Any house will do!

If you had to build with your knowledge with the materials you would find locally, what would that look like?  Oh yea, you also have no cash.

I recently had the pleasure to visit a few countries in the Western Carribean.  Instead of staying close to the tourist routes, my wife and I tried our best for the brief time we were there to see what the locals would see, to experience their world.   I couldn’t help but take pictures of their homes.  By far, the homes in Guatemala were the barest, and simplest.  Some built with  no more than what you could find in the forests and trash dumps.

The home pictured above was one of the nicer homes, more put together than the rest.  I am sure this home builder had some experience building.  Bumbling around the local streets, I passed many abodes, few with any architectural elements incorporated save for walls, and a shed or gable roof.  Many cooked beside the road, over stick fires, with palm fronds to shade their head.  Babies were washed in 5 gallon buckets, transportation was tied to a fence post refueling on the grass at their feet.  Their was something simple about all of this.  Something organic.  Yet I still was an onlooker, never really able to be in their shoes.

I observed as much as I could, and left Guatemala with two main thoughts:

1. The need for education. From cleanliness and health safety, to organization.   The world benefits with being shown how.  In building houses, some quick information can go a long way.  The modern world seems to forget the education of the past.  Each generation relies on their own experience to build.  This usually results in a few sticks holding up a square of tin, or rubber.  Crowded in cities, people seem to be waiting for deliverance.  How are such great building practices of our past buried and never passed on.  I’m not sure, but its time to re-educate.  All should be able to use resources around them to survive. Our industrial world has quite a bit of byproduct.  If only we could harness that, and come up with a way to teach and house the have nots of the world.  In the back of my mind, their lies a thought on how to build a home the least expensive way possible, where it would fight the elements, and give someone a place to call home.  Many people in the world are calling old shipping containers home.  At 8′ X either 20′ or 40′, they are an economical shelter.  Here in Nashville, you can purchase one for less than $2000.  Cities are being built from these that even I would love to live in.

2. What we feel we can’t live without, we probably can! I know Americans that will pay their cable bill before their water bill.  There has been a push for larger homes over the past few decades from lenders and developers, to codes officials.  Do you know that there are laws that govern how small your house can be.  Many cities and neighborhoods have further size restrictions.  I am seeing a swing in the other direction though as evidenced in one of my favorite sites dedicated to the small house.    I love to remodel small homes, reworking them so that they flow and live better.  Tight homes that are more energy efficient and more comfortable for their inhabitants.  Personally, I have an 1800 square ft home.  We live in 1200 sq ft of it rarely going upstairs.  I believe we could live in a smaller home, but we try and put what we love to good use.  We entertain, and actually house couch surfers quite a bit. Its essential to try and share what we have with those around us.  I look at the picture above, and wonder if I could live there.  Would the Thoreau in me come out enough to find joy there? Who am I kidding, I would want to remodel it!

We humans are intertwined.  Giving to those around us, living life with those close to us is vital to a thriving community.  If we start with our neighbors, and extend that further, it won’t matter what you live in, you will feel fulfilled.


What kind of repeatable home can you dream of, invent that could change the way others live?

What resource can we make available to aid the health and home of those around us, around us as living on the earth?



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4 Responses to Any house will do!

  1. Marianna January 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM #

    All around us, many bungalows are being demolished and replaced with “monster homes”.

    There is a great deal of debate in the editorial pages of our local papers, surrounding zoning by-laws and monster homes.

    I love that you are thinking outside the box (or inside it, considering the size of the homes you like to work with! 🙂 ). I think it takes a lot of creativity to make small spaces work well.

    Speaking of efficiency and small spaces, have you seen this?


    • admin January 29, 2010 at 2:58 PM #

      I do wish those bungalows were being saved. To me, the greenest build is reusing what is existing. There is a lot of energy existing in a built home, might as well try and save it. Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it.

  2. Gail Hyatt January 31, 2010 at 7:01 AM #

    Great post, Chris. Extremely thought provoking. Great question: “How are such great building practices of our past buried and never passed on?” How can building knowhow be retained from generation to generation? It seems to happen with cooking … ?

    P.S. Could you add more pictures to this post? I’m SURE they’re fantastic.

  3. laurie love January 31, 2010 at 8:00 AM #

    great piece!. i especially loved the remembering the past bit. it’s a discussion my kids and i have often….’hey mamma i just read about……why don’t people do that now wouldn’t it help with…..’ we also love the idea of reusing exhisting buildings. while we were walking in downtown jax yesterday after hearing ed stetzer speak we were picking out all of the unused buildings we want. in fact when we play the ‘if we won the powerball game’ one of the top choices is always buy houses that nobody wants and turn them into something anyone could own. we look forward to hearing more about this subject.

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