You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great

We finally started the construction of our house! It’s so weird and so cool and so scary. We have come a long way, and there is still a bumpy road ahead, but little by little we are building it up. In this blog I will write about the struggle for permits when building a weird house. I will clarify how I will ever be able to build my own house. And I came to the realisation that actually everything I am doing is about rebuilding myself.  

The road into the regulations

I have quite often been wondering why a lot of houses are looking the same and I think I finally know the answer; it’s because of all the rules and regulations it needs to meet. Welcome bureaucracy. And if you are designing a not-so-typical-oddly-weird looking house you will definitely come across this. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good that there are certain standards it needs to adhere to; just to make sure houses are not collapsing while passing by. And I can only cheer on the increasingly strict regulations regarding energy efficiency and such. 

To fit to the rules you need to get advice from various instances where specialised people are working, who know in which units the municipality wants to have the calculations. The constructor engineer (most useful), energy advisor, probing and soil investigation, foundation advice, environmental impact, fire safety, nitrogen calculations; you all need to have it. 

  • And then you are paying them a few hundred euros to put all the numbers in a black box, and a report is rolling out with tens of pages, saying at the bottom line that your nitrogen emissions from building this house is at a maximum 0,00 mol/ha/year. Well, thank you so much…
  • Or, and all of this literally happened, they say; “sorry, your house design looks very unfamiliar, it does not fit in our model, so we cannot say anything about fire safety”. It’s probably because the calculation model can only manage square straight buildings… 
  • Or, they have to assume your energy needs are as high as the average in the Netherlands, even though you are saying otherwise because you are building a very tiny house. You still need to adhere to the average…
  • Or, they cannot calculate anything on this new environmentally friendly material, because it is not having the right EU norms yet…
  • Or, to be able to get a mortgage the taxator is saying; “hmm, I have never seen such a house design in this neighbourhood, so I cannot say anything about the value of your house”. Why is the value of my house only dependent on the others around me?

If it was my job I would be very happy to have a working day where I need to think a bit out of the box. Where it’s not the same thing again day in and day out. Where I need to do a bit more research to get the right answers and where I would do anything to help you out and find a way through it. 

It took a little more effort but in the end we found those people as well who were willing to look beyond the standards. And that’s why we got our building permission! Only need to build the house now…

If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means, keep moving.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Some misconceptions regarding building my own house

Of course I am getting a lot of questions from people on how I can build my own house and when talking I found out there are a lot of misconceptions.  

  • If I say “I am building my own house”, I literally mean that I am building my own house. It doesn’t mean that I am working with a contractor who is building the house for me, and where I can decide which color I want the kitchen cabinets to have. And normally even that contractor is not building it by himself, but hiring a lot of sub-contractors to do the actual labour. Which is nice in a way; as everyone is getting very good and specialised in his job and therefore the work will be done very professional and efficiently. 
    I just get very excited about doing things in which I am not specialised in. I would like to try everything myself. To know where all the materials I am using are coming from. To feel it in my hands. To overcome the unknowns. To learn a lot of new things. And in the end just to know every part of my own house.
    I did hire someone for pile driving as it needs a very specialised machine. And for the foundation I will also call a concrete truck to pour out the concrete. But for all the other things I would like to do it myself first. And if I can’t figure it out, I will ask for help.
  • A lot of people are asking me how I know how to build a house. But I don’t. And I have no education for it. And no, I have never built a house before, except for all the Lego houses and the outdoor huts when I was a kid. Oh, and the chicken coop. But along the way I will investigate, learn from others, fall and stand up again. 
  • I am not going to make statements anymore on when the house will be finished. Somehow everyone would like to know that, but I can’t even oversee what I will have finished in a week. I thought that I would have finished the foundation already but I am still struggling through that. I don’t want to set any expectations for myself as that’s only stressing me out. Even if the house is not finished in a year we will find a solution on where to live. And I don’t want to compare myself to others, which is quite difficult as I am living in a place where other people are also building (which is also a very big advantage by the way). But I want to do it at my own pace, in my own way. 
  • I am not having any paid job at the moment, building the house is my full time job. But luckily Bouke Pieter is having a job to be able to pay for our living, we are quite fortunate in that. And on the days off we are building together.
  • Sometimes I get the suggestion that after having built this house, I should build another one as by then I would know how to do everything better. But I am not having the wish to build a perfect house. I know I will make a lot of mistakes, maybe even very ugly ones. But maybe it’s good to have a constant reminder that we are not always in control. That things are never going perfect and you learn from mistakes. And that you can even find beauty in the flaws. 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Rebuilding myself

While I am writing this I am realising that this whole house building thing is also a quest in rebuilding myself. To get to know every part inside of me, like I want to know every part in the house. As I want to have peace with all the mistakes I will be seeing in the house, I also want to be able to embrace every part of me. And there are a lot of days when I am questioning why I ever started all this. On these days I am already happy if I am able to get out of my bed and wash my sweaty working clothes. And even if I am in it for a week, I need to start accepting that life is just very hard. There are also days where I feel on top of the world while driving around in the excavation machine feeling happy as a kid. 

I feel like I have always been struggling through life, it’s a very intense and painful world. And I am going through a lot of stuff mentally at the moment. Also regarding all the things I have seen and experienced abroad. As probably the house will never be really finished, I will also never be finished in discovering who I really am in every perspective. It takes maintenance and continuous effort to continue in life. But luckily I have a lot of people around me who will help me in standing up. 

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

E.E. Cummings


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