Design and Build your Own Home

How To

July 23, 2022

rockhouse in constr

There is something very visceral and satisfying to conceive, design, and to build your own home.  To me building your own home is the definition of empowerment.  A home crafted to your personality and your needs can become more than a reflection of your personality, it can be a platform that allows you to flourish.  A home can be crafted to give you that pure quiet space from the hectic world where you can meditate, contemplate, and give your creative juices the space to come out.  A home can be crafted to allow you to commune with the natural landscape around it in harmony.

A hammock in our private courtyard is a personal touch from my wife who comes from Brazil.  It is a piece of home that transforms an outdoor space into an amazing vacation retreat right at home.  There is a wealth of peace and quiet that can come from a lazy summer afternoon gently swaying in the hammock with a glass of wine.

Most people think of their home as simply a place to eat, sleep, and relax.  But there is a spiritual cultivation that is missing in this standard conception of home.  To let our personalities flourish we need to cultivate and nourish our creativity.  The quality of ones life and experiences are what is important.  My parents might travel to far away destinations and see all the attractions in just a few days.  Whereas my wife and I will go to one place for a month and try to absorb as much of the culture and way of life as we can.  We think of deep experiences as being more important than multiple experiences.  Home life should be treated similarly as a deep experience.  I am sure there are subtle things in your home that make you smile everyday and although you may not be conscious of it I bet those little things add together and contribute greatly to your general happiness.  Imagine if you wake up or walk into your home after work each and every day and your home gave you a constant reason to smile.

Many people I speak to dream about building their own home but far fewer people actually do it.  I’ve done it and it is a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Oh, it is an adventure and it will keep you up at night but you’ll remember this deep experience forever.  There are quite a few practicalities that you’ll need to address in order to do it without putting your finances in jeopardy and you’ll need to really get your creative juices going and think about what makes you happy in a home.  A hundred years ago almost everybody had a hand in building their own home.  I think it builds character and it makes you appreciate and focus on what you really believe is important in your life.  I’ve had many clients who think of the exercise as a spiritual re-evaluation of what is essential in their daily habits and daily lives.  There is a great joy in taking something you’ve dreamt about and bringing it to realization in the world.  It is a feeling that is basic and real and satisfying and honest.

There are many aspects to consider and I’ll wade through one by one with this blog.  I’ll act as your guide.  I’ve been educated as an architect with a Masters in Architecture from the University of British Columbia (UBC).  I’ve worked for architects, builders, and developers but now run my own design practice.   I’ve also taught estimating, scheduling, and building technology at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and been a teaching assistant at UBC for structural design and HVAC systems.  For a more detailed CV see

Stay tuned for a piece on ‘affording your new home’.  It is surprisingly easier that your think!

Langley Passive House – Part 5 – Door Install

Doors are installed similarly to windows. A 2×4 ripped is offset at jamb and head. The door frame rests on plywood spacers and is glued/sealed with adhesive foam. The frame is over a self-adhered flashing at sill which itself sits above rigid EPS at concrete foundation.

Langley Passive House Part 3 – Wall Detail

As mentioned in part 1 of the series this wall detail takes a high vapour permeance or breathable approach in contrast with a more vapour closed system such as traditional 6 mil poly, spray foam insulation, or SIPS panel.

Langley Passive House Part 2 – Sunshade

The South facing sunshades on the Langley Passive House are permanent, sized to reject the overheating summer sun while allowing passage of the winter sun through the windows to heat the home, and fit the architectural style of the home.

Langley Passive House Part 1 – In Progress

The Langley Passive house is a ‘split-insulated’ wall assembley pioneered by RDH Building Engineering for the BC climate. This strategy is described in the Building Enclosure Design Guide (HPO 2011) and Guide for Designing Energy Efficiency Building Enclosures (FPInnovations 2013) both by RDH.

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