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Swall Institute -> Design Solution

Construction Logistics
Many ‘alternative’ construction approaches (e.g., straw bale, rammed earth) were beyond our budget for two reasons:

a) While the materials for these designs are cheap, they are labor intensive, and thus extremely expensive if you don’t have the time and/or skills to do it yourself.
b) With very little equity, we needed a construction loan to realize the project. It is very difficult to convince a traditional bank to fund a construction approach that does not fit within their standard check boxes.

Given these constraints, we used a local contractor who was extremely open and flexible, and who’s common sense advice and knowledge of local resources were invaluable. In this light, it made the most sense to choose a form of construction that he was most familiar with – a ‘stick frame’ with 2” x 6” studs for better insulation over the 2” x 4” frame.

To reduce construction costs without compromising on quality we did two things:
a) We simplified the design to eliminate complex angles, dormers, etc. and
b) The contractor agreed to do enough work to meet the county permitting requirements, but we did most of the detailed finishing work ourselves. We quickly learned that “the devil is in the details” -- Doing as much of the labor-intensive finishing work as we could was key for staying within budget without compromising too much on quality.