Barndominiums and Construction Savings

Recently, building designs that I have advocated for are coming to light under the term “barndominium.” Barndominiums are houses constructed using similar techniques to building pole barns and steel buildings. In addition to primary building materials, a central concept is that the entire structure is held up by supports in the exterior walls of the building.

Before entering the ministry, I enrolled at Michigan Technological University to become a mechanical engineer. It all goes back to my frustration with carpentry, fix-it, and other similar endeavors that caused me to repeatedly conclude, “There has got to be an easier way of doing this.” The only way of making a project easier and less time-consuming is to re-engineer it at the front end. A case in point is a “stick-built” house. Certainly, there must be an easier and far more cost-effective way of building a house than by nailing a bunch of 2” x 4″s together. Now, after the cost of building a home has skyrocketed, others are beginning to ask the same questions.

In February, Zillow released an analysis of what prospective homeowners would have to earn to buy a typical home, and they learned that someone would need to make more than $106,000 annually to be able to purchase the same home they could have purchased making $59,000 in 2020. That is an 80% increase in four years! And it all comes down to the cost of labor, supplies, and higher interest rates.

Recently, building designs that I have promoted for many years are coming to light under the term “barndominium.” Barndominiums are houses constructed using similar techniques to build pole barns and steel buildings. In addition to primary building materials, a central concept is that the entire structure is held up by supports in the exterior walls of the building. In general, barndominiums will cost about $62-$136 per square foot, compared to a traditional home build at $100-$150 per square foot.

Before I go any further, I’m including in this post a carousel of photos of the exterior and interior of some barndominiums. With careful use of colors and textures, such a building can feel much less like a barn than a home. Now let’s jump from homes to teen centers. The same techniques that help make a barn look like a home can make a barn look like a youth center, and, in the process, you can save a lot of money.

Unfortunately, I’m much less impressed with cost-saving options on the interior of a barndominium. Why, I ask, hasn’t there been a manufacturer that has come up with an extensive set of prefab walls with integrated wiring, etc., constructed primarily by machines? Presently I am not aware of any shortcuts to a stick-built interior. On the positive end, since the building is supported by the exterior walls, there is no need for interior load-bearing walls. And using an open-air concept, heating, and cooling can be accomplished without the extensive use of ductwork.

Beyond that, any prefab cabinets, closets, etc. can be utilized will save money. And it’s been some time since I’ve written on the subject of involving a high school building trades class. They can save you many thousands of hours of labor costs, while they’re learning a useful skill.

By using building techniques found in bardominiums, at the end of the day, you can have a well-built, attractive, and functional facility that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a traditional design.

In service to Christ,

Mark Eastway

Board President, Rock Solid Teen Center

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