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My plan for quonset roofed tiny house/greenhouse/barn/workshop structure

 
Posts: 40
Location: Denver CO
6
rabbit urban chicken
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So, I've long thought one of these q-model or r-model steel buildings/roofs would be the ideal starting point for a homestead, especially in a desert area where shade and water catchment are key.  

Google image search for quonset roofed buildings

Is this an OK place to discuss and brainstorm such a structure?  I have given it a lot of thought and suspect members would have lots of feedback and ideas but maybe it's not permie enough?  Or maybe at the plan stage it's more of a meaningless drivel sort of conversation.  

A quick outline is to buy a freestanding type quonset building, something like a 50x46' and install it on tall sidewalls, at least 7ft.  Instead of solid walls I'd use some sort of concrete or block posts at the corners and every 6-10 feet with a concrete or steel beam on top to mount the quonset style roof to.  This would require an engineer, and is one of the only parts of this project parts I wouldn't be comfortable DIY'ing without guidance.  Make the arch of the quonset face south and frame that end wall with lumber and free sliding glass doors and windows from craigslist.  A wide arch, and shallow depth would be best I think for a greenhouse made like this with no overhead glass, pictures of these used as airplane hangers show how cave like they get the deeper they are built.  Under the front half of this steel roof would be mostly greenhouse, and I'd want my tiny house to be here in the middle of the greenhouse area, more towards the north edge to keep from filling the south facing glass wall.  I'd like to build it with adobe, partially buried with just a row of windows above grade, and a small entrance area.  The 200-400 sq ft tiny house would be the only part of the bigger structure that I'd consider finished, and would just be a place to sleep, or hang out when the more spacious area isn't quite hospitable.   Plus very minimal plumbing and at most an RV type kitchen, with a small RMH of course.

The gaps between the posts I'd fill with adobe blocks, or rammed earth, or anything else I want to try making, gradually enclosing the larger space around my tiny house and big greenhouse.  Some would be large doors made from whatever materials I can salvage or find, and some more windows to let morning and afternoon sun in too.  I have a lot more detail, including cost estimates but don't want to put too much if this isn't appropriate here.
 
steward
Posts: 6464
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Buster, I don't know of a better forum to put it in so let's leave it here.

Feel free to post any pictures or drawings you have so that the concept makes more sense.

The part I think I understand is that you want to put a quonset hut up on 7' high walls.  I don't know how they actually go together but I'm guessing a lot of their strength comes from their attachment to the ground not moving.  So if you put it up on walls I'd be worried that the weight of the quonset and any snow would put a significant outward push on the top of the walls.  But I may be imagining that so I'm curious what other folks would say.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: Victoria BC
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I also think it is important that the sidewalls not spread.

It seems to me that you would really need either a very, very stout stemwall setup, or tie beams at the top of the stem walls.

But, if you are already planning on engineer involvement, they should be able to address this. Just wouldn't want to get too far without talking to them, as it could be unreasonably more expensive!


I have a few things I dislike about quonsets, mostly informed by the one a friend has.

They are pretty much one shot buildings. It's all good until it's not, and then it's done. No reroof, because the roof is the whole thing..

Difficult to add on to, and to modify on the sidewalls. Sealing up to corrugations is not fun.

Prone to condensation issues, climate dependent.

Definitely needs insulating IMO as they bake in the sun otherwise... and this basically means sprayfoam, and lots of it. Then you may want some sort of inner wall to mount things on and protect the foam.. and suddenly you are thinking of building a whole framework inside thenquonset and realizing it could have been the frame of the building from the start!

I would rather use a steel skinned pole barn..
 
Buster Parks
Posts: 40
Location: Denver CO
6
rabbit urban chicken
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Thanks for your ideas.  I definitely can see the piers wanting to spread.  With the tiny house inside being at least half underground overhead cables would be fine, perhaps even a plus.  The examples I've seen, including a really cool old house often have extensions past the sidewalls that would address this too.  I'd like to extend from the top of the top wall out anyway to enlarge the shaded area and create more space for animals and water catchment.

I think I've been underestimating the heat gain though, assuming the silver roof would reflect most sun.  I wonder if getting white would help much.  Since I have no intention of trying to micro manage temperature in the majority of this space, I wonder about just creating a barrier hanging a foot under the roof and ventilating this 'attic' space up near the peak.  I see this containing a stratified layer of hot air under the roof in space I don't use for anything, stopping radiant heat and convection from warming the main space so much.  I'd want to feed this gap with outside air and a solar powered blower at the top of each end would seem ideal as it would run whenever sunny.  I've also seen ideas for solar powered chimneys, basically a black pipe sticking up from each peak that would heat in the sun and create a natural draw from the peak inside.

Tyvek and mylar pop to mind for this barrier, but I'd prefer to avoid any thing plastic inside.  Recycling largish sheets of drywall could divide the air space too but would be a lot of weight and require framing some sort of interior roof.  Doing a quick search it seems the cost of spraying foam could be as much as buying the quonset itself, plus yucky foam.  I'd like to use the climate battery idea in the greenhouse space either way, so some excess heat would be OK as I'd basically pump it underground to use during colder months.  If I could keep the greenhouse space between freezing and 90F I'd be happy, a tighter range would be the goal though.  I think I need to visit one on a hot sunny day to see how much warmer it is inside, but one that isn't completely enclosed like most garages and barns.  I'm imagining opening it up overnight during the summer to let all the heat out, and starting cool every morning.  Much like how adobe homes in the desert are typically managed.  

D Nikolls, do you have any details on these fail?  I know they come with up to 50 year warranties and see older ones in my searching.  I guess the nice thing is these can be put up and taken down by one person, and at $5-$10 per sq ft of ground covered it's not that much more expensive than a re-roof on the 15yr asphalt shingled home I have now.
 
D Nikolls
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: Victoria BC
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They die of old age around here. Rust gets the roof. There is a permies thread around somewhere showing failure from snow load... in the desert longevity would probably be pretty great, but I think the same can be said of many alternatives.

A good thick elastomeric paint coating, regularly refreshed, would probably work wonders. But, in my area they grow a film of dirt and bio that would need to be removed before repaint, which means you might end up removing the old paint while you are at it.. and this looks pretty tricky to me. Maybe if you had a bucket truck?

They last a long time, especially the older and/or more expensive ones using relatively heavy steel.

The thing is, a robust pole barn should also last a long time, and you can easily modify it, expand it, and when the time comes replace the roof, or bad posts, etc..


I don't really think your insulation ideas would be adequate for heat control, but hope somebody with more comparable climate experience will pop in..
 
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