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A couple of weeks ago I watched a program on the Dutch television called ‘Build it yourself” (‘Bouw ‘t zelf’, in Dutch). The program was about the trend that more and more people want to build their own house. Some municipalities, like Almere and Amsterdam, offer people the opportunity to realize their dream. Special areas are designated where people can buy a piece of  land and build their own house. The hurdles for these municipalities and for the self-builders are big. There are many government regulations and over the years the number of regulations has grown. What is the required size of a door? What is the minimum height between floors? What are materials you can certainly not use?
Traditionally building houses is the domain of developers and housing associations. Both developers and housing associations have standardization in their genes. How can we build as many houses as possible for the lowest price?

rijtjeshuis

Developers and housing associations do not like diversity. The end-users, the people who are going to live in the houses, are not taken into account. When the house is nearly finished,  they can try to include some of their personal wishes (a blue toilet, not white), often at a surcharge.

grachtenhuizen

In the Dutch market a shift is taken place. From home design and building driven by developers and housing associations to self-designers and self-builders.
The program also showed another interesting aspect of self-building: the approach the self-builders choose can be very different. An example was shown of a man who was buying second hand building material on the market, and he stored this in a warehouse. “When I have enough material”, he said, “I will design my house, looking at what I can build with the material I have”.

The program triggered some thoughts.

  • Do we have enough self-builders in our organization? When it comes to career development, have we (big organizations) not behaved too much as the government and  housing associations? We tried to build and prescribe standard career paths and have not encouraged self-builders. We designed competency frameworks, and rejected candidates that did not fit in the mold.
  • How many self-builders can you expect in a population? The television program described a trend, but is it not true that self-builders will always be a very small minority? I was discussing the program with  my neighbor, and he said “Forget it, Tom. Most people are passive, and they expect the government and the municipalities to take care of them. Build houses, assure good healthcare etc. Expecting people to be self-builders is too idealistic”.
  • How do we stimulate self-building in our organization? Do we really want self-builders? Should we designate certain areas for experimentation? Say to department X: you can start  with a clean sheet. All the HR policies and regulations are no longer applicable in your department.
  • Can you hire self-builders into an organization, or is the last thing self-builders want to be part of something big?
  • Are people who want to build their own careers also the people who would like to build their own house? A small sample (n=1) indicates this is not the case. Personally I have certainly built my own career, but I am the last person who will build his own house.

‘Bouw ‘t Zelf’, VPRO Tegenlicht 18 November 2013

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