Could It Be Built Today For The Same (Relative) Cost?

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PrairieMod
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Could It Be Built Today For The Same (Relative) Cost?

Post by PrairieMod »

Hello All,

I'm doing some research and am hoping the experts can help out. Below is the breakdown in estimated costs that accompanied the "$5000 Fireproof House" that Wright designed for the Ladies Home Journal in 1907. I've also added what those estimated costs translate into as 2008 dollars (based on an inflation calculator):

• Concrete construction, masonry and plastering...$3100 ($76,150.41 in 2008 dollars)

• Carpentry, millwork, sash-doors and screens, labor and trimming...$1100 ($27,021.11 in 2008 dollars)

• Plumbing and furnace...$460 ($11,299.73 in 2008 dollars)

• Wiring...$70 ($1,719.52 in 2008 dollars)

• Painting and glazing...$160 ($3,930.34 in 2008 dollars)

• Hardware...$90 ($2,210.81 in 2008 dollars)

Total= $4980 ($122,331.95 in 2008 dollars)

• If magnesite floors are used add...$320 ($7860.68 in 2008 dollars)

Total= $5300 ($130,192.64 in 2008 dollars)

Image
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So, my question is this--could this same design be executed today at or near that relative price?

DRN
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Post by DRN »

Simple inflation adjustments won't be accurate with buildings. Labor rates are much higher now than they were 20, 40, or 100 years ago, and material (concrete and steel) costs have increased in the last 5 years at a rate that has far exceeded the basic inflation rate. Wright's houses tend to be labor intensive and complex to build despite their clean and simple looks, and this house relies heavily on concrete and steel.

I couldn't begin to estimate a price for this house, but I had an estimate done by a historical restoration contractor when shopping for insurance for the Sweeton house for the cost to replace process by process, material for material: it was about $500/sq ft...and that was for a concrete block Usonian. Labor and custom millwork/windows are the big items in a lot of Wright houses, and the Fireproof House for $5000 has a poured concrete structure as well.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Total= $5300 ($130,192.64 in 2008 dollars)
You are on drugs.

You can barley get the inside of your house painted for $3.9k these days.

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Not on drugs...just inquisitive.

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

RJH wrote:You are on drugs.

I wonder if the moderators will leave this little gem up???


Or shall we end up needing to do another mass genuflection while chanting a chorus of an ever-apologetic "Thank You, RJH"?


David

GKevinK
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Post by GKevinK »

There are elements of design that are essential today that are largely missing from a 1907 plan, and therefore not estimated. Things like air conditioning and insulation. The estimate for wiring in that breakdown was for a level of wiring (number of lights, swiches, outlets, etc.) that wouldn't come close to current code requirements.

In the end... one has to consider exactly what it is that makes a 1907 Wright design desirable today. The plan that you included is a pretty basic '4-square' type of architecture, which doesn't really get anybody excited in-and-of-itself. Certainly the existing FLW works from that era have tremendous charm because of their pedigree and the attention to detail in selection of materials and the execution of the woodworking, etc. Aside from those seeking a 'retro' look or trying to fit new construction into an older neighborhood, is there any particular value in trying to execute this type of design today for new construction?

Ultimately, it would probably come down to having the design reworked to utilize current materials and comply to current codes, and then apply whatever $/sq ft calculation would apply to custom construction in the neighborhood of interest.

The application of these 'inflation calculators' doesn't really include any adjustment for the way that the relative value of materials versus labor has changed over the 100 years we're talking about. If there are available similar calculators that apply different rates for the different cost areas, that might begin to produce a more realistic number. Even that, though, would presume similar construction techniques would be employed - which is doubtful.

Interesting topic to consider, though.

RJH
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Post by RJH »

Paul Ringstrom was trying to design/build a modified copy of the Stockman house with the help of Tom Hines. Not sure how that worked out.

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Wright never built a poured concrete version of the fireproof house, so those construction numbers were his speculative estimates. As history has shown it would be safe to assume a multiple of three be applied to those numbers to result in 1906 real-world results.

As noted above current day energy and code requirements impose a whole new level of costs that Wright did not have to worry about.

This is a real apples and oranges question. You can not replicate his design and construction techniques, apples to apples, today for any amount of money. It will not be allowed.

Wrightgeek
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Post by Wrightgeek »

Paul-

Isn't the Brigham Residence in Glencoe, IL, the only version (albeit slightly modified/enlarged) of the "Fireproof House For $5000" that was actually constructed of concrete?

Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but that is my recollection from a visit to the house during the FLWBC Conference last year. Both the owner of the house, who spoke to our group, and John Thorpe, who led the tour and has done restorative work on the house, made reference to this during our visit.

By the way, how was your trip to Cloquet, MN for the Lindholm gas station's 50th anniversary celebration and symposium?

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

You are correct that the Brigham House was poured concrete, but it NOT the Fireproof House. Similar does not make it the same or even close.

I'll post some info on Cloquet at some point.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

The answer to your question in the original post is no. It could not be built for that amount. We live in a different time with different technologies. Labor and materials were cheap and plentiful on a local level when that house was designed and priced. Plus FLW was an incredible optimist when pricing those Ladies Home Journal Houses. The only accurate way to price that house is to take a well developed set of design drawings and have a professional cost consultant price them.

We have the close-out documents for Davenport. It was built in 1901 for $1.70 per square foot for the house alone. This did not include the garage, landscaping, and architectural and engineering fees.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

When trying to convert costs that far back into today's dollars, it would also be helpful to keep in mind that the implementation of The New Deal, with social security and subsidies for both fuel and agriculture, plus the major advancement of the labor movement, make pre-FDR comparisons with todays market meaningless.

JimM
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Post by JimM »

Interestingly, both Martin and Fallingwater came in at $100,000 in there respective eras; I would think $100,000 in 1907 would have seemed incredible.

pharding
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Post by pharding »

JimM wrote:Interestingly, both Martin and Fallingwater came in at $100,000 in there respective eras; I would think $100,000 in 1907 would have seemed incredible.
In comparison Davenport was completed sans garage was completed in 1901 for $3,500. It was sold at approximately the same time that Fallingwater was constructed for $7,000. E. Arthur Daveport was quite pleased with that.

Off topic. Jim, I rode my bike on your island, Lopez Island, on Tuesday, August 5. Lopez Island and the other San Juan Islands are quite beautiful. I especially liked Lopez Island for cycling because it is relatively flat and sparsely populated.
Paul Harding FAIA Owner and Restoration Architect for FLW's 1901 E. Arthur Davenport House, the First Prairie School House in Chicago | www.harding.com | LinkedIn

JimM
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Post by JimM »

pharding wrote:Off topic. Jim, I rode my bike on your island, Lopez Island, on Tuesday, August 5. Lopez Island and the other San Juan Islands are quite beautiful. I especially liked Lopez Island for cycling because it is relatively flat and sparsely populated.
Yes, in the summer bike clubs from all over the world show up. Lopez does have a reputation as the "flattest" island for biking; but the hill right off the ferry is one of the steepest grades on the island! I always wonder what bicyclists think as they (usually) have to walk their bikes as soon as they get off the ferry.

Sounds like you were here briefly, but if you ever return be sure to let me know.

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