Owner-Built Straw/Clay Home with Old World Charm

When Gary Zuker bought an undeveloped piece of land outside of Austin,Texas he knew the only way he could afford a home there was to build it himself. With no building experience, he immersed himself in architecture books at the University of Texas (where he works as a computer engineer). He fell in love with medieval straw-clay cottages and cob buildings. After just a day learning the technique on another build, he was ready to build his own home. Besides advice from an architect friend to use a scissor-truss system for roof support, some help with framing, stone-work, and plumbing, Zuker worked alone (no building permits were required in Travis County at that time). The build ended up taking him 3 years (nights and weekends while working full-time) and cost about $40,000 ($25,000 to build the house and $15,000 for the well and septic system). Zuker was heavily influenced by the classic design handbook A Pattern Language so rather than designing the home ahead of time, he waited to decide on some details until after the home was under construction. 

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