildings.

Kootenai County commissioners’ decision means the code adopted in 2015 will be in effect until Dec. 31 and there will be no mandatory building code requirements after Jan. 1. However, state-mandated electrical, plumbing, mechanical and septic inspections will still be in place.

Although Eberlein would like to see Kootenai County follow Boise County’s format, the local board has not decided on specific options on future building permit applications.

Jeff Tyler, vice chairman of the North West Property Owners Alliance, supports the commissioners’ decision in the name of property rights and less cost and regulation.

“Having the government involved in building your home does not automatically mean peace of mind,” Tyler wrote in an online comment. “In the Boise Foothills, for instance, a half dozen homes are falling apart … due to unstable ground that the Idaho Geological Survey showed as unstable in previous inspections yet the subdivision was approved anyway.

“Local cities will most likely approve the new rules, but you can now build your home in the county the way you like.”

Tyler said among the new rules for 2018 would be an increase from a 40 pounds-per-square-foot snow load to 70, which would increase the cost for a home.

Bonner and Boundary counties are other counties that don’t have building code requirements.

Fillios, who has a background in real estate, said he did not see any reason to not adopt the codes.

“To not adopt them leads us down a potentially dangerous path,” he said.

Not adopting the codes could expose homeowners to shoddy construction, decrease property values and lead to lending issues if a certificate of occupancy is not issued, Fillios said.

“If you do away with the codes, there will always be people who cut corners,” Fillios said, adding he plans to do more research into the possible implications of the board’s decision.

“My concern is that this goes far beyond limiting regulation and an ideological argument,” he said, adding that he’s dealt with more substandard construction in Bonner County than Kootenai. “When we make decisions based on ideological grounds, my concern is that could fail to consider the repercussions.”

Fillios said comparing Kootenai County, a rapidly growing area, to rural Boise County is apples to oranges.

Tyler wrote that there are banks in Bonner and Boundary that will loan to approved builders and have bank inspectors visit the site.

“This is the way homes have been built and financed long before government intrusion,” he wrote.

Callahan said the commissioners’ decision didn’t rescind existing codes. The board just declined to adopt the most recent versions of the code, he said.

Commissioners will need to hold a public hearing to rescind the current codes, Callahan said.

“I can’t really predict the timeframe for any possible hearing to repeal the existing codes as we would presumably only do so once we have a plan in place for the voluntary implementation,” he said.

Callahan said he doesn’t know what the ramifications are, if any, for the county not adopting the new regulations by Jan. 1. He declined to comment further, citing the need to confer with a county attorney to understand the next steps.

Area cities are also in the process of considering updated building codes. Post Falls, which has experienced a lot of growth, will consider the codes tonight. Mayor Ron Jacobson said he expects them to be approved as usual.

“I’m all for less regulations and you don’t want government overreach, but you also have to have guidelines,” he said.

A message left with North Idaho Building Contractors Association leadership was not returned on Monday.


Minimum Wind And Snow Loads

Hansen Pole Buildings is a proud member of the NFBA (National Frame Building Association https://www.nfba.org). Pretty much every Monday the Association sends out a newsletter, via email, to its members.

In today’s newsletter was a link to an article written by Stephen Szoke and published in Construction Executive, May 5, “Building Codes: One Size Does Not Fit All”. (The entire article can be read here: https://enewsletters.constructionexec.com/managingyourbusiness/2015/05/building-codes-one-size-does-not-fit-all/).

International Building CodeI got a different takeaway than most people probably did from the article. In my humble opinion, the Building Codes themselves should be consistent, however local jurisdictions should establish their own minimum climactic loading requirements (snow and wind loads) – but not tamper with the Code itself. The Code is the product of the collective minds of some of the most brilliant engineers, designers and Building Officials on the planet – they have more than a small clue as to what they are doing.

With over 7,000 Building Permit issuing jurisdictions in the United States, if each of them even altered a few words (which is not uncommon) the resultant is RDPs (Registered Design Professionals – architects and engineers) pulling out their hair trying to meet local quirks.

Getting back on track – here is what truly struck me from the article: “The rise in property losses seems to correlate well with information about a cultural/societal trend reported at the 2014 Concrete Sustainability Conference by Michael D. Lepech, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He reported that business models with an emphasis on maximum return on investment have driven or even forced businesses toward least initial cost. In construction, this appears to have resulted in a trend toward minimum code, which is synonymous with least initial cost.

Clearly, one option is to wait for the cultural-societal pendulum to swing back toward more quality and value in lieu of least initial cost.” 

In layperson’s terms – too many buildings are designed penny wise and pound foolish. It makes absolutely no sense, at least in my head, to save a thousand dollars of initial investment, if the result is spending tens of thousands of dollars in repair and maintenance costs!

The Building Codes are for design to “minimum” standards. I know, for a fact, most pole builders and pole building kit suppliers are not going to ever discuss an increase in wind and snow loads beyond bare minimums. In many cases, due to lack of Code enforcement or exemptions from structural plan reviews – the bare minimums are not even being met!

How do I know this for a fact?

Because the great majority of other people who do something similar to what we do (I won’t even lift them up to the level of calling them competitors) don’t even list the design loads on their pole building quotes!


Don’t ever be shy about asking how much of an added investment it would be to increase the design wind and snow loads for your soon to be new building. I want you to have the last building standing in the event of a catastrophic event

Building Official Out on a Limb

Don’t get me wrong – in case I have not previously gotten my message across in earlier articles – I genuinely like Building Officials.

Most of them really do care, and go out of their way to help both do it yourselfers and building contractors. With very few exceptions, Building Officials, field inspectors and plans checkers are not registered design professionals (architects or engineers). It is when structural concerns arise, which can get them in over their heads. Going too far out on a limb without support can be dangerous.

I was contacted by one of our clients over the weekend, who is putting up his own building. The site is in the western United States, and in his particular case the design wind speed requirement is for 105 mph (miles per hour) with an Exposure C for wind (a site which is not protected from the wind). In the west, the lumber species of choice for treated timbers is generally Hem-Fir. It takes a pressure treatment well (albeit with the need to be incised) and is fairly plentiful.

Building Column OrientationThe building plans call out for the sidewall (double truss bearing) columns to be 6×8, with the six inch face oriented towards the sides of the building.

Columns in pole buildings must be able to support combined forces from bending (the wind) and compression (weight of the roof and any applicable snow loads). In most cases, the bending forces are going to be the majority of the issue.

The reason for the contact from the client was – he placed his posts with the wrong side towards the wind!

Now in construction, things happen…..it is solving the things which keep it interesting. And in pole buildings, I can’t think of a time a challenge didn’t have one or more solutions.

The client was told by his building official, “normally a 6×6 is sufficient” and he would sign off on the posts the wrong way, as long as we provided a letter stating so.

Our proprietary pole building design software gives the calculations for every component of the building. In this scenario, the columns needed to resist a ground line moment of 37,184 inch-pounds (for more on “moments” please read: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/09/bending-moment/).

Oriented properly, the 6×8 has a section modulus (Sm) of 51.563 inches. Sm is derived by squaring the depth of a member, multiplying by the width of the member, and then dividing by six. The calculations showed the columns, as designed, to be stressed to 98.4% of capacity.

Turn the column the wrong way, and the Sm is reduced to 37.82 inches and it is now overstressed by 34.2%!! Same timber. Wrong direction. Wrong answer.

BTW (by the way) – the Building Official’s 6×6 scenario would be overstressed by 83%!!

The client does have some options:

The building official could sign off on the columns as placed, making him now the designer of record (I would not recommend he do so).

In cases such as this, building officials could agree to allow the building to be designed for a lesser wind speed and exposure. At 90 mph and Exposure B, the columns would work in the orientation they were placed.

The columns could be pulled out of the ground and placed the correct direction.

Or, we could come up with a repair – which could prove to be difficult and costly. It will depend mostly upon how far along the construction process is.

Moral of the story, the direction any column is to be placed in a pole building is specified on the plans. It is not a suggestion. There are valid structural reasons it must be oriented exactly as designed. This is one place where a mistake is not so easily corrected, as the columns are literally set in stone (concrete).

Planning Department: Get Permission!

Planning Department – Get Permission First, Don’t Beg Forgiveness

Every once in a while I read a story and it just makes me wonder, “What were they thinking”?

The story below appeared February 25, 2014 in a Post-Tribune article written by Kitty Conley:

Variance granted for pole barn already under construction

 CROWN POINT — The Lake County Board of Zoning Appeals gave its approval to Robert Biocic on Feb. 19 for an extra-sized pole barn, construction of which had already been started without the owner checking with the county for permission.

The project was noticed and Biocic was told to stop for not having gotten the approval. The fine for starting the project without a permit is considerably larger than the cost of getting the permit in the first place. It is three times the cost of the permit based on the value of construction. Then he still has to pay for the permit fee, according to Steve Nigro, planning and building administrator for Lake County.

Planning DepartmentIn addition to getting the required building permit, Biocic needed a variance-of-use for putting up a building of 3,134 square feet, where only 1,302 square feet are allowed.

The variance was granted by the BZA for construction on the 1.2 acres at 12952 W. 181st Ave. in West Creek Township.

All I can say is this building owner was extremely lucky. He could very easily have been forced to tear down his partially constructed building!

It is so easy to play by the rules. Start with your jurisdiction’s Planning Department….before considering building anything.

To know what to do at the Planning Department: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2013/01/planning-department-3/

Notice, the route taken by Mr. Biocic was not an inexpensive one – he was fined three times the cost of the Building Permit!

What the article does not say is – I am wondering if this building owner’s life is going to be made miserable during the inspection process. Planning and Building Departments do not look favorably upon those who do not play by the rules!

Are Building Codes Changed too Often?

(Disclaimer: for those dear readers who are not Christian, the reference to the Bible below is merely for illustrative purposes, and is not an attempt to sway anyone to or from any particular religious practices or beliefs.)

Imagine, if you will, the Bible being revised every three years. Once the revisions were accepted by the scholarly experts and the newest version was printed, each division of Christianity could decide if and when they wanted to adopt the newest version and they could also edit it as they pleased.

Once your church approved a version, it would be up to you and your fellow believers to have to learn it all over again. Sometimes changes would be small, other times large. And about the time you figure it out – there would be another new version.

Sound confusing?

Well, this process is the way the International Building Codes work. Every three years, there is a new version available. Building Officials, Architects and Engineers, as well as builders get to learn everything all over again!

International Building CodeThe NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) and the AIA (American Institute of Architects) have written to the ICC (International Code Council), recommending a longer interval between published Code revisions. The feeling is it would make it easier and less expensive for those affected, as well as easier to manage the changes.

Right now, we have a client who purchased a pole building kit last Spring. When he placed his order, the applicable Code version in his state was the 2009. July 1, his state adopted an amended version of the 2012 Code. He did not apply for his permit promptly, so had to have an entirely new set of plans and calculations produced. Among changes between the versions of the Code, was an increase in design wind speed from 85 to 115 mph (miles per hour)!

While there is some push to increase the time frame between Code versions, it probably will not happen. The reason for frequent changes is the rapid outmoding due to new technologies and building practices.

Think of it this way, a cell phone purchased today will be easily obsolete in three years – same goes for building codes.

What can you do so you don’t end up like our client? Make sure there are no “lag times” between the time you first talk to the building department about what building code design criteria you need to follow, the time you purchase your building, and the time it’s constructed and “final inspection” is done.  And keep in contact with your building department should you encounter any delays.

Don’t Pick Fights with Plans Examiners

For the most part, Building Department Plans Examiners are really good people. Most of them are just trying very hard to do a job which gets little or no appreciation.

magnifying-glassThe primary responsibilities of plans examiners are to review building plans and specifications and double-check all calculations to ensure they comply with currently adopted codes. Once completed the examiner should determine the fees for a building permit, and then approve or deny building permit applications. Plans examiners will also need to inspect alterations to existing buildings and make sure any extensions or changes comply with the adopted codes. Your plans examiner will occasionally respond to questions from engineers, developers, property owners and architects regarding adopted codes.

To become a plans examiner a person needs a combination of education and experience. Typical requirements are a high school diploma and at least six years of experience in building design, construction or inspection. Usually, they should hold an International Code Council certification as a building plans examiner or at least have the ability to obtain one.

Building construction is a complicated process, and the expectation any one person will know everything about everything, is unrealistic. On occasion, a plans examiner will reject a portion of the submitted plans, or calculations. If so, the plans examiner should be requested to provide (in writing) justification of the section of the building code which they believe has been violated, along with a justifiable technically substantive reason for the violation and the needed technical information to cure the violation.

These requirements keep plans examiners from making arbitrary and/or seemingly capricious rulings, and by requesting they follow the same, keeps the plan review above board and moving smoothly forward.

It also means homeowners fully complete required upgrades or changes to comply with codes. After all, this person is a servant of the public – protecting “life, fire and safety” for you, and those you love.

Pre application Conference

construction planning meetingConsidering construction a post frame building for commercial use? If so, many jurisdictions offer a pre application conference which will greatly ease the overall permit process, as well as providing a total view as to all of the requirements necessary to be met.

Why should I go through a PAC?

In my humble opinion, if a pre application conference is an available option – take advantage of it, It can save boatloads of future grief, not to mention unexpected pitfalls and costs.

What does a PAC involve?

A Pre Application Conference (PAC ) is a preliminary evaluation of a project by staff from various the various departments and divisions, which will be involved with a potential project. Staff represented may be from several departments, which may include: Planning, Building, Fire, Public Works, Health, and Water and Power. In some instances a Case Manager is assigned who will facilitate the PAC and provide a single point of contact to help navigate through the entire review and approval process.

PAC Meeting Agenda

At the PAC meeting, the staff will meet to discuss project issues and requirements of the proposed project according to current regulations, guidelines and policies. It is an opportunity for the staff to identify any discretionary reviews and approvals necessary, inform of any possible conflicts with policies and regulations, and, if necessary, offer other options to pursue in lieu of those proposed. A flow chart outlining the course the proposed project will need to take through the review and approval process is also provided. All documentation, including applications, brochures, submittal requirements, fee estimates, a flow chart, and review comments related to the project are provided often in an organized packet called the Development Guide. The information derived from a PAC does not constitute any approval of a project. PAC meetings are not public hearings.

What sort of things might be brought out at a PAC?

Highway/roadway/public works people will advise if the street may need to be widened, turn lanes added, as well as requirements for curbs and sidewalks. Having had to pay for all of these items in projects I was personally involved in, it is best when they are known about upfront.  After the fact… they can be potential budget breakers.

Fire – how close can a proposed new pole building be from other structures or property lines before fire walls need to be considered? Does the property have adequate water flow available for fire prevention? In some cases, an alternative water reservoir may need to be added. A hydrant (or hydrants) may need to be included for the development. If fenced or gated, a Knox-Box® will probably be required.

What else do I need to do?

Planning will deal with percentage of the property which can be covered with structures, dimensions of the building(s) as well as heights, setbacks from property lines, roadways and easements. They may require an engineered site plan, as well as provisions for storm water runoff. Requirements for parking spaces can be determined.

While these are just a few of the involved parties, the areas which may be covered and potential costs can be extensive and expensive. Structural building plans are not required in a Pre application Conference.  This is the opportunity to find out what the real costs for the entire project will be.  Not just the building structural costs, which are usually just a fractional portion of the entire project.

Good luck, and let me know if this process helped to speed things along to get your permit!

My Early Urban Garage Experiences

In the 1980’s one man stood alone when it came to whether City of Portland (basically the same thing as Multnomah County), Oregon homeowners could acquire a Building Permit for a residential accessory building or not.

Charles “Chuck” Frazier

Now Chuck was a registered Structuurban pole barnral Engineer, who took his position very seriously. His expectation was, if a structural permit was going to be approved by him – then the permit applicant, better have his (or her) structural ducks lined up in a perfect row!

So fearsome was his reputation, many builders (especially those who constructed pole buildings), would put right on their newspaper ads, “We do not build in Multnomah County”.

While I never had the opportunity to meet Chuck personally, when I had my first pole building kit package business in Oregon, I had the opportunity to deal with him by phone on many what I will call “urban garages”. I was young, and pretty naïve, so early on I just asked him specifically what it was he wanted, in order to issue a permit for a pole building garage.

In a nutshell, he wanted the calculations to verify the embedment of the columns (how deep and what diameter) and for the size, grade, spacing of columns, sidewall girts and roof purlins. Not being an engineer – I asked him for an example, which he provided.

Using his example, we provided hundreds upon hundreds of pole building urban garages across Metro Portland. Portland was laid out with numerous postage stamp sized lots, many only 25 to 35 feet in width. These are especially prevalent in the Northeast area, where many single family homes were built on them after World War One and before the Great Depression. By the 80’s people found they could purchase these 60-70 year old homes for next to nothing and many neighborhoods began to revitalize themselves. One fairly consistent lacking feature of these homes – most of them did not have garages!

Pole buildings were a perfect fit for these homeowners. Many of them were relatively young, and willing to put sweat equity into the fixing up of their (new to them) older homes. Pole buildings are able to be of any dimension, and therefore allowed for the maximization of building footprint to available space. With the only foundation being holes augured into the ground, it was pretty “low tech” compared to the invasiveness of having to excavate for footings and foundations, as would have happened with what many would consider to be more traditional “stick framed”.

And, because construction goes so quick, many urban garages started Friday after work, and were completed over a single weekend!



Pole Building Planning: Details, Details!

When it comes to constructing a new pole building, the building owner has many details to consider. For instance, how large should their pole building be to meet the needs not only today, but in the future? What doors will best solve access and egress considerations? There is a plethora of choices for siding and roofing (not to mention their colors). And while the possibilities are virtually limitless, one detail which can too easily get overlooked is the permitting process.

Unexpected delays can be caused from prior work – even work which was done by a previous property owner!

If a General Contractor was hired to do earlier construction, it is their responsibility to call for final inspections on a project. Often, property owners do their own work, or act as their own contractor. Many times Building Permits have not been obtained at all, leaving new owners to pick up the pieces.

In instances where structural inspections are needed, the inspection card must be signed off and often an occupancy permit is issued.

Building Departments do not like to be “made a fool of”, and if required permits for earlier work were not obtained, they can literally put a building owner through the proverbial ringer – requiring engineered drawings of work done and special inspections. A third party engineer may be required to inspect the work and confirm it meets with current (not at the time the work was done) code requirements.

New permits cannot be issued, until all outstanding issues have been resolved. This can result in significant delays, as well as costs which were not initially envisioned.

Building owners should make a list of all the work which is to be done on their pole building, then contact their local permit issuing authority (usually Planning and Building Departments) to determine which permits will be required for their particular scope of work. If a contractor is involved, the building owner should verify for him or herself all permits have been signed off on as being completed.

Keep in a safe place (fire proof safe, or in a safety deposit box) a record and copies of all blueprints, permits and inspection information. This information is important to maintain, whether the job is one, five or twenty years old.

Don’t be caught unaware, or place a future owner of the property in an uncomfortable position.


Verifying Design Wind Speed

A client from Florida and I have been discussing wind speeds. The data we show in our system for his county was for the design wind speed to be 120 mph.

Now where do we get our data? In many cases, direct from Building Departments. In other cases, we use the wind speed maps published in Chapter 16 of the International Building Codes, or the maps from ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) 7. The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) also lists design wind speeds, by county.

This particular client had also gotten a quote on an all steel building, and they used a design wind speed of 138 mph. At these speeds 18 mph can make a significant difference in structural design.

Now I know 18 mph does not sound like much, but in the formula to convert from miles per hour, to pounds per square foot of load, the wind speed is squared! While 138 is only 15% faster, the effective load placed on the building is over 32% more. Huge difference.

I asked the client if he had discussed the design wind load with his Building Department. He had, and his Building Department did have a solution which I was unfamiliar with. I like learning new things. I learn new “stuff” every day.

His Building Official had him go to: https://www.atcouncil.org/windspeed/ which finds the design wind speed for any given latitude and longitude in the country. What if you do not know the latitude and longitude? On the same website is information on how to look it up! Technology is so great when it works.  Many thanks to this Building Official for this new “tool” I can add to my internet reference toolbox.

When Building Departments establish design criteria, those are the “minimum” design loads. When it comes to wind, I would recommend everyone use the link above to check their own actual design wind speeds. In the event the speed shown happens to be greater than your Building Department’s requirements, we would strongly recommend using the higher speed.

Many times it costs very little to increase the wind resisting ability of your new pole building. As more buildings fail due to wind, than any other cause, this is not a place to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Why Won’t You Check Design Criteria for Me?

If you had a chance to think over the weekend of why we don’t check Design Criteria for you (see Friday’s Blog), the obvious reason would be “we just don’t know where your building site is”.  This is the “down and dirty” answer.

Ultimately the more specific question clients ask me is, “will you pull my building permit for me?” The easy answer is: No.  Not today and not ever.  Why not?  When I was a building contractor, I didn’t pull permits for folks.  So let me tell you why.  When I say we “don’t know where your site is”, I mean, we don’t know anything about it.

Let’s pretend for a moment I am going to go ahead and get your design criteria along with whatever else is needed to pull a building permit for you. I’ll need to ask a few questions.  Choosing all the “right” questions to ask, of you and your Building Department, could mean the one important question I should have asked, didn’t get asked.  Don’t just assume your Building Department will hand over brochures and a list of helpful information outlining every possibility. Some jurisdictions have great websites, and some I wonder why they even bothered to put one up. And when was it last updated?  I can’t assume anything on a website is 100% up to snuff.  The person behind the county doesn’t memorize all the information specific to your building site.  And while most Planning/Building Departments are great at helping clients, there are a few who leave too much to the imagination.  They expect you (or me) to ask questions before supplying important information.  Some of them just plain don’t understand the building code.  Most Building Departments do not have a registered professional engineer behind the desk.

A few questions for you and eventually your jurisdiction’s planning department.  What are the “set-backs” from streets, alleys, other structures or anything else?  Are there restrictions as to what can be built due to zoning? How about underground septic and sewage systems or other underground utilities? Do you have watershed or wetlands issues?

If a separate department, the Building Department will have more information. Will an engineered soils test be required?  What is your wind exposure?  If you don’t know wind exposure, stand in the center of your property and extend your arms and then turn to all directions.  Is there any direction the wind can blow from where it is not stopped by hills, trees, other buildings? (This is an overly simple explanation of wind exposure by the way). Have you ever had a fire on your property, or near to your property?  Are you in a hurricane zone?  What is your elevation above sea level?

One of the most important considerations to you may be where on the property you are placing your building.  You may be able to deal with your Planning Department on exactly where your building “sits”. You intimately know your own property and the tree your great grandfather planted is just not going to be moved.  I am constantly amazed at pictures of buildings which are emailed to me, and they have a huge tree (or several) very close to the building they just put up.  I am thinking, “It must have been a bear to construct a building with a big ol’ tree right next to the site. Why didn’t they just take the tree down?”  But if the “big ol’ tree” Great Grampa planted is “not going anywhere”, you need to be the one to take this issue up with your local planning department to come up with an agreeable solution.

Why won’t I verify your design criteria or pull your permit?  Because I want to meet you on the street someday and have you smile at me, shake my hand, and we will still be friends.  Your building ended up being what you needed, and better yet, it ended up exactly where you wanted it.  Life comes in a rainbow of colors, not just shades of black and white.

Why Design Criteria are Important

Last October Mr. W of Park County Colorado ordered a new pole building kit package from Hansen Buildings.

Just like every quotation or Invoice we prepare, it lists specifically the “Design Criteria” for his specific building.

Included in this were:

The Building Code and edition (every three years a new edition of the code is published, often with significant changes from the prior edition).

Flat Roof Snow (also known as Pf) – which is calculated by applying a series of factors to the Ground Snow Load (Pg). In some cases, in exception to the way the codes are written, a Pf value is stated by a particular Building Department.

Design Wind Speed in miles per hour (mph) as a three second gust, as well as Wind Exposure.

Allowable Foundation Pressure, as well as the general soils types which the given pressure would be applicable to.

Seismic zone.

Maximum frost depth of this design.

Thermal factor (Ct) and whether the building is heated or unheated. This factor is one of the influencing values in the calculation of Pf from Pg.

Occupancy Category (I, II, III or IV) – each of which corresponds to a factor which will influence the magnitude of snow, wind and seismic forces which the building much be designed to withstand.

Every quote we provide includes this statement directly below the design criteria:

You must confirm all code/design criteria with your Building Department prior to placing your order.

We recommend taking this page to your building department for them to verify all design criteria listed above.”

In ordering the building, the Purchaser must agree to the following as a portion of the terms and conditions:

Purchaser acknowledges verification/confirmation/acceptance of all Building Code, Plan and Design Criteria included on Instant Invoice. Information Purchaser has verified includes, but is not limited to: Applicable Building Code version, Occupancy Category, Ground (Pg) and Flat Roof (Pf) Snow Loads, Roof Snow Exposure Factor (Ce), Thermal Factor (Ct), basic Wind Speed (3 second gust) and Wind Exposure, Allowable Foundation Pressure, Seismic Zone and Maximum Frost Depth, as well as obtaining for Seller any unusual code interpretations, amendments or prescriptive requirements for non-engineered buildings which could affect this structure. If purchase is a non-engineered building, reasonable efforts have been made to assure structural adequacy, however no guarantee or warranty is made or provided by Seller as to whether this design actually meets with any applicable code or structural requirements. The ultimate responsibility for verification rests with Purchaser. Any costs due to changes or requests by Purchaser, Purchaser’s agents, or Building Officials to non-engineered plans will be borne by Purchaser, including any and all of Seller’s staff time for research, or any other reason, even if no changes are ultimately made. Staff time is billable at a minimum of $120 per person hour, with a one hour minimum.


Seller’s designs are all per specified Building Code and include the use of NDS Table 2.3.2 Load Duration Factors (Cd) as well as ASCE 7-05, Eq. 7-2 for slippery surfaces. Seller’s designs rely solely upon occupancy category and structural criteria for and at specified job site address only, which have been provided and/or verified by Purchaser. It is Purchaser’s and only Purchaser’s responsibility to ascertain the design loads utilized in this Agreement meet or exceed the actual dead loads imposed on the structure and the live loads imposed by the local building code or historical climactic records. Purchaser understands Seller and/or Seller’s engineer(s) or agents will NOT be contacting anyone to confirm.


Now if the above sounds harsh, keep in mind, we have provided buildings in all 50 states. There are over 7000 building permit issuing jurisdictions in the country and to keep absolutely current with any and all changes, is an impossible task.

Remember our good friend Mr. W from the beginning of this story? Mr. W’s county has on their website a form to complete, where they will verify the snow load criteria for anyone’s particular piece of property. While a pretty handy tool, it seems Mr. W did not use it.

He ordered a building, which we designed to the loads Mr. W confirmed he had verified. The plans were submitted and a permit to build was issued.

Now Mr. W has his building up and has called for final inspection. The inspector, in the field, notices the trusses are designed for a Pf of 50 psf (which matches what Mr. W ordered as well as the values on the approved plans). The problem…..the site is one where the flat roof snow load should have been 73 psf!

Mr. W now has a beautiful new building, which he cannot use. At least as it is presently built. The ultimate solution is going to involve a significant (as well as costly) repair to the trusses, as well as adding roof purlins between each purlin currently installed on the roof.

This is a case where an ounce of prevention (Mr. W having actually verified his loads as instructed) would have been well worth the pound of cure.

The question we sometimes get is, “why don’t you verify the loads for me?”  Come back Monday and I’ll tell you why.  Until then, think of the reasons we may or may not want to do this for you.

Pole Building Prescriptive Requirements

In a misguided effort to make things “easier” for potential building owners and builders, some Building Departments have prescriptive requirements for non-engineered pole buildings.

This means if someone walks in the Building Department door and wants to construct a pole building, as long as the building owner (or builder) agrees to build to match the prescriptive requirements, they will be issued a structural permit. This is, of course, with the caveat of being able to meet the requirements of other departments, such as Planning.


Prescriptive requirements are often based upon, “the way things have always been done”, rather than having a basis in the sound fundamentals of structural design. Every three years a new version of the Building Code is published, sometimes with sweeping changes in structural design. Many highly qualified design professionals, including many engineers, are involved in revisions of the Building Code.

A classic example of this came when the International Building Codes were first adopted in 2000. Prior Codes did not have deflection criteria for wall members in those cases where the members did not support a rigid finish (like plaster or gypsum board). The new Code limits the deflection in all cases. In order to meet the new requirements, in many cases, pole building wall girts can no longer be installed “flat” on the outside of the wall columns.

Many times materials are included in the prescriptive requirements which do nothing but cause more work for whoever is doing the actual construction, as well as using materials which either are not necessary, or are larger than what an engineer would have specified.

On occasion, these prescriptive requirements do not actually meet the Building Codes. In my spare time, I have challenged more than one of them and gotten Building Departments to make changes. The prescriptive requirements resulted in a building which was under designed.

The scary part….if you build to prescriptive requirements, and have a collapse, the Building Department is absolved from any structural liability!

THE SOLUTION – IF a Building Department has PRESCRIPTIVE REQUIREMENTS for Pole Buildings – invest in an engineered building kit. It is less expensive to pay for the engineering and it guarantees a building which will be designed to actually meet the building codes.  Your bonus is the sealed plans are your “insurance’ – the engineer is now liable to for the safety and integrity of your new building.