Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Every Story Has A Beginning

When I was about eight years old I was at an aunt's house for a birthday party.  Someone asked where her husband was.  "He's building our house," I remember her saying.  So, you can build your own house? That was a revelation to me.  The house I lived in was new as a shiny penny.  My father had it built to his specifications less than a year before.  But this was the first time it had occurred to me that people can build their own houses.  I decided then and there that someday, someway, I was going to build my own house.

Flash forward almost 40 years.  I have a BS in Construction Management, an acre of land, a contractor's licence, and an itch that I've been waiting a long time to scratch.  My wife has bought into the dream too and with any luck by the summer of 2016 the house will be finished.

Right now we are in the schematic design phase.  We've arrived at the basic floor plan and begun sketching details. The house is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian's.  While I want the house to reflect Usonian principals I'm reluctant (despite this blog's title!) to to declare, "I'm building a Usonian!"  For instance, right now I'm struggling to reduce the square footage of the house.  The design is just over 4,000 square feet and that certainly isn't Usonian!  But it may be what gets built.  So, lets just say that Wright's Usonians have been an inspiration and I hope the final product has at least a small fraction of the beauty and utility I see in his work.

Here are the highlights of the project at this moment:
     - a single level house, 4,000 square feet of conditioned living space
     - rammed earth exterior walls
     - structural insulated concrete panel roof
     - off-grid; no outside utility providers
     - the land is a county island in Chandler; the subdivision is fenced and gated with five lots

I don't know where this will go: I've gotten positive feed back from the building officials but they haven't seen any plans yet so it's not a given that unconventional construction materials and methods will meet with their approval, without a final design costs can't yet be estimated, financing is sure to be a challenge, and finally, this is a heck of a lot of work both physical and mental. But maybe, just maybe, I'll reach that goal.

In the coming weeks I'll be posting words, sketches, drawings, pictures, links, and videos to document this journey.  I'd love to hear what you have to say about what I'm doing, so don't be shy.