Richard Lee Drace, DIY Educator & Green Home Designer-Builder


Name: Richard Lee DraceRichard Lee Drace Green Home Designer Builder 

Occupation: Semi-retired DIY educator, Self-help housing developer, Green home designer-builder 

Place of Residence: 

Grass Valley, California


Educated at Stanford, Yale and Syracuse Universities with bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees in interdisciplinary humanities.

California-licensed general building contractor and LEED-accredited consultant.

Designer-builder of passive solar and energy-efficient homes since 1981.

Self-help affordable housing developer.

Owned and operated Owner-Builder Summer Camp in Nevada City, Calif., which taught building skills in classes, workshops and on actual jobsites.

Personal History: 

Richard grew up on a ski resort, where, as with farming and ranching families, virtually all projects were do-it-yourself. As a kid, he didn’t know there were such people as carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Richard's formal education is in fuzzy-headed liberal arts, yet he helped put himself through school working as a logger, contractor and carpenter. The Owner Builder Summer Camp taught several thousand folks how to build and remodel their own houses, and he feels like the proud grandpa of many successful owner-builder projects. Richard formed a non-profit called Common Ground Communities, which helped folks earn sweat-equity credit building their own houses in an open space planned development he designed. 

Current Projects: 

Architect David Wright and Richard are co-writing a book titled How Not to Build Your Own House.  They use stories of owner-builder screw-ups as lessons of what to avoid and discuss the right way to build your own house – on your first try. Rather than just teaching hands-on skills, they show the would-be owner-builder how to approach a project in all its larger contexts, from concept to move-in and every brainy decision in between.

Richard also has some other writing projects – poems and essays -- in the works. He volunteers as a director for his local organic food co-op grocery. He occasionally still consults on energy-efficient design projects, but mostly now, besides his writing, he tries not to keep remodeling his own house.

Other Fun Facts:  

This year for the first time Richard hired a contractor to work on his house instead of doing it himself as he has for three decades. He's a backyard beekeeper.  He loves to cook. He travels in a camper van named Blake.  He has too many outdoor interests – cycling, skiing, fishing, kayaking, and backpacking – to do any of them as much as he'd like. 

Other Places to Fine Me on the Web: 

So far, this is it, folks.  As Richard and David Wright's book comes along, they will soon give it its own website.  Richard vows to become more internet savvy, but still prefers a reading chair, a cat on his lap, and a book in his hand.