The Gender Difference In Eco-Building

“In recent visits to a variety of eco-communities across Britain and to eco-build sites I have realised quite how gendered everything still is, even in places where you might expect a more ‘progressive’ view. There exists a presumption that men like to build and that women like to garden and cook. When I ask people on site whether this is deliberate, conscious, or a problem, the majority have said ‘it is simply the way things are, men are stronger and can do different jobs to women’. But is determining what we are able to do simply a matter of physical prowess, or are other assumptions made in such statements which we need to disentangle a little?

The assumption that building is a ‘man’s job’ has all sorts of implications for what a woman’ s role in these communities or in building is. In the places I have recently visited it was assumed that childcare is a woman’s job (which remains highly undervalued), and that the support work such as cooking, collecting build materials, multi-tasking all the other things that need doing, just sort of happens. It is rarely acknowledged how much work women are doing on site generally, and particularly to support the build process. The result is that finished buildings which draw attention for their innovation and design are often implicitly attributed to the male who spent most time on it. It becomes ‘Jim’s house’ for example, excluding all the work that others, especially women, have put into it.

It also creates an environment where women’s ideas about building can more easily be perceived as ‘impractical’ or ‘costly’ (both terms heard used to dismiss a woman’s build ideas). So is there a need for a more assertive creation of women’s experimental eco-build spaces? How might houses be different if designed and built by women? Do women approach building differently? That building is still considered a male domain means gender is an important marker of difference when it need not necessarily be so. There are plenty of female architects and some notable eco-builders – Barbara Jones (amazonnails), Brenda Vale (The Autonomous House), Cindy Harris (Centre for Alternative Technology), Paulina Wojciechowska (Earth Hands and Houses), and Rachel Shiamh (Quiet Earth) to name just a few.”

More at the source: Green Building Blog
Gender and Ecobuilding 2: Communication Not Strength
Women Are Full of Common Sense
Thanks again to Jason for these articles.

15 thoughts on “The Gender Difference In Eco-Building”

  1. I took a workshop on cob building with the MudGirls of Canada this last summer, and it was two women leading the workshop and a man who oversaw the childcare (which is a required part of any workshop that group teaches).

  2. Faith and Malcolm are you sure they’re not just advertising their air pollution for sale? That has to have colors and, as thick as it is, it must be like sand? Just kidding but, who knows about the sand part. Hahaha… but seriously….buy American. You won’t need a ton.

  3. Just you wait until I build my daughter’s bedroom dome. I already researched what mineral oxides I need to mix in the lime plaster to get just the shade she wants, and found a source in China where I can get it by the ton on my budget.

  4. Actually, this is the time of year that you might consider posting an update about Steve Areen’s dome.

    You could reveal to everyone that Steve’s real name is Jack Lantern, which would explain why he built a big orange dome. Perhaps Steve has some photos of his orange dome at night with the windows all lit up from the inside forming a face.

  5. hey Wife half or this couple here and it’s funny cause my dad did construction and I did work on projects with him, but when it comes to our house I see my job during the building to be cooking for all the volunteers and wrangling the children away from the areas where they shouldn’t be. It is strange cause earthbag, strawbale, and cob for construction lend themselves to using weaker people being able to work on it. The sad thing is that though it is much more my design then the hubby’s but I think that is because I’m the stay at home part of the partnership. So the house is considered my domain. To me the Kitchen is the most important space in the house and considering over half of our budget is geared towards the appliances and finishes you can tell it is where we plan to spend large portions of our time. I just wish I could talk him into a mass stove, but that is our argument lol.

  6. All attempts at humor aside.

    I’m not completely sold on the premise of this article.

    I see more and more women getting involved in construction. More than ever before. This is especially true of Natural construction methods.

    I do think there is some gender bias when it comes to favorite construction techniques prefered by different genders.

    Cob Building, for example seems to have a very strong draw among female builders. Perhaps the strongest female popularity among all construction methods. I can only speculate about the reasons why, but I suspect that the communal atmosphere that just seems to happen when people are stomping out cob with their feet has a very strong social aspect to it.

    As evidence of this, I submit the following google image search for “Cob Building Crew.”

    Look at those photos. Nearly every cob construction crew pictured has at least one female member, and a very large percentage are at least half female. A surprising number of those photos are entirely female buiding crews.

    You don’t tend to see the same thing when you search “Adobe.” Perhaps it is the more industrial style construction techniques that are often employed with adobe that tend to turn women off? I don’t know. Just a guess on my part.

    I have also noticed that plastering is an extremely popular activity among women, particularly earthen plasters. Is this partially the influence of Carol Crews? Is it another example of a more social atmosphere that tends to develop when applying earthen plasters? I can’t say for sure.

    Earthen plastering crews may have more women than Cob Building crews.

    Papercrete is another construction technique that seems to be popular among women. In this instance I suspect that it is Papercrete’s light weight that may at least in part be an influencing factor.

    Strawbale raising crews also seem to attract a significant number of women, but probably not as many as cob or plastering crews.

    I’m not saying women dominate the construction trades. The point I’m attempting to make is that each of us has our own preferences. Some of those preferences have a strong gender bias.

    I’m not immune myself. For example, I could care less if a wall is painted Thistle, Mauve, Lavender, or Violet. It all looks purple to me, and purple walls all look ugly. Not everyone sees it the same way I do, especially women. No big deal. I can compromise. If someone wants to paint a wall purple, go ahead, just don’t force me to live in a house where the entire place is purple. I might have to rip the walls down to keep my sanity.

    The point is, we’re all different, and I consider that a very good thing. As far as I’m concerned, any woman that want to build something should be encouraged to do so, even if she wants to paint it purple.

  7. It’s not eco-building, it’s building in general. There’s a construction site right across the street from the restaurant where I work, and I can’t remember seeing a single woman amongst all the tradesmen. Look at any home rebuilding or remodeling show, while there are a number of female designers or head contractors, almost all of the workers are men.

  8. There is no better way to get a lot of hard work done fast than to get a bunch of young guys in their late teens and twenties trying to show off their strength and stamina for an audience of ladies.

    The more the ladies smile and admire their work, the faster the guys get the task completed.

    Keep this in mind when organizing work teams.

    A good Natural Builder does not fight against nature, but harnesses the systemic forces of nature to make the work go smoothly.

    Why not strategically use the natural forces of hormones to get a job done quickly?

    I’m not saying Women can’t do hard manual labor. Sure they can. They’re just smarter than us guys. They recognize how effective and efficient it is to smile at us and watch the sweat flow.

    Every job site needs a female presence, if only to get the guys to show off and work harder.

  9. Liked everything you said but, you used one word that many in America can NOT stand today. I am one of those Americans. PROGRESSIVE. Shoot me next time. It’s a very vulgar word today.


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