Better Construction Cost Estimates?

When I wrote about how Somerville's affordable housing "bonus density" rules made it likely profitable to build 100% affordable housing, Chris pointed out that I was underestimating construction costs (I was using $150-$200/sqft, though also finding some parcels that looked good even at $600/sqft). I looked into this some and had trouble finding good estimates, and then I forgot about the conversation and posted about how a for-profit affordable housing investment fund could be a good idea. At which point Chris needed to again remind me that my cost estimates were likely too low. Whoops!

Chris gave two examples:

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A Poorly Planned Loft Bed

Planning Lily's loft bed reminded me of a much more poorly constructed one I built in 2004, around when I started writing here. I had just started college and was sorting out a room layout with my roommate. The beds were three pieces: two vertical "H" pieces, and a metal frame to connect them and support the mattress. All of this predates my having a camera that's always in my pocket, so we'll have to make do with drawings:

The verticals had holes drilled in them which allowed you to stack a pair of beds to turn them into bunk beds:

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Framery Phone Booth CO2 Accumulation

The lab the NAO works out of has a Framery O phone booth, for taking calls. It's very good at sound isolation, but being so small (~1.5 m3, 54 ft3) you might be worried about CO2 building up:

I decided to test it. Here are two rounds of sitting in the booth until the meter (Temptop M2000) shows CO2 levels plateauing, then exiting and leaving the door cracked until CO2 has returned to baseline:

The booth is advertised as having 21.5 L/s (45 CFM) of mechanical ventilation, and you can see it works well. With the ventilation disabled, however, it reaches 2k PPM CO2 in 12min, 2.5k in 25min, and plateaus at ~2.7k.

Ours was unplugged, I think because someone assumed the ventilation sound was a white noise generator. If it was just for noise masking it wouldn't be needed: the sound isolation is very good. But since it's for ventilation we should be keeping it plugged in. It's still very quiet: I measure -25db on my Mac in Audacity with the mic volume all the way up vs -39dB with the ventilation disabled. Even with the ventilation running it's still slightly quieter than the office with no one talking, just light noise from the building HVAC (-22db). The only case I'd see unplugging it was if you were using the booth for sound recording, in which case I'd probably make a habit of opening the door to let it air out between takes.

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Planning a Loft Bed

The kids have gotten very excited about loft beds. I like the idea as well: they make good use of space. Lily's room, in particular is quite small, 7ft in the shortest dimension. A bed is just a bit shorter than that, so it's a good candidate for a wall-to-wall loft:

Here it is in the room, with a ladder running up the wall:

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Bathroom Construction Cost Comparison

When we bought our house in 2015 it had one bathroom for our 4br unit. In 2016 I added a bathroom upstairs and then in 2019 I gut-renovated the existing one downstairs. I was thinking back over these, and I was curious: how did my costs compare on the two projects?

In both cases I acted as my own general contractor, hiring people for the plumbing and electrical but otherwise doing the work myself (with friends and family helping). First, the costs:

Upstairs (2016) Downstairs (2019)
Plumber $6,100 $5,826
Electrician $1,267 $2,651
Fixtures $823 $1,750
Materials $861 $1,733
Engineer n/a $1,550
Plasterer $1,000 n/a
Roofer $700 n/a
Window n/a $428
Permits $247 $103
Other $658 $381
Total $11,656 $14,422


Upstairs (2016)


Downstairs (2019)

Even though the costs only differ by ~25% there were a lot of differences between the projects:

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Set List Approaches

Now that Kingfisher is starting to have a bunch of sets I've been thinking some about how to keep track of what we play, which gets into what kind of band we want to be. There's a bit of a continuum, from dance bands with a list of sets they play a specific way each time to ones that just put things together entirely on the fly. There are advantages to each:

  • If you have a specific way you play a set it can generally be very polished, in a way that can be great to dance to. You can put a lot of thought into the arrangement, move a large group of musicians through something complex while sounding very tight, make sharp dynamic changes, and combine a lot of ideas.

  • If you're making things up in the moment, responding to each other, the crowd, and the feeling in the hall, your music can have a lot more life to it. You don't get stuck playing sets you're sick of, and if you're playing several times in the same region the dancers get some variety.

There's no one answer here: what will work best depends a lot on the particular combination of musicians, how they work together, and what they want. Larger groups generally benefit more from pre-arrangement, though if you can allocate someone to lead the band you can still put on a great dance with a large band and no planning. I've enjoyed dancing to bands all over this spectrum.

Bands also often move between these categories over time. The Free Raisins started off going into each set with just some planned tunes and making things up as we went (see our first CD), but over time we would remember things we'd done before and call those things to each other. Patterns we especially liked became the way we would play those sets, and then the process of putting together our second CD gelled them further. As of the start of the pandemic, while we still would play around and improvise, if you heard a given set at two different dance weekends it would probably sound pretty similar, and to be honest we were getting a bit sick of having been playing most of our sets similarly for ~5y. As we get back into playing together (Ann Arbor's Tree Town Stomp next month!) I'm not sure what we'll do!

I wrote to a few different musicians to get their takes:

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