Thursday, November 19, 2009

Builders Aren't To Blame?

“But builders aren’t entirely to blame for this scenario. Antiquated zoning laws (and planning boards that uphold them) also play a part. When builders find themselves handcuffed to standard lot sizes, minimum square footage requirements, and high land costs, the tradeoff is often building to a lower specification to arrive at a pro forma that pencils. The solution ends up being a lumbering stock plan with a brick front, vinyl siding, and little to no side yard.” – Jenny Sullivan in “Is The McMansion Dead?” Builder Magazine - November 2009.

The title of the article caught my eye. “I sure hope so” was my immediate response. Obviously there’s much more to the article than this single paragraph. But it seems to me that this is an excellent example of where we’ve gone wrong. If more of us paid attention to the
Triple Bottom Line instead of just the Bottom Line, we wouldn’t have to suffer through statements like this one. Just do the right thing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You Don't Have A Clue!

Are you sure that you're comparing apples to apples? I'll be honest, it's not easy for contractors to put together bids for projects. If you're not working with an Architect's comprehensive plans and specifications, contractors have to make guesses and assumptions; provide allowances and alternates. In the end, that makes it very hard for you to know what you're getting.

I recently worked with a couple that was convinced that the two bids they were looking at were comparable. But were they? The first red flag was the $25k difference on the bottom line. So I took a look.

Neither company's quote was completely clear. Both had presented their scopes in seemingly exhaustive detail. But by digging a little deeper, I could see that one had included drawings and well defined allowances that amounted to a project that was roughly twice that of the other. In the end, the pricing from each of the contractors was fair and in line. The difference was that one had included a quality and scale of project that should command a much larger price tag.

And that's the key. If you don't have detailed plans and specifications; clear expectations, you won't have a clue.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's Time to Stop Talking about Green

Are you tired of hearing people talk about Green this and Sustainable that? Have you heard enough about Petrol companies' commitment to the environment? I have.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't believe in protecting the Earth for future generations. Or that I think we should give up on designing responsible products and building smart homes. But the truth is if we're still talking about it we're not there yet.

A recent article in ecohome magazine tells the story of a public-private partnership that has committed $4 billion for the construction of affordable new green homes and renovations. Why? Because through an extensive study of affordable housing developments, they've realized that affordable green homes actually have a Return on Investment (ROI); they pay for themselves.

Yet just two weeks ago I reviewed a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) from a local Community Development Corporation (CDC) that didn't include any sort of efficiency requirements in homes designed and built for the people who could benefit most from low utility bills and a healthy place to live.

Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of individuals and organizations out there that are doing the things that make sense. They are conserving and striving to change the way they do things; to operate with a focus on the triple bottom line not just the bottom line. But we are still in an era where Green is largely about marketing and a derisive political talking point.

Only when we stop hearing about it on the Sunday morning talk show circuit and marketers move on to some other way of giving us the warm and fuzzies will we know that we've made any progress.

If you ask me, it's time quit talking about it and move on.