INHABITAT: There seems to be a growing trend of DIY home builders? What sort of knowledge or skills do they have? Or are these individuals largely learning as they go?
Jessica Kellner:Dan Phillips of the Phoenix Commotion talks a lot about the basics of building and how specialized skills aren’t necessary for the majority of the work that goes into a home. For complex wiring or plumbing, you probably want to hire a professional, but cutting lumber, driving in nails or plastering walls are fairly basic skills. I think it’s wise to do your research and to try to get hands-on experience before tackling any major endeavor, but I think we should get over the idea that there is no way your average person can build a home.
INHABITAT: For a family who either has no time, no building knowledge or little money, what would you suggest to them to find a way of owning their own home.
Jessica Kellner: A home is going to require the input of resources. Aaron Powers, one of the homebuilders in my book, made a great point by saying he and his wife used the resources they had available to them as young people—time and energy—rather than the resources they didn’t have—money. Collecting salvaged materials takes time. But it saves a boatload of cash. As far as knowledge is concerned, there are myriad ways in every community that you can gain knowledge. Like I mentioned, join a straw-bale building association to learn how to build that way. Volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity house. Go volunteer at the Phoenix Commotion for a week or a month, or read all of Dan Phillips’ educational materials on his website. Read up on building methods. There are tons of excellent books and websites out there. Building a home isn’t rocket science—up until about 100 years ago, lots of people did it. The skills it requires are fundamental; it’s a matter of taking the time and energy to learn them.