When most people say they're building their own home, they mean they've hired an architect and a contractor and are overseeing the production.
But when Laura Parker and Thomas Teuwen say it, they mean they're literally designing the whole thing and building it from the ground up — with their own hands.
The project took the Sidney, B.C. couple five years to complete. And the result? The 750 sq.-ft. small footprint, environmentally friendly home of their dreams.
"We wanted to build something that would last the test of time," Teuwen told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview.
"There have been lots of exciting ups and downs along the way. The most excitement we had was when we took the design ideas we drafted up on a spreadsheet and then saw them come to light: when light the hits floor at the exact right moment or comes across the kitchen table exactly as we planned it to. It's just magical when that happens to your own design."
The couple originally planned to renovate after buying the 6,000 sq.-ft. lot with its existing 1950s-era house, but they soon realized it was "beyond repair," Teuwen said.
"In hindsight it's amazing that without batting an eye, we decided we were going to dig up the front lawn and plant a new house. We used to joke that it was a landscaping project that got out of hand."
Teuwen, 57, and Parker, 55, spent six months in the planning and designing stage, running ideas by the building inspectors. The couple has lived car-free for over 10 years, and wanted to make sure the home was as green as possible. They took time to research the materials and techniques, incorporating as much energy efficiency and solar paneling as they could.
When it came to actually erecting the home, they did all the work themselves, learning the trades as they went — neither of them has a background in home design or building.
"The only thing we didn't do all by ourselves was pour the concrete slabs," Teuwen reminisced. "[Parker's] afraid of heights and ended up being on top of the roof, leaning over the edge putting screws in to the boards and going, 'What the heck made me think I could do this?'"
But do it they did, moving in about three years ago. Now the couple has translated their experiences into a book called "Greening Your Home: Successful Eco-Renovations," which is due out in December. (They also run a sustainable lifestyle strategies firm.)
"We wanted to give people the ability to evaluate the materials, the design, the concept themselves based on a deeper understanding," Teuwen said of the book. It is designed to give readers the "confidence to move forward in a sustainable way."
Drawing from their own experience, the couple offers strategies to save money and time for anyone who wants to build or renovate their home to become more eco-friendly.
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Parker and Teuwen also have a garden on their property where they harvest their own produce. This led them hosting a summer neighbourhood produce swap, where locals meet to trade their surplus bounty.
Teuwen said growing their own food was a natural extension of their views on sustainability — views that they feel are their responsibility to uphold.
"It's the realization that climate change is a much bigger issue than we are able to grasp in our daily lives," he said.
"There comes a point when we realize we have a responsibility to do something better. Everybody wants to do something. People recognize this is an issue and want to do the right thing, but often it's just too hard. 'What do I do? Where do I start?' What we found is that in just addressing simple choices, you can make a huge difference."
These choices didn't lessen the couple's quality of life, according to Teuwen — in fact, he said, they "enhanced it."