Housing and Feminism
Self Build Housing
Training and Technical
Shelter and Service
Planning and Design
Studies of Women's Self Build Housing
Training and Techical
The women who responded to this project fall into two categories in term
of educational opportunities. Five have tertiary level education, with three
graduating, while the two others gained leaving certificates and then completed
secretarial courses. One woman described her education as,
"Middle class education of the sixties and seventies. All girls high
that had academic streaming."
None of these women had studied any `technical` subjects at secondary school.
As one respondent pointed out, girls just weren't allowed.
"Women our age didn't have the chance to do any building when they
were younger. We have a couple of building courses for women in this area
now. The women just love it, they come out with such great self esteem that
'I built that play house at the community neighbourhood house', and they
all comment on how nice it is building with women."
Not one woman in the sample had any experience in the building industry.
When asked about relevant experiences drawn on in building this house three
women said that they had none to draw on. Along with the woman who said
she did a hobby woodwork course while she was on the state housing authority
waiting list, this covers all the women who took part in state housing authority
programs. Another woman talked of staying in owner built houses, hearing
the stories of their builders. Both the remaining women had some experience
helping out with other self build houses, one of whom said that her two
years in an industrial design course helped a lot.
Two of the respondents hired labourers to assist with building the house.
In both of these instances labourers were hired as the self builder had
injured themselves. One of the women said this of the labourers she contracted,
"To me 'slapdash' is a series of noggins which should have been flush
on the exterior edge but ended up of by 3-5 mm! As the designer I was responsible
and probably didn't stress my requirements adequately. Generally the work
was solid, competent and at times inspired. They also allowed me to run
estimates past them, go away and get the right gear, then by and large we'd
get it right when we got on site."
Four of the women taking part in this study said that they had hired sub-contractors,
this included all of the state housing authority project participants. Subcontractors
were used for; excavation, slab, framing, brickwork, plumbing, electrical,
ceiling lining and roofing. Most of these respondents used four or five
of these services.
Subcontractors were located in a variety of ways which included; recommendations
from friends, phone book, subcontractors who were acquaintances and newspapers.
The state housing authority group self build housing program participant
said that her group surveyed three, got quotes for a group of houses and
used them as a basis to decide who to employ. Descriptions of the subcontractors
ranged from very helpful to unreliable.
"I found that the subcontractor would agree to do one thing and then
"It seems hard to get them to do the work, they seem so snowed under.
We get a bit frustrated cause they hold us up a bit."
"When he realised that we were going to do the wiring ourselves he
just opened the circuits, was very helpful and gave us quite a few hints."
Most of those who used subcontractors had quite a bit to say about the standards
of work and situations they encountered. Opinions of work ranged from: very
good, OK and ordinary to shoddy. One woman commented that some seem not
to have much interest in their work.
I have found that most of the men in the building trades are very arrogant
and sexist. It is very annoying."
"One of the subcontractors did not take my wants, needs or opinions
seriously. I wanted leafless gutters, but because the subcontractor was
unfamiliar with these and didn't want to know about it, my lack of assertiveness
meant I didn't get them."
The women reported that they had a variety of sources of technical support.
For some it was members of the family (all of those mentioned were male),
a good friend who was a builder or just knowledgable and the state housing
authority building adviser. Several mentioned books as a source of technical
support. The respondents used various strategies to assist in making technical
decisions when they were unsure. Most said they read and asked questions,
others that they drew and pondered.