“One of my missions is to help women learn to build houses and prove they’re capable of providing for their basic housing needs.”
We can do it!
As a petite, young woman—she’s 27 years old and 5 feet 4 inches tall—Amber Wiggett says she has found it challenging to be accepted as a house builder. Like her hero Rosie the Riveter, she flexed her socially active biceps and founded Homemakers Ecological Construction in Plainfield, Vermont, in 2003. The business trains and employs women and transgendered people (of both sexes) to build and remodel houses.
“We create a safe bubble for people who aren’t usually welcomed in this business,” says Wiggett, who teaches workshops in timberframe, cob (a combination of sand, straw and clay) and straw bale building techniques. The Homemakers Ecological Construction crew uses recycled, eco-friendly and nontoxic materials.
One of Wiggett’s prides is a 1,200-square-foot straw bale/timberframe house that Homemakers Ecological Construction built based on her architectural design using locally sourced materials.
Wiggett and her Homemakers Ecological Construction business have migrated to Phoenix, where she’s a sustainability advocate who “helps women get used to working in a male-dominated field.” She’s currently rounding up investors to buy land for straw bale, adobe, cob and timber houses. “I’m excited to make a greater impact on the conventional building industry,” she says. In the future she hopes to manage summer builders in Vermont and a year-round crew in Arizona.
Rebel with a cause
During 2002, Wiggett co-founded Spiral-Works, a sustainable-living systems nonprofit, with Ben Graham. “Homemakers Ecological Construction enriches me personally,” she says, “but it also makes a difference in the greater scheme of things.”