Next week I'm going to build the primary steel staircase for the house. Over the last 24 hours the design has changed more than three times. It's not that I don't know what I want, it's just that I have a crazy architect, Timon Phillips, and an even more crazy friend, Vin Marshall, who engineered and designed what I'm calling the "mouse tower" concept and will be welding it with me. (Lesson one of a DIY build: If your friends are as nuts as you are, nothing in your home is going to be normal or easy.)
The idea of the Swiss cheese look is to let light through, but I also need it to be rigid and not scare my wife and kids. So the center structure, to which we'll weld the treads, is a five-inch thick hollow shell with two ¼" steel plates for sides. We'll use the plasma cutter to create the round holes and put five-inch long pipe sections into them, overhanging each side by a quarter inch, giving us a lip to weld to the plates. We'll weld the mouse tower to a structural steel base and the landing to hold it all up and add a bit of reclaimed wood on top. That is, unless we change the design again tonight. And given that I don't have time to do a plywood model, the whole build is going to be one big dice roll.
Our goal is to have it done in seven days, and I'll do some time-lapse photography along the way. IN the meantime, check out more inspiring staircase designs at stairporn.org (SFW!).
John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow along as the project progresses on his Green Dream blog: popsci.com/green-dream
Hi. I build staircases for a living and since you sound like you're still in the design stage, there are a few things you may want to consider. No offense, they look really cool but, green or not, they still have to pass code if you want to actually live in the house. One thing you will want to think about is that in most places in the U.S., if you can pass a 4 inch sphere through any part of the handrail it will fail inspection and you WILL have to change it to get a certificate of occupancy, no exceptions. Staircase design has had to change to accomodate saftey in recent years, much to the dissapointment of dreamers who are willing to have a less than safe staircase in the name of looking cool.. I'm with you, free-standing stairs are neat, but nowadays, you HAVE to have an outside handrail for safety reasons. You mentioned in the article the whole thing being a "big dice roll". I'd check in to your local code because, more than likely, you're rolling the dice for nothing.
You are such a party pooper. Just don't tell the provence you are installing the stairs! ;)
www.freebord.com/ride <-- Snowboard the Streets!
Duh ! ! That's why they developed LEXAN and PLEXIGLASS ! !
The use of modern materials with innovative ideas is a given. Instead of thinking how an idea cannot be done, let's be proactive and think as to how IT MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED. PUT TRANSPARENT MATERIALS INTO THE OFFENDING HOLES AND MEET CODE ! !
DHLACK is right about the use of transparent materials to maintain the design intent of permitting as much light as possible. That said, holes above 36" (min. guardrail ht.) don't require physically obstructive materials.
It should be noted that the End View of the stair doesn't show side walls which are 1 1/2" from the tread ends. No problem there. Also not shown is the requisite handrail that was not yet drawn. These drawings were in the design development phase. Take comfort "stairguy", we're on it!
Thinking outside the box is what it's all about! This magazine is about innovation and forward thinking. I'm glad to take part and have the opportunity to push creative boundaries. It takes perseverence.
Ahh yes.. side walls would make a world of difference.. the drawings make it look freestanding in open space. Also, you're correct about the 36" min handrail height and physical obstruction but my point was that all but two of your 12" holes and most of the others on the drawing are under that. And yes, DHLACK you are very correct. Lexan has been the industry's answer to the newer, more strict, building codes. Pop lexan discs in the holes and you're good to go. In fact, recently I saw a staircase built completely out of lexan except for what appeared to be floating maple treads. It's a great effect. Didn't mean to be a "party pooper" BTW, but I think that this staircase is the kind of idea that some people might embrace and want to incorporate in to their own home design. They should just be aware that there is a little more to this type of design that must be considered... but I digress. Keep up the good work. Keep pushing boundries and dreaming. Thanks for responding Timon. I honestly excpected my comment to just be deleted..
Stairguy, you are just a little unimaginative. You're right that a free-standing staircase like this would never make code in most of the US, but a free standing climbing sculpture doesn't have to meet building codes for stairs. If this is the only way up to the above floor then you might have difficulty categorizing it that way, but otherwise it's just a matter of perspective.
On the other hand, if you have young children it might be a saftey hazard from the perspective of any child under the age of 15 climbing pretty much anything they can get their hands on and not even thinking about the drop.
From a structural perspective, I'm curious about how the stairs will fair from the stress over time from the impact of people's feet. More math than I'd want to do, so I'll just wish you luck. Let me know how it turns out?