Building a Geobarn, like any custom structure, comes with a host of decisions that affect the total cost of the project. Some costs are somewhat typical from design to design, while others vary greatly depending on the building site and interior finishes. We’d like to give you a rule of thumb, like cost per square foot or cost for a particular plan, but in practice we’ve found doing so doesn’t provide a complete picture.
The best way to understand all of the potential costs associated with building a Geobarn is to look at projects we’ve built. The Case Studies below show how the cost to build an ordinary floorplan can vary depending on the building site and choices our clients made for interior arrangement and finishes.
The Finger Lakes Farmhouse is a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath Geobarn home. A two story open-concept post-and-beam frame with ground-floor master suite, built on a slab, opens above into a 3-bedroom floor with day-loft, lit by a monitor cupola. A full-length covered porch and two entry roofs extend the home into the landscape. Preliminary mechanical design includes geothermal radiant hydronic heat. The homesite is served by well and septic, and power/teldata.Details
The Forest Glade Retreat Home is a 3+ bedroom, 2.5 bath Geobarn home, constructed in 2020 in New England. A two-story open-concept post-and-beam frame spans a full basement, with a 1.5 story living room extension and a full-length covered porch and entry extending the home into the landscape. The master suite is located on the ground floor for convenience, and the upper floor includes an expansive mezzaine with exercise area and cozy entertainment nook.Details
Think of Variable Costs as all those costs that depend on the needs of the building site and your choices in outfitting your Geobarn once the exterior shell is constructed. In most cases, these costs can’t be estimated reliably until we’ve assessed your property and provided some preliminary design work. We can provide some guidance during preliminary design, but these can’t be truly finalized until bids for the work are received. However, here are the Big Ones you should keep in mind.
Variable Site Costs
Access and Utilities: Most Geobarns are built in rural locations, meaning access to your property must be built. Your Geobarn will need a driveway and parking areas for vehicle access. Electric, Telephone, and Data feeds must be paid for by the client. A short driveway in flat country will be much less costly than a long driveway on a hillside. Some properties are fortunate to be located near existing utility lines, while others require the local power supplier to install one or more transmission pylons and even a transformer.
Well & Septic: If your building site requires a well (most rural locations will), this is an expense that is nearly unpredictable. Although most well drillers charge by the depth of the finished well, no one can know for sure how much until water is reached. It is possible to get a rough idea from neighboring building sites and from the driller’s experience in the area, but this is nothing more than a guesstimate. Likewise, septic systems depend on the local soil and terrain. Some septic systems will require site preparation as rigorous as the structure’s foundation, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas (such as building sites adjacent to water courses and wetlands).
Site Preparation & Recovery: Whether your Geobarn will be built on a slab or over a full basement, extensive excavation, fill, and grading work will be required. Once construction is complete, you will need landscaping to heal the damage from site preparation and construction and to protect your Geobarn’s foundation. This expense will often be a significant fraction of your overall project cost.
Foundation & Concrete: It may seem intuitive that a slab foundation is less costly than a full basement, this isn’t necessarily true. Any foundation requires its own insulation against subsurface cold and carefully installed moisture barriers. Foundation drains are required to move water away from your Geobarn. These costs can vary widely by climate and certainly by the building site, whether it’s flat country or a mountain location.
Variable Client Choices
Electrical and Plumbing: While Electrical and Plumbing work are integral to any Geobarn, this expense can vary so widely from Geobarn to Geobarn that it should be treated as a customized expense. Your lighting plan and location of HVAC systems and appliances can make a significant impact on the extent of electrical work. Likewise, plumbing expense varies with the number and locations of bathrooms as well as the needs of the kitchen.
Insulation and Air Sealing: This expense depends not only on the size of your Geobarn, but also on the complexity of the design. Proper insulation not only governs how well your Geobarn will perform in managing the interior climate, it also protects your home against moisture intrusion and heat loss. Geobarns installs multiple layers of insulation and high-performance air & moisture management barriers. Together, these systems minimize energy use, protect against moisture and molds, and ensure a long useful life for your Geobarn.
Interior Finishes: Many Geobarns feature a mix of interior finishes, such as drywall walls, wood flooring, and wood ceilings. Bathrooms and Kitchens are usually tiled to protect against water spills. Geobarns offers an array of interior finish options and can help you manage this portion of your budget in our design process. We frequently engineer dramatic touches, such as interior windows overlooking vaulted interior spaces or interior rolling barn doors.
Cabinetry & Appliances: Outfitting a kitchen and bathrooms with cabinetry, countertops, and appliances will be a major portion of your project budget. Commerical structures must meet ADA rules and may require a host of specialized installations. Expense for cabinetry and appliances in even the most basic Geobarn can vary significantly depending on materials used in construction and choice of material for countertops. Appliances for the kitchen and for HVAC systems are, of course, widely variable. Our design process can help you navigate the array of choices and ensure that cabinetry, appliances, and supporting electrical/plumbing installations all work well together.
General Fixtures: Think of all of the fixtures for lighting, plumbing, doors, cabinets, and miscellaneous hardware required for even a basic home (let alone a restaurant or distillery). While these items may cost little individually, they will add up. Colors and design aesthetics will influence the cost as well. When working up a proposed budget, we generally assign an allowance for these items as a percentage of the overall cost of the project, since many clients prefer to make final decisions after the overall design is finalized.
How to Budget for Variable Costs
After considering the variable cost categories above, it may seem we are no closer to giving you the cost information you want. The truth is that no builder can give you a reliable estimate without knowing the needs of the building site and a good idea of what you’d like to build. This is where our design process can help turn ideas into a preliminary budget.
Our site assessment, where we’ll walk your property with you and brainstorm on preliminary positioning of the Geobarn, access, utilities, and septic, can help determine how much to allow for the Variable Site Costs. Our preliminary design proposal, based on your project ideas, guides us to develop a budget for Variable Client Choices. Together, our site assessment and preliminary design proposal provides a framework for determining the preliminary budget. From there, we’ll guide you through decisions to develop a final project proposal.
Ready to Build? Let’s Talk!
We’d love to hear about your project! Every Geobarn we build begins with a conversation about what you would like to build and why. We approach each and every project as an intimate partnership with our clients, and we’re going to ask a lot of questions. We want to understand why, because a building is much more that an assembly of floorplans and materials. It is the expression of a vision shared between builder and client. Helping us with answers to the questions on our Project Questionnaire is the first step to understanding why , and we hope it is the beginning of a relationship of friendship, trust, and a love for the mutual journey to project completion.