Re: Handmade Houses
From: Tricia Bowler-Archambault (
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 10:07:06 -0600 (MDT)
Hi Sharon,
I, too, have been aware from an early age how technology and the
construction business (with all its codes) has contributed to a loss of
knowledge and right to build our own homes.  In fact, in my family, it has
only been one generation (mine) that has not been capable of constructing my
own home.  My father, his father and many before them, built their own homes
with no training and little capital.  These homes still stand today, unlike
many of the "standard" homes that are built today with a shelf life of 50
years.  I find it fascinating that cobb homes do not meet the building code
when many cobb homes in Europe that are over 400 years old still stand after
having housed generations of families.

One of my reasons for looking into co-housing was to see how it may fit my
values and concerns for the high cost of housing.  Many people are working
to pay for housing.  There is nothing wrong with that if you do not sense
any other purpose on this planet.  But if you do, there is frustration in
spending significant hours working to pay the mortgage or rent.  Building
homes ourselves, with local materials, is one way to bring the costs down.
I am interested to know if others have any thoughts about this in relation
to the high cost of co-housing development.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>
To: <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2003 7:08 PM
Subject: [C-L]_Handmade Houses

> On 4/25/2003 4:26 PM, "Casey Morrigan" <cjmorr [at]> wrote:
> >> In California in the 70s when people were going out into the country to
> >> their own houses, they found all sorts of ways to get around the code.
> >> person followed the code for a boat house. She was out in the middle of
> >> huge field and her house was up on 10 ft stilts but she had her house.
> >>
> > I thought, surely there are Other Jurisdictions, besides that ever-flaky
> > California,  where people have tried to get around codes?  Perhaps?
> > on, midwesterners, southerners --- 'fess up!
> This made me think about the whole movement of handmade houses and how
> they may have contributed to cohousing. While many of the houses were
> elaborate and beautiful, they were all built by the owners by hand. Many
> were built a room at a time. All were built at low cost, the objective
> to live as free as possible -- meaning as little corporate and government
> contact as possible. People helped each other build their houses.
> This required avoiding a lot of code requirements so they could be built
> without expensive central heating systems, electricity, plumbing, etc.
> were built "secretly" in the woods and mountains. Many were in California
> because the temperate climate made a heating system less important, but
> were built around Woodstock, NY. I'm sure they were in other places too.
> piece of advice I remember was "design your house so that no piece is too
> big for you to handle alone."
> One family had a moving van pull up to their door, load all their stuff,
> drive to the country where they had the van unload everything under a tree
> on an open field that had bought. The moving men thought they were crazy.
> They gradually built their house. Sociologically interesting  things were
> learned -- for example, at 14 children would go out and build their own
> houses while returning home for meals and other life supporting
> At 16 they would begin spending ore time in their "own" homes, taking food
> with them. The whole process of becoming independent was very gradual.
> This would certainly be one way to build cohousing for less than the going
> rate.
> Sharon
> --
> Sharon Villines, Washington DC
> Where all roads lead to Casablanca
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