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Feminist Research
Housing and Feminism
Self Build Housing


	Case Studies

Personal Background
Training and Technical
Land Policies
Institutional Support
Shelter and Service
Planning and Design
Building Materials


Case Studies of Women's Self Build Housing

Jan bought the block containing her site with a group of 5 other people, the total land price with solicitors fees was $9500. She went on to borrow $1000 from a friend for building the house. "I began my journey with women's housing out of a realisation that I needed a space of my own where I could have autonomy of thought, spirit and action. I had intentionally chosen to live communally for many years and wanted to continue this experience. (Alas so few in western cultures even get a glimpse of what benefits this lifestyle can bring, and so many people are thought of as living 'on a commune' when in fact it's often isolation in close proximity to others in a picturesque setting.)"

A"...major learning for me out of the experience of building my own space was the realisation and growing practice of being able to do whatever I wanted to do and that I need not be restricted by my own or others perceptions of what women can't do - or supposedly shouldn't do".

Prior to building her house Jan jointly owned a house with another person. She said, " It wasn't so much owning my own home that was significant so much as having a space of my own. Jan recognised that self build was a cheaper option than buying a house; the self build option gave her a 100% equity in the house.

Jan said, "I didn't wish to get into debt beyond $1000 so I built modestly, used recycled windows and doors and built in two stages". When stage one, shell, floor, roof and external walls were complete she moved in and completed stage two, the internal walls, cupboards and finishings.

Jan decided to build the house one month before she started work on it in September 1978. She completed the house in September 1979. The whole process took no longer than she thought. "I gave myself twelve months and I paced myself to achieve my goal." This was not the case with the day to day work however. "Most sections took three times longer than I'd initially imagine -I learned to times three quickly!"

Jan set her own time frame of twelve months. "I had two small kids, twelve months and two years old, and I only had three days child free time per week (7 am - 5 pm), by negotiation with their father."

In Jan's case time constraints called for stringent planning. "I built three days a week for twelve months. Day one: Begin a segment and prepare for day two. Day two: When necessary use friends' help for maybe two hours. Day three: Complete segment and plan for next step. As I became more confident and competent with tools the process became more efficient. Summer heat saw me start building very early and take an hour of mid day. Winter was pleasant -[working from] light till dark days"

This is how Jan described her average day working on the house.

"7 or 7:30
Tools out
Consult trusty notebook for details that I'd set out the day before
Prepare materials -cut, fit, etc..
Lunch swim talk with friends on the community
Do the washing or bring in washing or similar
Lunch to 5:30

Being a self builder has had an impact on Jan's income in the long term as she went on to teach building and other courses to women. "The actual process of creating a structure is still a process that I love. Conception of visual spaces that actually meet real human needs as distinct from creating environments that we then have to learn how to behave in. I believe that we need to look at the political and personal implications of all structures and environments that we help to shape."

The best and the worst of Building...
The best..The Worst...
Knowing I could do it, putting down the floors -I love that part, amount of support received from particularly women. Getting fit, being out in the weather, learning skills I'd always wanted to play with. Turning a lump of wood into something beautiful. Seeing a dream come to fruition. Realising bit by bit that timber as a resource was becoming scarce, that we as a group of humans had mismanaged our forests. Many months into the project going to get hardware and having people ask "well what does your husband really want", "people, particularly men trying to convince me I wanted something other than what I was asking for, when I knew very well what I wanted. Being treated in a way that men would never be treated. Some of the materials very heavy and I had to carry every thing up a steep site by hand. Getting a run on and having young children and only three days to build and getting the passion for continuing.

"I'd say that premises about what women supposedly shouldn't be interested in or shouldn't do pervade our societies and haven't radically altered in recent times. Inherent in these are the accompanying attitudes that follow these faulty premises. [For example] that women should continue to be involved in actions \ pursuits that aren't supposed to be the domain of men. This restricts us in not being able to participate in areas of our choice, and if we do choose to act outside of our societaly set roles we run the risk of doing standard women's activity plus any additional activity we undertake.

We find very few female-male work or domestic relationships where there is true equality occurring, and our architectural decisions are often heavily responsible for this situation. The restrictions that women are subjected to 'by society' are characterised by, and further entrenched by the environments that we shapers create."

The case studies presented here contain photographs, illustrations and quoted material that is subject to copyright. Excerpts have been reproduced here with consent of the copyright holder.