Shell construction can be a good option for many people who want to construct a house or other building. First, they can contract to have the outer structure built. Then, later, they can take care of adding the finishes to the project.
People choose shell construction for a variety of reasons. Whether they are a homeowner who wants to save money by installing the finishes himself, or a building owner who’d rather finish the building to meet the needs of specific tenants, shell construction is an alternative worth considering.
But what is shell construction? Basically, shell construction involves constructing what’s called the building envelope. This includes the foundation and the structure that protects the interior of the building from rain and snow and is a barrier to insects, noise, and intruders. The shell not only protects the inside of the building but is the structure that ensures the building’s stability.
In contrast, a complete project would essentially be move-in ready. The builder would complete all the interior and exterior finishes. While some people prefer the turnkey alternative, others are more inclined to shell construction.
What is Included in Shell Construction?
While some projects may include more features, every shell construction project consists of constructing the primary structure of the building.
This includes six components: site work, footers and foundation, reinforced masonry, tie beams, slab, and roof framing.
In projects that involve building a complete structure, these same components would be built. In addition, all the exterior and interior finishes would be added. Since shell construction does not include the finishes, it is much less expensive.
But before deciding on pursuing the option of shell construction, it’s essential to understand what’s involved in building a shell that will meet your needs.
1. Site Selection and Site Work
As in any real estate decision, the location is critical. There’s no point in building your dream house in an area that few people would find desirable.
Once you’ve found a piece of land that looks promising, you’ll need to do some testing and analysis to ensure it is appropriate for the structure you plan to build.
Soil testing is imperative to determine if the subsoil meets code. Many areas are sand or muck in south Florida, which do not meet building code requirements. If your lot’s soil doesn’t meet code, the engineer will determine what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Excavation, demucking, or backfill might all be required.
The site may also influence the type of foundation. This is usually determined through a survey and by analyzing the vertical dimensions of the proposed building. The architect and engineers will be able to tell you if the lot will support the type of building you want and what excavation or backfill will be required.
2. Footers and Foundation
This is a critical step in the process of any construction process. Any mistakes made in the foundation will impact the rest of the building.
Footers are designed based on the weight of the proposed building. If necessary, piles may need to be installed to compensate for any inadequacies in the soil.
The footers will need to be carefully laid out to ensure that windows, doors, columns, and other vital points are appropriately reinforced. A correctly performed concrete pour of the footers and foundation will provide a sturdy foundation for the building.
Hiring a shell construction company that understands the south Florida building environment will help ensure the success of your project. For example, coastal properties require different concrete than those located inland.
3. Reinforced Masonry
As in other stages, the layout is vital. Once the footers and foundation are in place, the block layout is designed to support masonry openings, such as windows or doors. Reinforcing materials, such as steel rods or horizontal bracing will be added as needed to enhance the strength of the building.
4. Tie Beam
The tie beam connects two footings and avoids the settlement of columns or the foundation. They also keep different footings from settling differently.
This is when the concrete is poured for the foundation. It will most likely be run simultaneously as the foundation if it’s a monolithic slab. If not, it might be poured with the tie beam. Every project is different.
The key to either approach is to plan appropriately beforehand, including ensuring there is no rain headed your way. You want the slab poured in dry weather to make sure it dries properly.
6. Roof Framing
In this stage, the trusses are installed, and the wooden sheaths are attached. This leaves the structure ready for the roofers to do their part. Roof waterproofing is not included in the shell.
Once these phases are completed, all that’s left is for the site to be cleaned up and excess materials stored for the later use of the subcontractors.
The Big Advantage of Shell Construction: Flexibility
The primary reason people choose the option of shell construction is the flexibility it offers. They can get the shell built quickly, then take their time to complete the work according to their timetable. In addition, they can figure out how they’d like to finish their sub-floors and stud walls and add any other finishes they’d like.
Every project is a little different. Because of that, various projects may include other elements besides the ones described above. Sometimes further details are included in the shell construction. For example, some projects include windows and doors, external cladding, and occasionally, landscaping. Additional elements are added depending on the needs of the building owners.
Your builder can work with you. We can do that if you’d like to include heating, electrical systems, or roughed in plumbing.
What are the Advantages of a Shell Building Structure?
Many homeowners prefer to hire a building contractor to construct a shell. By doing this, the homeowner can save some money. This can be a good option if the homeowner has the time and the skills to add the flooring and interior finishes and enjoys doing the work.
In addition, the shell construction concept allows people more flexibility. They can customize the home as much as they like, and finish the building at their own pace, taking their time to decide about flooring, paint, and other finishes when they are ready. These people don’t like the pressure of making all the decisions at once, as is the norm with turnkey construction. By building a shell, they can control the timing of the finishing process.
Many people who build commercial properties prefer the shell construction concept as well. There are many advantages to using this method.
The reason is simple. Many building owners who built and finished commercial space discovered later that their tenants had utterly different needs or wants regarding the space. Many of the finishes and interior walls needed to be changed. Ceiling, flooring, and electrical and mechanical fittings often required significant changes.
All of which added up to a lot of wasted time and money. Many commercial properties are now built with the shell concept. The common areas like lobbies, staircases, elevators, public restrooms, electrical, plumbing, mechanical systems, fire detection and safety, and landscaping could all be completed even before tenants sign the lease. Part of the lease would involve finishing the rental space to meet the tenant’s needs.
The work can proceed even if tenants have been found before the shell is complete. This gives the tenants a little more time to decide on the layout and finishes of their space.
If you’d like to explore shell construction as an option for your new home or commercial property, give us a call. We’d be happy to explain how our process works and how shell construction can be a better, stress-free option for you.