Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) is a leader in tiny house design, building, and consulting. Founder Dee Williams ranks among the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. I admire her infectious enthusiasm and her honesty about what really matters in life. And I was honored when she asked me in 2013 to review her first book, Go House Go, from a civil engineer’s point of view. (Turns out she did a good job with the structural mechanics – she has an engineering background herself – and instead my review comments strayed far from her assignment. When I have a red pen I just can’t help myself.)
At the age of 40, with little money and no formal training, Dee decided to build her own house. She did it in part to prove her independence, but ironically she’s now more connected to her community than ever before. PAD grew out of Dee’s desire to share her skills and philosophy with others.
Living on the east coast some 3000 miles from Portlandia, I can’t attend Dee’s workshops or monthly mixers. So my great takeaway from PAD is the website’s blog, which explores both the “how” and the “why” of building smaller. One recent post has major relevance for the house I built this past year, and indeed for any construction endeavor. Written by PAD collaborator Billy Ulmer, this article, titled Why “Do It Yourself” When Someone Else Can Do It For You? discusses the joy of active experiences. He argues that building your own house, like cooking a meal or learning a musical instrument, gives you confidence and a measure of self-sufficiency in an increasingly consumer-oriented culture. Not to mention pride. Billy sums up a feeling I’ve craved my whole life, and that I’ve finally experienced since leaving my desk job last spring.
Because you can! That’s the point of all this. You can do this! You can build a simple, kind house… nothing fancy, no big deal… just a little house that will fit you more or less.