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Circumventing the Building Code

adplum

Registered User
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
4
Location
U.S.A.
Hello forum.
Apologies if this is a time-consuming question which ought to be directed at a paid attorney.

In the Residential Building Code of New York State these two definitions are given:

[RB] STRUCTURE. That which is built or constructed.

[A] BUILDING. Any structure utilized or intended for supporting or sheltering any occupancy.

The scope of both the state Building Code & Residential Building Code is clearly limited to buildings and structures.

My question for you all is: how much wiggle room is there in what will likely be considered a structure or building? Would it be legal to live in a hole in the ground with a makeshift roof on top? What about an ordinary camping tent? Is there something else I’m overlooking which might help fulfill my primitive dreams?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for all your work here which helps people.
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
775
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
I take a stab at what one might consider a pun, but I would venture that local zoning laws would regulate if you can live in a hole with a make shift roof or or camping tent.

I know the local zoning where I am at requires a minimum of a single family structure on a foundation with a minimum of 800 square feet.

They do not allow RV's, pop up tents or garages with rooms over them...

But again, that is normally a zoning thing not a building code thing...
 

e hilton

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Jul 2, 2014
Messages
1,780
Location
Virginia
a minimum of a single family structure on a foundation with a minimum of 800 square feet.

They do not allow RV's, pop up tents or garages with rooms over them...
so they dont allow tiny houses?
 

adplum

Registered User
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
4
Location
U.S.A.
I take a stab at what one might consider a pun, but I would venture that local zoning laws would regulate if you can live in a hole with a make shift roof or or camping tent.

I know the local zoning where I am at requires a minimum of a single family structure on a foundation with a minimum of 800 square feet.

They do not allow RV's, pop up tents or garages with rooms over them...

But again, that is normally a zoning thing not a building code thing...
Thanks very much for your reply. Previously researched zoning information is promising.
Hole ok

Tent NO
Thanks for responding- fascinating. I would’ve guessed the opposite. Now, what if we pushed the envelope a little further... 50 sq ft. hole? 350? multiple “rooms”? simple decoration and furnishing? clay and or rocks for interior “walls”? corrugated metal sheet for a roof? so many questions
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
775
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
Thanks very much for your reply. Previously researched zoning information is promising.

Thanks for responding- fascinating. I would’ve guessed the opposite. Now, what if we pushed the envelope a little further... 50 sq ft. hole? 350? multiple “rooms”? simple decoration and furnishing? clay and or rocks for interior “walls”? corrugated metal sheet for a roof? so many questions
How you going to deal with the radon levels and or water infiltration from rain...
 

adplum

Registered User
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
4
Location
U.S.A.
How you going to deal with the radon levels and or water infiltration from rain...
radon is something I never considered, thanks a lot for speaking up. At the very least testing. It may be possible to imitate the design techniques used to reduce radon in conventional homes as well. Consider this design:
gray dots = gravel, brown = clay, blue = plastic

Should prevent infiltration too in combination with the right roof. Not too disimilar to what they do in landfills now that I think about it.
 

mark handler

Sawhorse
Joined
Oct 25, 2009
Messages
11,126
Location
So. CA
Hello forum.
Apologies if this is a time-consuming question which ought to be directed at a paid attorney.

In the Residential Building Code of New York State these two definitions are given:

[RB] STRUCTURE. That which is built or constructed.

[A] BUILDING. Any structure utilized or intended for supporting or sheltering any occupancy.

The scope of both the state Building Code & Residential Building Code is clearly limited to buildings and structures.

My question for you all is: how much wiggle room is there in what will likely be considered a structure or building? Would it be legal to live in a hole in the ground with a makeshift roof on top? What about an ordinary camping tent? Is there something else I’m overlooking which might help fulfill my primitive dreams?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for all your work here which helps people.
A makeshift roof on top, is a structure, A tent, is a structure. an Awnings or Canopies, are in the code. Umbrella are also in Section 3103 Temporary Structures
A hole in the ground, is not habitable, it is a hole. But you need to prevent people from falling into it.
 

steveray

Sawhorse
Joined
Nov 25, 2009
Messages
8,602
Location
West of the river CT
One more definition you missed:

[RB] DWELLING. Any building that contains one or two
dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be built, used,
rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are
occupied for living purposes.

If you want to live in it, you are likely going to have to meet the building code....Even if you are exempt from permit (if you want to take it that far)....We exempt camping tents....

R105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemption from permit
requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization
for any work to be done in any manner in violation of
the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances
of
this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:

R107.2 Conformance. Temporary structures and uses shall
conform to the structural strength, fire safety, means of
egress, light, ventilation and sanitary requirements of this
code as necessary to ensure the public health, safety and general
welfare.
 

JCraver

Sawhorse
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
829
Location
Southern IL
If you want to live in a hole, or in a tent, your first step is to move out of New York and in to a free State. Then, find a county who doesn't have a building code or zoning requirements, and live your dreams happily-ever-after. You ever watch those Alaska shows on TV? Some of the people up there in the wild areas live in way worse places than a tent.
 

mtlogcabin

Sawhorse
Joined
Oct 17, 2009
Messages
8,128
Location
Big Sky Country
I have a 16 X 16 log cabin that I lived in for 5 years. No electric, no water, no sewage disposal. Propane lights and stove, and a wood barrel stove for heat that I will rent out. Two seater outhouse included.
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
775
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
I have a 16 X 16 log cabin that I lived in for 5 years. No electric, no water, no sewage disposal. Propane lights and stove, and a wood barrel stove for heat that I will rent out. Two seater outhouse included.
I take it, if it comes with a hot spring near by, got to have those warm showers for the back....
 

e hilton

Bronze Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
1,780
Location
Virginia
I had a secretary many years ago, after she got married in her early 20’s she and hubby lived in a teepee in Colorado for 2 yrs. Heated and cooked over a camp fire.
 

Rick18071

Sawhorse
Joined
Nov 28, 2009
Messages
3,094
Location
Poconos/eastern PA
I have a 16 X 16 log cabin that I lived in for 5 years. No electric, no water, no sewage disposal. Propane lights and stove, and a wood barrel stove for heat that I will rent out. Two seater outhouse included.
Had a two seater once at my cabin but went down to one when the outhouse was rebuilt after a flood.

In PA you can build a "Vacation Cabin" any way you want without a permit or inspections. You just can't live there or get mail there, and are required to have a portable fire extinguisher.
 

adplum

Registered User
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
4
Location
U.S.A.
A makeshift roof on top, is a structure, A tent, is a structure. an Awnings or Canopies, are in the code. Umbrella are also in Section 3103 Temporary Structures
A hole in the ground, is not habitable, it is a hole. But you need to prevent people from falling into it.
This is what the code seemed to imply but I was hoping otherwise. Thanks for your post.
One more definition you missed:

[RB] DWELLING. Any building that contains one or two
dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be built, used,
rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are
occupied for living purposes.

If you want to live in it, you are likely going to have to meet the building code....Even if you are exempt from permit (if you want to take it that far)....We exempt camping tents....

R105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemption from permit
requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization
for any work to be done in any manner in violation of
the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances
of
this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:

R107.2 Conformance. Temporary structures and uses shall
conform to the structural strength, fire safety, means of
egress, light, ventilation and sanitary requirements of this
code as necessary to ensure the public health, safety and general
welfare.
I saw the dwelling definiton, but it implies that a dwelling must be a building, so dwelling regulation is dependent on building (& therefore structure) definition.

You’re probably right about conformance. It seems like the only way to live simply and legally on the land is with no shelter at all. I’m open to that, but it will be hard winters in a state like NY. Surely they wouldn’t call the clothes on my back structures. I feel as though they might be tempted when it comes to bivvy bags, sleeping bags, and even pots/pans. Your thoughts?
If you want to live in a hole, or in a tent, your first step is to move out of New York and in to a free State. Then, find a county who doesn't have a building code or zoning requirements, and live your dreams happily-ever-after. You ever watch those Alaska shows on TV? Some of the people up there in the wild areas live in way worse places than a tent.
This is sensible advice, but you can’t blame me for trying

I have a 16 X 16 log cabin that I lived in for 5 years. No electric, no water, no sewage disposal. Propane lights and stove, and a wood barrel stove for heat that I will rent out. Two seater outhouse included.
Mind saying where?

I had a secretary many years ago, after she got married in her early 20’s she and hubby lived in a teepee in Colorado for 2 yrs. Heated and cooked over a camp fire.
sounds nice. sadly doesn’t appear possible in today’s colorado
 

mark handler

Sawhorse
Joined
Oct 25, 2009
Messages
11,126
Location
So. CA
One more definition you missed:

[RB] DWELLING. Any building that contains one or two
dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be built, used,
rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are
occupied for living purposes.

If you want to live in it, you are likely going to have to meet the building code....Even if you are exempt from permit (if you want to take it that far)....We exempt camping tents....

R105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemption from permit
requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization
for any work to be done in any manner in violation of
the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances
of
this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:

R107.2 Conformance. Temporary structures and uses shall
conform to the structural strength, fire safety, means of
egress, light, ventilation and sanitary requirements of this
code as necessary to ensure the public health, safety and general
welfare.
A hole is not a building
When he adds a cover, that is a structure.
 
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