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The Green Equity Builders System

One reason that many people either cannot afford a house or, paradoxically, eventually have their lives torn apart by the financial demands of trying to own one, is the enormous on-going cost of homeownership in our "modern" society. Between the mortgage interest debt load, homeowner's insurance, real estate taxes, utilities expenses, home maintenance repairs, landscaping costs, and building codes compliance, contemporary homeownership has gone from being a socially-sanctioned way of building equity in real estate to yet another cashflow ripoff by The System. The recent Sub-Prime Mortgage Meltdown, created by loosened regulations on the financial services industry, effectively obliterated 25-40% of the value of all homes in the US and, thereby, robbed every single American of their hard-earned home equity savings.

The other major obstacle has been the ever-growing down payment required to purchase the ever more expensive average single family home. Considering the tightening job market and falling wages caused by Economic Globalism, plus the rapidly rising costs of a college education, many young people enter their family-formation years with a mountain of unpaid student loan debt, the beginnings of a mountain of credit card debt, one or two low wage service sector jobs, and no viable prospect for amassing the down payment on a house. Combine this with the high probability of an extended period of unemployment at some point in the years ahead, and this next generation finds itself in a high-risk economic environment that is averse to long-term, secure homeownership. Unless something drastic changes in the near future, these young people will be faced with the prospects of lifelong serial home rental.

Our Green Equity Builders System is our solution to this dilemma: a do-it-yourself solar homebuilding system that allows people to build the components for their home over a long-term period that comfortably fits their time, money and lifestyle situation. At every step of the DIY construction process, these people are acquiring 100% equity in their new home and avoiding the mortgage debt trap that has been set for them. Once all of their house shell components are ready for assembly, then they can request assistance with on-site assembly to create a dried-in structure. The dried-in structure will then be ready for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other systems to be installed as time & money become available. Again, the process is under their control, they own their home 100% at every stage of construction, and at the end of the process they have a modest solar home of their own that cannot be foreclosed on by a mortgage lender!

It is our hope that this system can evolve into a not-for-profit DIY homebuilding co-op where like-minded people can gather to assist each other with their homebuilding projects. A sort of modern Amish community barnraising model that could be repeated almost anywhere by almost anyone. There is a huge difference between financial exploitation & mutual empowerment, and we strongly believe in the people power & value of mutual empowerment. If it sounds too complicated for you, then take a look at the DIY panelized construction model's steps below and decide for yourself if you could manage it with a little help from your friends.

Panelized Construction System

First, learn how to use a free CAD program, Google Sketchup, to design your homestead buildings. Don't worry, millions of Sketchup users worldwide have already donated free component designs into the Sketchup library, so you won't have to start from scratch. Just drag & drop standard components into your workspace, resize or remodel them, then paste them into your evolving home design. Have an experienced co-op member review your design to get it perfect.
Next, get some hands-on experience with standard, modern construction tools: sliding miter saw, circular saw, nail gun, impact driver, speed square, tape measure, level, etc. Don't worry: if you are reasonably handy, safety conscious, and willing to learn, then you can acquire the skills needed for basic construction. Here's Maggie using a miter saw to cut 2x4's after 5 minutes of instruction.
Then, build your wall panels, floor sections, roof trusses, etc. indoors, during your scheduled build sessions at the local green building cooperative. Standard jigs, tools and storage areas make building your components a snap - no matter how long it takes you to get all the pieces ready for on-site final assembly. Buddy up with another couple working on their home, and help each other during panel building sessions. You'll just be performing the same basic tasks over & over.
Store your finished wall panels and other components in a mini storage unit until all your house shell components are completed. Then invite family, friends, church volunteers and other co-op members to come help you at your onsite assembly sessions. Your co-op assembly consultant can guide your helpers thru the house shell assembly process, and you will have a dried-in house shell in no time flat. Especially if you build a smaller, simpler home.
Of course, you can speed things up with a little rented technology to help lift components into position. In this manner, an entire first or second floor wall system can be erected in a single work session!

Install plumbing, electrical, hvac, insulation, and drywall as time & money allow. Again, try to stay out of the debt trap - it can really turn around and bite you if you're not careful.

Modular Construction System

Using a modular construction system, you build your house indoors on either a mobile home frame or a custom fabricated steel frame. Here, a double wide home is being built on two single wide custom steel frames.
Once the floor system is constructed on your frame(s), the rest of the process is identical to the panelized construction system detailed above except that it all takes place indoors.
Near the end of the process, this home is ready to be separated into the front & rear sections, transported by truck to the house pad, and then set in place by a rented crane. Voila! Just connect up to your on-site utilities, move in your furniture, and get on with your life.

NOTE: this home was built by AB Tech students, guided by teacher Ken Czarnomski, as part of their classroom practicum.