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#1 WalterG

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:10 AM

Has anyone had problems with obtaining a building permit for a roll-off roof observatory?  I wonder how you handled convincing an inspector that a roof that rolls is secure enough to withstand a storm. I have read many account about people who report that their structure withstands strong winds, and I understand about latching the roof down when not in use.  I could not find any information on building code requirements for roofs that are not permeant.  

 

Walter 



#2 sharkmelley

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:31 AM

The requirements are likely to differ depending on where in the world you live.

 

Mark



#3 Taosmath

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:31 AM

How big an observatory are you building?   I'm planning a ROR observatory but I don't need a permit as long as the structure does not exceed 120 sq ft.


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#4 mikerepp

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:35 AM

Do you even need to tell them the roof moves?   Couldn't you just apply as an out building?   As Mark said above, it likely varies from local to local as to how detailed you may need to be.  Anyone in your area that has already been thru this?  Perhaps a local astronomy club?



#5 WalterG

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:36 AM

Thank you Mark the requirements I'm sure are different but how in general do you go about navigating a roof that is not permanently attached to the walls with an inspector. 


Edited by WalterG, 14 May 2020 - 09:45 AM.


#6 WalterG

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:42 AM

Do you even need to tell them the roof moves?   Couldn't you just apply as an out building?   As Mark said above, it likely varies from local to local as to how detailed you may need to be.  Anyone in your area that has already been thru this?  Perhaps a local astronomy club?

That's true you could apply for the permit, but what happens when you need to call the inspector out to give you the all clear and close the permit.  I'm sure he would notice that the roof is not attached.  I was thinking just sneaking under the radar and building it without a permit but I worry about all my effort going to waste when I'm told it has to come down if some neighbor turns in me in. 



#7 WalterG

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:44 AM

How big an observatory are you building?   I'm planning a ROR observatory but I don't need a permit as long as the structure does not exceed 120 sq ft.

True, I looked that up but that's assuming you have a roof/structure that is firmly attached to the ground. My walls will be attached but I wonder about the roof.  Just trying to cross all my t's and dot my i's. 



#8 TOMDEY

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:55 AM

It's almost entirely a local thing. Rural tends to permit far more freedom/discretion/flexibility/size... urban is picky, suburban can be near-impossible. Draw up some casual plans/sketches and go see the local permit guy. He will also know the inspectors... they coordinate and might even be one and the same. If you and they are friendly and attuned... things should go well.

 

My first home-made suburban dome... the guy recommended/decided to rename my 12-ft octagonal geodesic dome "11x11 foot shed". He explained to me that the board would not understand what an observatory is and postpone the permit indefinitely. In his assignment/authority to screen and recommend, they would go with his screening. You see, he knew the local system and would explain the details to the inspector. That sailed through and everything was fine. The town got their tiny tax increase and no one gave me a hard time. Had I brought up my wonderful plans at a Board Meeting... spinning dome or roll-off roof, would most certainly have shot myself in the foot.

 

Rural was even better! My 24-foot dome. I went down to the Town with sketches... 36-foot octagonal deck, 24-foot octagonal walls, 30-foot top above mean ground. Friends and local contractors would be in on the build. The local excavation guy would take care of general contracting and permits. These guys all know each other and coordinate... most often over coffee and breakfast at the local diner. You can bet they will do their best to see that the project goes smoothly. The assessor is also in on it. That project went fine.

 

I'd say if you find no codes regarding roll off roof --- no point in bringing it up or highlighting that as some sort of a potential issue. Just make sure it's securable (both shut and open) and proceed. Have a qualified/friendly local contractor advised. He will be intimate with the local system and people.  Tom


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#9 WalterG

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:57 AM

It's almost entirely a local thing. Rural tends to permit far more freedom/discretion/flexibility/size... urban is picky, suburban can be near-impossible. Draw up some casual plans/sketches and go see the local permit guy. He will also know the inspectors... they coordinate and might even be one and the same. If you and they are friendly and attuned... things should go well.

 

My first home-made suburban dome... the guy recommended/decided to rename my 12-ft octagonal geodesic dome "11x11 foot shed". He explained to me that the board would not understand what an observatory is and postpone the permit indefinitely. In his assignment/authority to screen and recommend, they would go with his screening. You see, he knew the local system and would explain the details to the inspector. That sailed through and everything was fine. The town got their tiny tax increase and no one gave me a hard time. Had I brought up my wonderful plans at a Board Meeting... spinning dome or roll-off roof, would most certainly have shot myself in the foot.

 

Rural was even better! My 24-foot dome. I went down to the Town with sketches... 36-foot octagonal deck, 24-foot octagonal walls, 30-foot top above mean ground. Friends and local contractors would be in on the build. The local excavation guy would take care of general contracting and permits. These guys all know each other and coordinate... most often over coffee and breakfast at the local diner. You can bet they will do their best to see that the project goes smoothly. The assessor is also in on it. That project went fine.

 

I'd say if you find no codes regarding roll off roof --- no point in bringing it up or highlighting that as some sort of a potential issue. Just make sure it's securable (both shut and open) and proceed. Have a qualified/friendly local contractor advised. He will be intimate with the local system and people.  Tom

This makes a lot of sense. Local makes the difference.  Thank you for the advice. 



#10 John Carlini

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 12:10 PM

Building permits in this part of Wyoming are relatively easy.  I had to fill out a form with a site layout and construction description then pay a small $25 fee.  Despite the actual description of "observatory" on the form, they called it a utility shed for tax purposes.  Too easy...


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#11 Travellingbears

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 08:10 PM

In my area it’s just miscellaneous permit paperwork and writing a check to town. It’s not inspected if below certain sq-ft. So just takes 15-minutes to sketch a draft of proposed location on copy of plat (site plan) and short two sentences of material/design and purpose. Only gripe would be from zoning review since can’t be within certain distance of property lines (setback requirements). Rarely get ‘okay’ on first pass though so extra effort like scheduling meeting with zoning person is usually required. I’ve never got rejected, but had to strain my good nature a few times and ‘kiss up’ to officials when I’ve needed things done.

My ‘ROR’ is in construction and went with slide-out split-roof design (due to space) versus classic rollers. So roof is always ‘attached’ though can move in horizontal direction. Photos shows the rear panel extended.

 

The photos were taken before added 2x4 ‘crossbar’ between the sliders for additional stability/support and the hurricane ties into attached lumber to rafters. The sliders are rated 500-lbs for pair (load will be less than 300-325 per pair when roofed). Each slider is attached to 4x4 Sitting on top plate with 16 2-3/4” Strong-Tie screws. The 4x4 is secured to top-plate with 4” screws thru top plate and secondary with normal strong tie/hurricane ties/screws and 1.25” x 5” long strong-tie nail plates. Plan for motor with Aleko gear drive for roof sections. Will secure with latches. 
 

Rear panel of ROR extended / mid-construction
 
ROR during construction

Edited by Travellingbears, 14 May 2020 - 08:38 PM.

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#12 sunnyday

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 08:27 PM

where I live it is not necessary to have a permit, it's like asking for a permit to have a shed for the snowblower or the mower .... it is really necessary ? 

the city has really nothing to do, except take the money ... I think it's ridiculous.


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#13 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 14 May 2020 - 09:16 PM

The thing that works nearly 100% of the time is to take your ideas drawings and sketches to a structural engineer and have him turn them into a set of stamped plans.

 

Of course associations are the REAL PITA when it comes to building observatories.


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#14 WalterG

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 07:11 AM

In my area it’s just miscellaneous permit paperwork and writing a check to town. It’s not inspected if below certain sq-ft. So just takes 15-minutes to sketch a draft of proposed location on copy of plat (site plan) and short two sentences of material/design and purpose. Only gripe would be from zoning review since can’t be within certain distance of property lines (setback requirements). Rarely get ‘okay’ on first pass though so extra effort like scheduling meeting with zoning person is usually required. I’ve never got rejected, but had to strain my good nature a few times and ‘kiss up’ to officials when I’ve needed things done.

My ‘ROR’ is in construction and went with slide-out split-roof design (due to space) versus classic rollers. So roof is always ‘attached’ though can move in horizontal direction. Photos shows the rear panel extended.

 

The photos were taken before added 2x4 ‘crossbar’ between the sliders for additional stability/support and the hurricane ties into attached lumber to rafters. The sliders are rated 500-lbs for pair (load will be less than 300-325 per pair when roofed). Each slider is attached to 4x4 Sitting on top plate with 16 2-3/4” Strong-Tie screws. The 4x4 is secured to top-plate with 4” screws thru top plate and secondary with normal strong tie/hurricane ties/screws and 1.25” x 5” long strong-tie nail plates. Plan for motor with Aleko gear drive for roof sections. Will secure with latches. 
 

Thank you so much for sharing photos and advice! 



#15 DeanS

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 10:28 AM

A friend in Florida had problems with getting permits for a group of observatories as the locals had no idea how to even categorize them.  As he was explaining what an observatory is, he mentioned that they have weather monitors.  So they became agriculture weather stations as they had a section for that. smile.gif  

 

Not sure if that helps but interesting way to work with the local folks. 

 

And if your building is under a certain size, and has no permanent electric to it, then permits are usually not required.  


Edited by DeanS, 15 May 2020 - 10:37 AM.

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#16 TeslaTrek

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 11:49 AM

Here in San Diego, a permit is required if the structure is over 120 sf (including drip line) or if it is over 15' tall.  I built a 10x12 building that supported a 10' dome.  I had the structure supported on a raised deck.  Power was supplied via an extension cord from the house.

A neighbor complained.  Building inspector came out and measured everything.  He found the total height was 15' 3".  I was  given a code violation, fine and told to fix in 30 days.  Long story short, with the help of friends, we lowered the deck support posts several inches (quite a feat using 6 hydraulic bottle jacks.)  Inspector comes out measures everything and says OK but now I must get an electrical permit.  We had some words but I was left with another code violation and $400.  I did not change the electric at all and an electrical inspector comes out and says "Why did you get an electrical permit?  You didn't need one."  so he just approved it.

 

Later we moved to another part of southern california.  This time I walked into the building permit office and talked to one on the counter agents there.  As others have said, they had no idea about how to classify an observatory.  The agent told me to bring a site survey and elevation plan and he'll take a look.  The survey was needed because our zoning has certain setbacks from the property boundaries, something like 20' or 30' setback. He asked me a bunch of questions.  He was great. After reviewing both my plans he said I shouldn't need a permit.  Great.  (Although my son helped with the site plan and elevation, some of my plans were done in PowerPoint and MS Paint.) I asked could I get that in writing?  He said they do no such thing.  

 

A general contractor who built an addition to our house told me, "Building inspectors are failed contractors and get a bad attitude."    Well I don't believe that applies to all inspectors, it certainly applied to the one I had in san diego.


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#17 Travellingbears

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 12:13 PM

Walter
 

Since not designed for permanent occupancy building code/inspection folks don’t have much concern. The revenues from miscellaneous permits (fences, smaller detached structures, etc) add up to tidy sum in our community. The ‘neighborly interest’ in what occurs in our non-HOA location can certainly also be ‘disruptive’ to any changes on the landscape. My wife has sense of humor and places the decorative ‘fish’ in our landscape garden and on walls to accentuate her individuality and annoy the traditionalists (‘old guard’) of the neighborhood. I’ve learned importance to explain to ‘folk with history of civic involvement’ about my interest in astronomy and my substantial investment in the hobby with equipment. The traditional small one story A-frame or shed roof design doesn’t draw attention on the landscape. I leave permit posted on side of building to discourage annoyed calls to town hall. However adding a roll-off roof with additional rails and posts was considered permanent extension (larger footprint - more review / building inspection ‘hoops to cross’). The proposal of decorative appearance as a permanent ‘trellis’ for rails/posts wouldn’t fly either. Also exceeding 10-ft in height (eg, motorized dome design on a building) was going to take longer than an African elephant’s gestation period for review. Having prior experience with another project (held in permit ‘limbo’) I decided to work the option with least controversy and discussion or I’d still be operating with open deck/pier arrangement. 


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#18 Chucke

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 04:01 PM

Out in the boonies where I live the county has what is called an "Owner-Builder" permit.  It is intended for people who do their own construction in rural areas (I used BYO so everything was built correctly).  Just try finding a licensed contractor for each of the trades out here.  You supply a description of the building (20x28 storage shed 12' high, wood construction), a site plan, a check and you are good to go.  No inspections required.  You are still expected to adhere to code and someday someone from the county may show up to measure the building but no other hassles involved.  They did show up one day with no warning and measured all of the buildings on my site. They were quite friendly and I wasn't really concerned anyway since everything was permitted.  They asked if the outriggers for the ROR were a carport, I said no and they left happy.  I have had nothing but good experiences with the county workers.

 

It is a huge county with low population and very few inspectors. Their time is better served in the more populated areas not out in the middle of nowhere where it might take a whole day driving around just to get to one or two buildings.  Since there is a permit on file the county gets its fees and taxes and everyone is happy.  I think the size limit for not requiring any permit is somewhere around 200 sqft.  The building code is downloadable from the county website.


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#19 sickfish

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 04:06 PM

Say your building a shed. They don't even know how to inspect a observatory.


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#20 Headshot

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Posted 15 May 2020 - 11:11 PM

I went a couple of rounds with my municipal building inspection department when I lived in Illinois. I called it an observatory and they told me they would have to research observatories and write up codes etc. Might take six months. They recommended I call it a "special purpose shed." Sounded OK to me, I just wanted to start the **** construction. Got the permit the next day.

 

At least they knew what an observatory was, when all was said and done.

 

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#21 SometimesKen

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Posted 16 May 2020 - 11:37 AM

Hello Everyone

I'll throw in my 2 cents ...... 

In my township a Building & Zoning permit is needed for any structure 100 sq.ft. or larger.  Think about it, a 10 foot X 10 foot building is small and I kind of doubt there's anything in their code book for small domes sheds, plus I didn't want the hassles of inspections.  So my obs is 9'11" X 9'11" no permits needed!

However, I had a neighbor that wasn't keen on the idea of a observatory next to his backyard and I'm sure he called the township code enforcement office to complain. so I made sure the stick build part was built to code and then some. At first I ran the obs. off a heavy duty extension cord so it was a small free standing building that didn't need a permit, but built to code. Without permanent power it could not be used or claimed as a living space.  I ran conduit about 6 months after it was completed. cool.gif

Check you local codes and see if there's a work-around, I found one! 

Good Luck

Ken 


Edited by SometimesKen, 16 May 2020 - 12:36 PM.

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#22 OldManSky

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Posted 16 May 2020 - 01:11 PM

When I built my full-sized ROR back in 2005, I checked local codes and spoke with a contractor.  Like many others, my location had a size limit, 120 sq. ft. and you needed a permit, below that you didn't.  The requirements said nothing about whether the roof was attached or not.  So I made my mine 11'10" on one size, 9'10" on the other side, just under the 120 sq. ft. limit.  

As for the ROR external frame, the contractor pointed out that you could build a "patio cover" that was freestanding, of any size, without a permit -- you only needed a permit if it was attached to a permitted structure (like a house).  So to cover all the bases I left 1/4" between the observatory and the ROR frame, my wheels rolled right over the tiny gap.

 

I was also building a pool at the time, so I had inspectors there all the time.  One of them noticed the ROR, walked over with his tape measure, measured the length and width, and walked away without saying a word.  That was the closest I came to "trouble." 

But, mind you, this was out in rural San Diego county, with no HOAs or even neighbors closer than a few hundred feet... :)


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#23 mark77

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Posted 16 May 2020 - 02:26 PM

I had a contractor build my building for my 15" foot dome and he took care of getting the permit.  I was able to even stipulate that I wouldn't pay the the down payment (~ 10%) until the permit was approved. He actually agreed to that.  The total building is 24x24.

 

The inspector in this part of state anyway is a company who specializing is building inspections.  The township contracts them to do the inspections.  So it was not some failed/retired contractor but it was a young guy who liked his job and was good at it. I did all the finish work and electrical work and he had a couple of comments along the way, but everything went very well.

 

I did show him how the dome was supported and held in place (horizontal guide wheels). I dont remember him asking what held it down.  It weighs 1500 pounds so its not going anywhere.

 

Mark


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#24 WalterG

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Posted 16 May 2020 - 04:17 PM

I had a contractor build my building for my 15" foot dome and he took care of getting the permit.  I was able to even stipulate that I wouldn't pay the the down payment (~ 10%) until the permit was approved. He actually agreed to that.  The total building is 24x24.

 

The inspector in this part of state anyway is a company who specializing is building inspections.  The township contracts them to do the inspections.  So it was not some failed/retired contractor but it was a young guy who liked his job and was good at it. I did all the finish work and electrical work and he had a couple of comments along the way, but everything went very well.

 

I did show him how the dome was supported and held in place (horizontal guide wheels). I dont remember him asking what held it down.  It weighs 1500 pounds so its not going anywhere.

 

Mark

Thank you for your insight and, OMGoodness!  That is one amazing telescope and observatory!!!!  The pier looks like it is made of thick metal plate, is that true? I just saw what looks like a William Optics wide-field next to your 16 newt ... sweet! 


Edited by WalterG, 16 May 2020 - 04:23 PM.


#25 mark77

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 07:40 AM

Walter

 

The trapezoidal pier sits on top of 4 1/2 ton 2x2 foot solid concrete column which is mechanically isolated from the floor slab.

 

The steel part is 1/2 inch thick steel sides and 1 inch steel top and bottom all full length welded.  It weighs 550 pounds.  So you ask "How did you get it up there" As part of my design, I have a trap door in the floor and lifted it up with chain hoists (yes, I had a second for backup, I wasnt taking any chances of dropping 550 pounds).

 

I have 2 William Optics, one on each side.  One is a WO102 the other WO71.  The picture of Anrdomedia was taken with the 71, a single 75 second exposure.

 

 

Mark


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