Jayna Cooper: Building Her Own Experiment in Livability

Jayna Cooper: Building Her Own Experiment in Livability

Michelle Chin
Jun 30, 2011

After buying a tiny lot on a busy street, in a dicey neighborhood, Jayna Cooper set to design her first home. By taking on the roles of Architect, General Contractor and Owner, Jayna not only had ultimate control over every aspect of the project, but is also learning first hand about the success and shortcomings of the home by living in her own design.

At Dwell on Design's Sustainability Stage, Ms. Cooper did a wonderful presentation about her adventure of designing and building her first home.

One thing that became very apparent when she described her process of getting multiple (up to a dozen) bids for a single specialty (plumbing, for example) was that she is an amazing project manager. From demolition of the existing building to move-in, it was only 141 days! Particularly amazing if you consider that the remodel of a kitchen can stretch to 9 months, if the schedule gets out of control. She attributed some of the efficiency to a downturn in the construction market, which meant that sub contractors were less likely to be on multiple jobs at once.

A unique aspect of this project is that Jayna is living in her design and gets to see what ultimately worked as planned and what didn't quite meet her expectations. One thing she described is that the street noise isn't as buffered as she had hoped, especially in the bedrooms. This is something she wouldn't have gotten to see first hand otherwise and can inform her future projects.

Working as her own contractor meant that she was on-site every day and could adjust plans as needed, once she saw how things were progressing. Using this method, she was able to adjust the building on the fly to maximize one of the greatest aspects of her home: the views.

Jayna's site has a comprehensive look at the entire process.

(Images: Jayna Cooper)

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