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Equipment Discussions >> Observatories

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///^**^\\\
member


Reged: 12/25/10

Loc: Deep Dark Blackness of central...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631720 - 01/19/13 03:05 PM

I second battery power and solar cell. The inspectors were hassling me about 110v in the observatory. They said electrical permit and structural review plus on some technicality because of permament utilities I would need an asthetic architectural review.

A couple of my freinds were with me puting finishing touches on the building. After hearing the hoop jumping and money and hassle that the inspector was proposing. I grabbed the guys and had a little pow wow. They guys went to the garage for shovels, screwdrivers and cutting pliers. I asked the inspector if he would witness the modificatiions we're about to make.

Well we dug up 10 feet of conduit, stripped the 110v lighting, removed the electrical sockets and pulled out all the wiring and the small panelbox.

The look on the inspector face was priceless especially when I told him that the building now has no 110v power nor will it ever. And after many meetings and lots of BS, the experience fo telling the inspector that since there isn't going to be any nature of 110v power that he has no business here and time for him to go. The Inspector grumbled and left.

Actually I am so much happier that I went 12v. With the 12v I have clean power, full sine wave, not a modified sine wave from a wall wart or cheap inverter. If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA. That power glich is of no impact to me at all. How important is clean power? One night I was observing and saw the lights flash(power glich) on/off at my neighbor's. When I got back in the house I found my desktop house computer was fried. That could of been my astro-computer, mount, camera who knows.

For lighting it is all LED.

120w solar cell, 2 deep cycle batteries, a small 400watt full sine inverter for running the computer. I have never wanted for power.

"Keep a low profile, stay off the grid" LOL


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cn register 5
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631773 - 01/19/13 03:34 PM

As someone based in the UK I look at these stories of permits and HOA aggravation with a sense of wonder.

We have planning and installation rules but they aren't subject to the whim of some official or local committee.

Chris


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Calypte
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 03/20/07

Loc: Anza, California
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: ///^**^\\\]
      #5631837 - 01/19/13 04:24 PM

Quote:

If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA.



Yeah, tell me about it! A car crashes into a power pole 30 miles away, and the lights go out here.


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
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Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631968 - 01/19/13 06:02 PM

Quote:

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody.




Got that right!

-Dan


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turtledude1
member
*****

Reged: 10/08/08

Loc: SW Fla.& SW. NM
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5632006 - 01/19/13 06:47 PM

All the BS I'm reading reminds me of an old saying...We the willing lead by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. Now that was a stupid statement. He has to answer to Public Safty, Local codes, State codes, and the National Building Code. A good inspector knows the laws extremely well and alot more than mister homeowner who slips it in on weekends burns his dam house down then wonders why?

If you think an inspector is an idiot and has no power then you’re living in never never land. Most inspectors carry at least a master license in their trade. Power? Yes he has power it's called a Stop Work Order or Red Tag. If you touch so much as a nail after he leaves one you’re going to find out just how much power he has. Fines average $250.00 a day in most areas some more. You can find yourself in court and be subject to even more fees. They can go as far as forcing you to tear your project to clear ground, but that would be extremely rare. But some people are stupid enough to continue to argue and that could be a real possibility. One case was an irrigation head in a right of way. The county said move it the contractor refused over a period of about six months. The county had the power pulled for the whole condominium complex until the head was moved.

Think before you open your trap to an inspector because he could be a real pain and actually know a little more than you think. I work with inspectors on an every day bases most are great guys if you treat them right. But on the other hand could be your worst nightmare.

Edited by csa/montana (01/24/13 08:06 PM)


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Norm Meyer
sage
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Reged: 02/08/09

Loc: Warren, ME 04864
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5632141 - 01/19/13 07:55 PM

You know what they say "It is easier to beg forgiveness than
to ask permission". I don't inquire about too much. Maine is
a lot easier to work with than CA but it's coming here to...
just a little more slowly.
Best of luck.

Norm


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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Norm Meyer]
      #5632240 - 01/19/13 09:23 PM

It has been my experience that coming up with a set of plans with a structural engineer or architect's stamp on them almost always turns the entire permitting process into a breeze.

I have always had the best luck getting the structural engineering stamp by looking around for a young, open-minded, self-employed engineer to work with. Usually at the best rates too.

Municipal bureaucrats are much more likely to lock horns with homeowners than they are with professional engineers, who can often quote building codes from memory.

I hope this helps.


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
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Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Christopher Erickson]
      #5632911 - 01/20/13 10:29 AM

Quote:

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. Now that was a stupid statement. He has to answer to Public Safty, Local codes, State codes, and the National Building Code. A good inspector knows the laws extremely well and alot more than mister homeowner who slips it in on weekends burns his dam house down then wonders why?




First, not all inpsectors are "good". In my recent dealings with my building inspector, he told me I needed a 4 foot deep below-the-frontline foundation for an 8x12' storage shed. I had to spend many hours of my own time pouring through the NYS online building codes to prove him wrong.

Second, while technically, the inspector is "answerable", in effect he is not. The town lost a 20 year old inspection record for my barn and the building inspector decided that it needed an inspection, including digging up our property to inspect the foundation. I spent thousands on a lawyer, only to be told that he essentially could do whatever he wanted. We could try to fight it in court, but it would cost many tens of thousands of dollars and we still could lose.

Bottom line - it takes more time and costs more money to fight the inspector than it's worth ... and he knows it. This is what makes him answerable to no one.

-Dan


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Mary B
Vendor - Echo Astronomy and Electronics
*****

Reged: 05/21/10

Loc: Minnesota
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5633651 - 01/20/13 05:50 PM

So run the electrical to a pole beside the observatory and use a short RV cord to power it. Makes a nice lightning protection disconnect also.

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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Mary B]
      #5633666 - 01/20/13 05:55 PM

Quote:

So run the electrical to a pole beside the observatory and use a short RV cord to power it. Makes a nice lightning protection disconnect also.




Excellent advice!

And have a licensed electrician do the work.


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Aquarist
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/27/12

Loc: Illinois
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Christopher Erickson]
      #5633732 - 01/20/13 06:28 PM

We are erring on the side of caution, getting all plans, measurements, etc. approved and signed off. The planning process may take a bit longer than desirable, but the final inspection process is a breeze.

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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Aquarist]
      #5633746 - 01/20/13 06:38 PM

Steve, this plan will save you time & grief later on!

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Aquarist
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/27/12

Loc: Illinois
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5634009 - 01/20/13 10:02 PM

Thanks Carol. The worst case scenario that I am trying to avoid is "undoing" which could get costly. But so far, while they are particular, things are proceeding smoothly.

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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Aquarist]
      #5634080 - 01/20/13 10:42 PM

Glad to hear that, Steve; keep us posted.

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5636728 - 01/22/13 11:50 AM

Update from the long weekend: I drove down and talked with the Structural Engineer Friday afternoon. One of their CAD guys came out and introduced himself -- he is one of the local astro club members and has property in the mountains that he wants to build an observatory on as well. Turns out when the primary engineer saw my write-up request for help, he called the CAD guy in as they had planned a roll-off 10 years ago but never did it. So, they didn't see my project as crazy and were quite envious

Anyways, they did some napkin calculations and couldn't find anything that was a concern to them. They are going to run some more serious numbers to be sure. They also wanted to see a positive hold-down mechanism in both the open and closed positions (had planned for the closed, but not the open). So, I'm on my way to getting the engineering done and then I can head back to the county to pay their shakedown fee

I'm not worried about having to "re-do" it. So far, it's all been done to their rules -- i.e. it was an exempt building until the electrical so, at most, I should have pulled the building permit at the same time as the electrical instead of learning it needed a new permit from the first electrical inspector.

When it comes to structural inspections, however, I haven't met an inspector in this area that knows much. They rely on the engineer to tell them it's OK. As the engineer noted, once they see you went through the effort of hiring an engineer and have the wet stamp, they don't even bother looking at the building -- figuring if you went that far, you most likely did it as prescribed.

As for the extension cord solution. That was the solution with my last observatory and I would switch the breaker off when not in use. But it was a mess of power strips and cords running everywhere. Not exactly what you want when you're walking around in the dark within tight quarters.

This time, I plan to run an instrumentation pole with real-time weather and sky monitoring through a laptop updating to the web. It would be much more convenient to have the networking and power permanently installed. And when the inspector brought up the permit requirement, the trench and conduit were in the ground and the $600 worth of wire was already shipping cross-country. So, the deed was pretty much done.

On Saturday, I pulled the cable, wired up the panel, wired up a 20A GFCI below, and flipped it on. It was satisfying being able to run some tools off of the observatory's own power. Roughed in a few more boxes before turning back to sealing up the exterior for a forecasted round of rain this weekend.


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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636763 - 01/22/13 12:11 PM

That's fantastic news!

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636764 - 01/22/13 12:12 PM

One of the disadvantages to the building permit process is that you have less flexibility in being able to change your plan mid-construction.

If you're doing the project as a weekend hobby, it gives you lots of time to read what others have done during certain stages of construction and make some changes -- some simply for aesthetics or convenience. For example, I decided to shift my main pier over a foot to get a better view to the west. I also shifted my warming room wall over a foot. And I hadn't decided on the final siding until the exterior walls were framed. At least the first two required changes to the framing that would probably have sent me back to the country and engineer to modify and submit the plans.

Getting the structural engineer review now is easy since it is built and all they have to do is validate and stamp it.

But if you aren't building it yourself, then you most likely will need to have a set of plans for a contractor to build from (and to bid on). So then you might as well get the engineering and permit.

I'll also add that you can't neglect the cost factor. My last observatory was a converted $500 Rubbermaid shed. I estimate I put about $3000 into it if I include all the furniture, the window A/C, the insulation, plywood, deadbolt, etc... I actually sold the structure for $1000. Doubtful that the welded modifications would have been easy to engineer and get inspected, but the costs would have been a quarter of the final price (assuming $1000).

In this observatory, I'm in at least $15K (maybe $20K as I stopped tracking out of depression) in finishing touches, new electronics, etc... It's my pimped-out observatory that's going to last at least 10 years (i.e. until we decide to move houses). Spending another thousand is just a small fraction now.

What's going to be interesting is that my wife's grandmother has 120 acres that has been in the family for about 80 years. It is in the Green light zone, but about a two-hour drive away. I've talked with some AP buddies about building an observatory on the property sometime down the road when my wife inherits part of the property. It will be off-grid, however, as the highest spot on the property is about 3500 feet from the road -- there's not even a dirt road on the property to get to the spot. But I expect we will still need to get a building permit anyways since I'm not limiting myself to 120 square feet again.


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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636842 - 01/22/13 12:51 PM

And sometimes even when you do everything right, you can still run into extra-bad inspectors.

* Here in Hawaii, I put in a solar hot water heater to replace the old 240VAC electric water heater. It required the sign-off of three inspectors. Structural, plumbing and a special "green energy" inspector so I could get my state tax rebate. Amazingly, the "green energy" inspector wanted to know where the connection to 120VAC was to run the circulation pump. I told him it didn't need one because it had a 240VAC pump. He flat-out told me that there was no such thing as a 240VAC circulation pump! He continued to argue, even after I pointed to the "240VAC" on the sticker on the pump. He never gave in but he did finish his paperwork and hand me a signed approval form. Ego. Sad.

* In Pendleton, Oregon, a friend had a permitted cow shelter (roof and four poles) in the middle of a field. He added siding on two sides for wind protection for the cows. Municipal inspector came out and threatened him with $1,000/day fines for every day that it remained up. He had to tear it down, get a set of plans, an engineering stamp, a building permit and two inspections to put it back up. Absurd.

So in conclusion, it is my opinion is that it is much better to learn the local rules and play the game than it is to get sideways with the local building authorities, who have the unfortunate power to make your life miserable.

In most locations what seems to work really-well is taking a set of Skyshed plans to a local structural engineer, who may make some modifications or additions to accommodate local building codes and then stamp them. That usually makes the whole process a lot smoother than it would be otherwise.

I hope this helps!


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DGB
member
*****

Reged: 05/12/08

Loc: Reva, Virginia USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5637433 - 01/22/13 05:43 PM Attachment (22 downloads)

Quote:

Anyways, they did some napkin calculations and couldn't find anything that was a concern to them. They are going to run some more serious numbers to be sure. They also wanted to see a positive hold-down mechanism in both the open and closed positions (had planned for the closed, but not the open). So, I'm on my way to getting the engineering done and then I can head back to the county to pay their shakedown fee




My county inspectors (Madison County, Virginia) approved this roof hold down mechanism for the open and closed positions of my 20'x24' roll off observatory. The welded bar slides between the caster plate and the "V" groove wheel. Both rails have this mechanism welded on each end. A clamp on each rail from the warm room serves as the other open/closed point of positive engagement.


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Joel
Post Laureate
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Reged: 07/08/04

Loc: Merrimack, NH
Re: Permitting Lesson [Re: DGB]
      #5637443 - 01/22/13 05:51 PM

Glad things seem to be working out for you. I had to get a permit for my observatory. When the inspector came to do the inspection (after it was completed) he barely glanced at it. The only thing he had to say was to ask me what the telescope cost.

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