“How Much Would a Jacob’s Usonian House Cost Today to Build?” Revisited…

Jacobs House would be about $170K to build with land in our area in 2013. Original cost was $5500 in 1936/37 or about $86K in todays dollars. Jacobs House would be about $170K to build with land in our area in 2013. Original cost was $5500 in 1936/37 or about $86K in todays dollars. Photo ©J. Adams 2013

After seeing the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Jacobs house in Madison Wisconsin in real life I have been obsessing about how much in today’s dollars it would realistically take. My previous estimates were about $70,000 in materials (which either way I calculate would be around the same).

This would be a 6″ slab (Wright’s original “concrete mat” was 3″ thick). I was going to reduce that estimate slightly for the heating as I have seen really cheap broilers go for $1500.

However, I have since found out in Canada starting I think Jan 1, 2012 we must meet a certain energy efficiency that would be totally impossible to meeting using Wright’s sandwich, board and batten constructed exterior walls. I would say you would need face brick, air gap, foam board, 8 inches of blown in, 2″ rigid around the entire foundation and under, triple pane glass and the list goes on. So let’s leave the materials at $70K.

The part I did not understand is Wright was including the cost of the property in with his original $5500 1937 dollars. However, it is unclear to me if Herbert Jacobs bought the two 60 foot parcels in that price (which I do not think so). The story is long and detailed and in one of my last posts, I linked to his own story about it here.

So let me revise the original land requirements and make it slightly outside the suburbs here. We have seen 100′ X 200′ properties (and larger) go $25K to $30K. Let’s say labour is $70K. Permits and hooking into sewers and electrical and gas, let’s say $5K. So we are up to as low as $170K, which the average home is going for $189K now in our area and rising. At about $100/sqft with land, that is a hell of a deal here where the average price is climbing to over $200/sqft for new construction.

I’d like to hear from anyone that has done equivalent estimates.

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