Self-build Concept Model

3 min readMar 2, 2021


Before we start, a little bit about the lot. The plot is long. It measures about 35 feet long and 70 feet long; fenced in three sides. The main house is located in the north, a coffee house in the east, 2-story apartments in the south, and a neighbor’s yard in the west. With the 4-feet required setback, this allows 27 feet for the width of the house. This means the house will be quite narrow.

Picture of the lot, facing south. 2-story apartment complex sits behind the lot.

I want the house two fit grandma and I but can also become 2 separate spaces. She’s still learning about American boundaries (they don’t exist in China), so having distinct parts of the house that is “Alisha’s” space and “Grandma’s space” will do wonders for my patience. This means 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, and likely 2 stories to fit everything. Because she isn’t growing fond of stairs, downstairs will be hers and upstairs will be mine.

Construction paper model of the L-shaped house

I love drawing. But sometimes, drawing just can’t capture the imagination like clay or legos. I opted for construction paper instead. The goal was to get the general shape of the house.

The majority of sunlight comes from the east and west side since the apartment blocks most southern exposure. California building code laws require new builds to include solar PV. In this case, I want the bulk of the roof to be located on the west side of the lot to capture the most sunlight. The east side has a row of trees, and we probably won’t remove them.

For natural lighting, windows are primarily located on the east and west side. Additionally, to respect privacy of neighbors, there are minimal windows on the south. However, this means the ground floor will be a bit dim. To bring in more light, the second floor can be partially open to bring in light from the second floor windows. Somewhat like a loft.

Floor plans of the self build

Drafting floor plans came next. Using Sketchup, I worked on giving the concept more details. In the drawing, the house is 24 feet wide and 32 feet long. The left side is the ground floor, and right side is the second floor. Majority of the ground floor is hers. It includes a bathroom, small area for bed, staircase, kitchen under the stairs. There is a separate room for my work space.

Draft rendering of the house and location

Upstairs is a small room for her to work. Through the door, is my bathroom and bedroom. With this set up, we can interact but I can also claim my freedom when necessary.

As a draft, I’m pretty pleased.




I occasionally build things but get distracted by dancing. More at