When Gary Zuker bought an undeveloped piece of land outside of Austin (Texas) 25 years ago, he knew the only way he could afford a home on it was to build it himself. With no building experience, he immersed himself in architecture books at the University of Texas (where he works as a computer engineer). He fell in love with medieval straw-clay cottages and cob buildings from around the world. After just a day learning the technique on another build, he was ready to build his own home.
With advice from an architect friend to use a scissor-truss system for roof support, and plenty of help with help with framing, stone-work and plumbing, Zuker often worked alone. The build ended up taking him 3 years (nights and weekends while working full-time) and cost about $40,000 ($25,000 to build the house and $15,000 for the well and septic system).
Zuker was heavily influenced by the classic design handbook A Pattern Language (written mainly by architect Christopher Alexander) so rather than designing the home ahead of time, he waited to decide on details until after the home was under construction.