The House That She Built!

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When you hear the term “home builder,” you may picture a man with a hardhat and toolbelt. The stereotype exists because 90 percent of the construction industry is male. On construction sites, the percentage is even lower, with fewer than 3 percent of workers being female.

Things are beginning to change. Despite historic barriers, women are forging their way with jobs in all aspects of construction and building. They are finding careers in home design and engineering; construction sales and management; and construction trades, including as carpenters, roofers, electricians and painters. Don’t call them homemakers; women in the construction industry have earned the title home builder.

Professional organizations such as National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and its Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council support women in the industry with networking, education and professional development opportunities. The PWB Council works at the local, state and national levels to further the success of women in construction.

Most women working in construction rarely work with more than a handful of other women on a project. Recently, the Utah branch of the NAHB PWB gave a group of qualified women the opportunity to work on a significant project staffed entirely by skilled female labor. The team of designers, planners and builders came together in Utah for The House That SHE Built with the goal

of educating women about career possibilities in the construction industry.
The result of their labor is a 3,200-square-foot home in a masterplan community in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Completed in 2021, it was featured in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes, an annual showcase of new, high-end designer homes. There was no specific client for the home, but the designers had a small family in mind.

Kristi Allen, a third-generation builder and owner of Woodcastle Homes in Lehigh, Utah, developed the idea for the project with other members of the Utah PWB. Their goal wasn’t to prove that women can do the job better than men. Allen is quick to point out that women in construction appreciate the experience and skills of their male co-workers. The group wanted a chance to tell the stories of women working in the industry and to serve as a beacon to girls and women who may not be aware of the variety of construction careers available. “There’s a place for you here if you’re interested,” says Allen.

Many women on the SHE team balance work and family responsibilities, so the home was designed with that lifestyle in mind. According to the Utah PWB website, “The home design is centered on functionality for a family, from a woman’s unique perspective…Strength, courage, grit, determination, balance, color and resilience are all represented within the design.”

Some of the home’s unique family-friendly features include a basement play area with a jungle gym and rock-climbing wall so the family’s children have a way to burn off energy indoors during cold Utah winters. There are family gathering places on the main and loft levels as well as individual spaces in bedrooms and tucked-away niches. Since the home was constructed during the pandemic, the designers included an area that’s ideal for working from home.

The health and well-being of future occupants of the home were priorities. Natural light floods the home environment. High-performance clean air and water systems were included and only toxin-free materials were used. One of the home’s architects, Stefani Thatcher of Domani Home Design, believes, “When you are healthy in all areas of your life: heart, might, mind and soul, and your environment is supportive, you will be uplifted and energized to add value to the world.”

The home was open for display for two weeks in June 2021, during the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. The NAHB reports that the home was sold in November for $675,000. Because most of the materials used to build the home were donated, proceeds of the sale were donated to local causes and outreach, including scholarships for women in construction and support for domestic abuse survivors.

The house has been commemorated in a children’s book titled The House That She Built, by Mollie Elkman and Georgia Castellano. “It’s a very mission-based book because of the project that inspired it,” says Elkman. The book was created as a marketing tool to educate young readers about the skills needed to build a house and to keep the project momentum going after the home was completed and sold. The jobs of architects, framers, roofers and many others are described and illustrated. The important takeaway is that it takes a team of people with special skills to complete an important project such as a family home, and those people aren’t always men.

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