Sunday, March 7, 2010

On building a house in town

My wife and I are building a house. I've done it before and I've helped others build their own places. Every house is a compromise, just like anything else in life. I'm designing it in Google Sketchup because I wanted to try doing a house in 3-D CAD. If you think it's a cool way to design a house be warned: it's extremely time consuming. The good thing is you can design every little detail before you start: the bad thing is that you do! House plans are generally very abstract sketches showing no more than is necessary, because a builder knows how to build — they just need shape and size specified. But a 3-D CAD is something far more complex and formidable.One reason to do it this way is that it won't be a normal house. I think like an engineer making something for the very first time and novelty is something where you need to show lots of detail in order to work through any problems. That doesn't guarantee you'll get it right though.
I like designing. But it isn't necessary. We could have bought an old place and fixed it up and it would have been fine. We could have gone on renting — I've got plenty of other things I could be doing with my time. But building a house gives a sense of direction for me. I'm involved in lots of community stuff but I'm not really good at it. Or maybe I'm better than I think I am, but I don't feel all that comfortable with it. Otherwise I would be a politician.

I abandoned the dominant religion of our industrial civilisation, Heroic Materialism, in my late teens and early twenties but like a child brought up a Catholic, I was and am a product of my time. The future will need different philosophies and different spiritual and intellectual anchors, but this is what I do — designing and building.

I am very aware that the context for our house is as crucial as the building itself. That's where things become a lot more uncertain. Will our little town be a good place to live for another twenty or so years? Things like that are hard to judge because we are looking at big changes in our world, a world which we hardly understand now! However if we don't owe money and are reasonably healthy and active I'm sure we can get by. One of the great pluses of living here is that there no social tensions or crime worth speaking of, and another is lots of well-meaning and like minded souls who are willing to put in lots of effort on community projects.

So I feel investing a lot of work and money in a house is a reasonable risk.

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