Building a dream home

Bernadette Lancefield
In 1975 Ian built his first family home. Many years later he decided to build another home for the family. He was about to start when he lost sight in his left eye. For about 12 months he couldn't do anything. But then with the help of his sons he started to build the home. Ian used coloured sponges to help him place each brick. Two years later the vision in his right eye got worse. But Ian was determined to finish building his home. He has now finished and is very happy with the home.
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Bernadette Lancefield on 15/10/2012
A large two-story home in a garden setting and with a white picket fence.
dream home

Ian wanted his dream home.

Ian is a builder. In 1975, he built his first home for his wife Pam and five children. The house was located just outside Healesville, which is about 200 meters down the road from where they now live.

I made so many environmental mistakes that I never intended to build another one, admits Ian.

Years later the family sold their first home and moved up to Darwin, where they had enjoyed many trips in the past. But they soon discovered that living and holidaying in a place are two different things.

And so 12 months later, they returned to Victoria and purchased a half-acre block of land. Lacking the finances to buy a house, Ian decided to build their second home.

Vision loss

The day before Ian and Pam received the planning permit to build their second home, Ian lost the sight in his left eye. I felt like my world had ended. I couldn't do anything for about 12 months, he says.

Being blind in one eye significantly affected Ian's perception of distance. I never realised how important it was to have two eyes.

His work had always been very detailed but it was now extremely difficult for him to achieve the same standard of work.

To help overcome this challenge, Ian used coloured sponges to show him where to place the next brick. I also made all sorts of gauges to help, but they weren't much different from ones carpenters use. I relied heavily on my sons.

Further vision loss

A couple of years later, doctors discovered a tumour in his brain. This significantly reduced the vision in his right eye. It was a whole new start to life for me, Ian says.

Despite his deteriorating vision, Ian was determined to finish building their house. He describes the experience as being a very, very hard slog. But you just do what you have to do.

Ian was forced to accept that it takes longer to achieve tasks with a vision loss. He describes his frustration of not being able to jump into his ute to pick up a few things.

Although I get around OK by public transport, there are days when I'd love to get in a car and drive down the road.

While building their home, Ian and his wife lived in a caravan. Their son stayed with them for 18 months to assist with carpentry work. Ian says, If it hadn't been for our son, we would still be living in a caravan.

The house

Pam had her heart set on an earth house. They examined their options and settled on rammed earth, whereby hollow forms are constructed for the walls and filled with the cement earth mixture and rammed solid. When one section is completed the forms are lifted, and the process is repeated.

It was backbreaking work, admits Ian. We wouldn't have chosen this type of design if we'd known I'd lose my sight. But with the help of my sons, I knew I'd get there sooner or later.

Ian says completing the roof was a milestone. He used corrugated iron on the ceiling. It's five meters high at the clerestory window, which lets sun onto the south wall of the house and improves the thermal efficiency of the house, explains Ian, proudly.

Finally in

After six years of toil, the house was finally completed. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, he says. It was sheer elation.

Ian and Pam say the first night in their new house was very comfortable.The house does everything it's meant to do environmentally.

Ian and Pam have overcome many challenges to achieve their goal. It's all been worthwhile, says Ian, We are very happy.

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