Stanford University graduates spent $ 68,000 building a small off-the-grid house in the Malaysian jungle. Let’s see how she did it.


The small house offers panoramic views of Malaysia's jungle.

The small house offers panoramic views of Malaysia’s jungle.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

  • A graduate of Stanford University moved to the suburbs of the Malaysian capital and built a small house in three weeks.

  • Homeowner Atiqah Nadiah Zailani spent about $ 68,000 building a house.

  • Atiqah relied on friends, volunteers and experts to complete the build.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani grew up in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur. She finds that in the Malaysian capital, most people live in skyscrapers, bungalows, or traditional homes, but Atiqah dreams of a completely different lifestyle.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani is a Malaysian graduate of Stanford University's undergraduate and graduate programs.

Atiqah Nadiah Zailani is a Malaysian graduate of Stanford University’s undergraduate and graduate programs.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah said she was inspired by the West Camping culture And that Small house movement..

But in Malaysia, building a small house is not easy.

“It’s a less popular concept,” Atiqah, graduation He told insiders that he had a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Stanford University in 2009. She added, “I was curious if it would be possible to have an independent home in a Malaysian situation.”

In July 2016, Atiqah purchased 43,000 square feet of land on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. And in September 2017, she gathered dozens of her friends and started building her house.

With a budget of 300,000 ringgit (about $ 68,000), Atiqah decided to build a small 530-square-foot loft-style house with a balcony. Insider has reviewed the detailed breakdown of the project’s Atiqah budget sheet.

From the beginning, Atiqah faced a series of obstacles, including time constraints and lack of construction experience.

Steel beams for small houses.

Steel beams for small houses.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah works as a government adviser, so he often goes in and out of Malaysia. This meant that she had only three weeks to build her house during her job assignments.

Further complicating the situation was the fact that the movement of small Malaysian homes was just beginning.

“In the United States, you have easy access to the tools. If you go to the Home Depot, you’ll find it,” she said. “But in Malaysia, the market is not fully compatible with self-supporting housing, so we had to make a little effort to find the right product.”

Fortunately she came across Epic homeA Malaysian organization that trains people on how to build a house.

Construction began with stacking to strengthen the soil in the jungle that forms the basis of her home. Twenty volunteers were needed to set up the scaffolding.

The early stages of building a small house.

The early stages of building a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Since Atiqah’s house was built on a hill, it was difficult to transport materials and it was dangerous to build a three-story scaffold.

“I watched millions of YouTube videos of other people’s little homes, and the truth is that the home is determined by the land you put it on,” Atiqah said. “We built it on a sloping hill. It requires more structure and a solid foundation to sit safely.”

Atiqah called for more volunteers. About 30 people visited to reinforce the structure that combines steel beams and wood. According to Atiqah, the material was “very expensive” and the Malaysian ringgit was $ 16,800 and RM15,300 ($ 3,800 and $ 3,400, respectively).

The material was sawed with a ladder and lifted to form the outer shell of the house.

Beams of a small house.

Beams of a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The beam was installed within a day.

“I think you only know how difficult construction work is when you really have to do it,” Atiqah said. “I have a whole new gratitude to construction workers. It requires a great deal of energy, strength, and patience.”

Atiqah relied on professional builders to raise the roof beams.

A part of the exterior is completed.

A part of the exterior is completed.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Professional costs, including project design, construction and management, have reached RM18,800 ($ 4,200).

The next day, the wall panel was completed.

Some of my friends who helped build a small house.

Some of my friends who helped build a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The wall panels were made of steel and wood. However, each material had its own challenges. The wooden board broke easily when cut, and the cutting blade did almost nothing to the steel.

The floorboards were swung around and nailed with the help of experts.

Volunteers helped her put together the edges of the gables in the house.

The exterior of the front of a small house.

The exterior of the front of a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The sloping roof complicates the work on the edge of the gable.

“It was my first time to assemble something bigger than a small box,” Atiqah said. “I think everything was new and rewarding to me.”

Most of the construction was completed after Atiqah and her team installed window frames and gutters, reinforced the walls and cleaned the balconies.

Atiqah said the installation of solar panels was easier than in other constructions of the house.

Roof solar panels.

Roof solar panels.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah Solar NRJAn engineering company that installs and services solar panels to obtain materials. She said it was difficult to procure parts to build a solar-powered electrical system for her home, but it was easy to assemble the system.

“It was a matter of generating electricity when the sun was out and storing it when we needed it most at night,” she said. “The challenge was to find a really good battery. I relied on using those clunky batteries that resemble what you find in your car.”

Atiqah has equipped the house with an off-the-grid stormwater collection system.

Melaki House, a small house just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Melaki House, a small house just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

According to Atiqah, the installation system for the water collection system was simple and consisted of five parts: gutters, water tanks, water pumps, filtration and faucets.

“Parts for rainwater harvesting are not really available in Malaysia,” she said. “I had to do a lot of research to find it, but they aren’t too expensive to put up with.”

One of the most distinctive features of Atiqah’s house is the tall glass windows.

The small house offers panoramic views of Malaysia's jungle.

The small house offers panoramic views of Malaysia’s jungle.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

The total cost of glass windows is 13,200 ringgit (about $ 3,000).

“That’s where I splattered,” Atiqah said. “I value them so I wanted to get a floor-to-ceiling glass window, but for someone else, concrete instead of glass would be really cheap. . “

Her favorite part of the house is a balcony with views of the Malaysian jungle.

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Atiqah said that due to tropical weather, there is no choice but to build a south-facing house to avoid facing the sun.

However, the decision came with some unexpected perks.

“The scenery is amazing because it’s so far away,” Atiqah said. “We get one of the darkest skies in Malaysia, so we can get a great starry sky, and my friends and I were sitting on the balcony looking at the stars.”

Atiqah is working on home furnishings β€” still sparsely furnished with few appliances.

The interior of a small house.

The interior of a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

Attica said that interior design and furniture take time because she travels so often.

“I was looking for a compost toilet, but I wanted a fashionable toilet, so I had to get it from abroad,” she said.

She hired a specialist to repair the plumbing, electrical wiring, and pest control of the house.

Atiqah said small homes aren’t mainstream in Malaysia yet, but some locals are contacting her in the hope of building their own small homes.

Living room in a small house.

Living room in a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

News coverage of small Malaysian homeowners has been around for years, but Atiqah said they were “very few.”

“There is some interest, but it’s small,” she said. “There are people who are really interested, but not as good as America, Australia and even New Zealand.”

Atiqah said the house had some flaws due to her inexperience, but it was all worth it.

In a small house.

In a small house.Atiqah Nadiah Zailani

“I wanted me and my friends to reach out,” she said. “So I know who made the wall, and it’s a little bent β€” but it’s great.”

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