We’re building a house!
I’ve dreamed about building a house since I was a kid. In fact, I once got a birthday present at age 13 of a big book of house plans. I loved looking through these, imagining the spaces, visualizing what it would be like to live in different places.
I don’t know what made me so infatuated with houses, but there was always something about cozy human shelters and the built environment that inspired me. Perhaps there’s some primordial connection with the past. My Dad was a carpenter and built the house I grew up in, so maybe it was just in my blood. But, I never had a desire to follow his footsteps exactly or get into the trade of building.
Truth is, I’m not very good working with my hands. More specifically, I’m terrible at solving problems with my hands. But, I excel at solving problems in my head. I have a voracious appetite for acquiring new knowledge and trying to learn not just how things works, but how things work together.
Studying systems, in other words. Any building is a complicated system with thousands of parts that need to come together — inputs, processes, outputs. But, a house is also an integral part of many larger systems — social systems, communities, cities, the economy, etc. So building a house is the perfect opportunity to design not just a space to live, but to design a way to participate in all these larger systems that’s consistent with our values and desires. For example, designing a house can influence:
- Resource consumption and carbon footprint
- Biodiversity and ecosystem health
- The quality of food we eat and the systems of food production
- The community we build
Clearly, I live in a world of ideas. Only slowly and rarely have I turned ideas into action.
In this case, taking action means throwing out the book of conventional design and construction (including well-meaning modern “green” best practices). Instead, we are embracing methods of design and construction that embody the ethic of 180 forward — natural building, permaculture principles and ethics.
But wait, isn’t green-tech and sustainable building all the rage right now? What’s wrong with conventional construction and housing development? Why are we consciously rejecting cultural norms and standards that dictate the kind of houses people live in?
These questions are explored next.