The Owner Built Home and Homestead: Site Building Conditions

Ken Kern shares how to evaluate homestead site building conditions: understanding the relationship between home owners needs, the surrounding landscape and the site of the building.

| November/December 1970

Ken Kern, author of The Owner-Built Home and The Owner-Built Homestead, is an amazing fellow and everyone interested in decentralist, back-to-the-land, rational living should know of his work. Back in 1948 he began collecting information on low-cost, simple and natural construction materials and techniques. He combed the world for ideas, tried them and started writing about his experiments. Eventually, Mildred Loomis started publishing Kern's articles in The Interpreter, Way Out and Green Revolution. Ken has also issued a three year series of pieces (called Technic) on his own and a greenhouse-sun pit design of his has been featured in Organic Gardening. 

This installment of Ken's work is taken from The Owner-Built Home. I'll be featuring never before published material from The Owner-Built Homestead in my No. 7 issue. Again, I have to apologize for jumping back and forth as I reprint Ken's excellent material, but that's the way I have to do it and Ken's writing makes it all worthwhile. 


The Homestead Building Site: Building Conditions

The site analysis sketch illustrates some of the more important site conditions which can and should play a dominant role in influencing the design of the well-planned, owner-built home. Influences of site on building design are little understood and little appreciated aspects of conventional building construction. Nevertheless, they are aspects which affect every person who uses the building. The realized design, in turn, affects the site, and these two features condition one's life and plans for years to come.

It seems entirely logical to me that every individually designed home should have more than the usual degree of site planning. Besides being expressive of its owner's life, a home should be at one with its site and regional ethos. A man building his own home can afford to spend the time necessary to acquaint himself with the physionomic-climate site environment. The speculative or commercial builder usually fails to take enough time from his actual house-building program to know the character of the land upon which he is building. Results of this neglect are always unfortunate.

When the individual prospective home builder becomes acquainted with even a few of the specific site conditions found on his plot, he will come to appreciate the fact that sites tend to vary as much as people. No two sites are the same; no two regions are the same; no two climates are the same. Hence every building design problem must be solved individually. I should add, of course, that no two persons are the same, nor do they have the same needs. We are dealing with three independent, though inter-related, components; people, site and building. Both visually and actually, the building exists only in relationship to the site and surrounding landscape. And in the same manner, the site exists in relation to people—through the introduction of the house.

2/27/2016 8:37:59 AM

All the external links in this story (and some other old ones I looked at) are broken -- point to old website locations for media/graphics.

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