Don't Build

It’s been about 30 years since I’ve rented. Frankly it’s a bit liberating, and instructive. The former for obvious reasons: the plugged sink, the busted gutter and the need for another coat of exterior paint are not my problem. Just a call to our very capable rental agency. Kind of fun after the last three homes of the forever fixing and upping.

In those homes, I felt it my duty to leave them better than when I got them, (and by the third, was working on inspiration as much as duty, and watching Maxine comeinto her own with an amazing design sense,) and we were positively reinforced when it came time to sell. This was true for our beloved 3 Westland, even at the start of this recent difficult market.

I recently spoke at the Northwest Eco Builders Guild, Eugene chapter, and the 40 or so folks there were funny and relaxed. I was happily prepared for solid granola-straw types only, and got a much wider range, from green realtors (!) to diy’ers and even a city programmer, who came up to me afterwards very sincerely wanting to chat about how her city agency can avoid the wrath and sputter that comes out of my mouth at the very MENTION of Portland’s tragic state of their permitting system. (Had I raged? I never know, because it comes from somewhere deep and channels my conscious, like a scene from the Exorcist. I need to video myself.)

I also wasn’t sure if I was going to get slaughtered by my list of opening statements, meant to stir controversy: among the most egregious, giving these were builders, too, for god’s sake: If you or your client can’t afford to build it right, that is, with real wood, not pvc windows and siding, not lousy insulation lacking thermal breaks, with heating equipment that works to the very LATEST standards, and perhaps the uppity-est, with extraordinary design and craft, then they should be buying existing housing stock and pouring their love and energy and money into that, until they can get to the point, through increasing value or saving or whatever, that they CAN build it right. Oooooh….

Here’s my thinking, informed in part by my rental home:

1) There’s no denying the math that you can get more square footage in an existing (used) home, for equal money. This is even more so when you compare a well built new home’s cost.

2) If you are trying to be green, there’s a house out there needing you. For far less natural resources than building new you can adopt that house and make it a much better performing shelter.

3) When completed, and when that repaired home’s hero/owner is ready to move on, the re-sale price is way higher (don’t forget that this project requires fine design and craft as well!) and so the goal of living in a new home is closer. Fewer sub prime debacles, more knowledge about how to utilize all the embodied energy a new build requires, a more thoughtful addition to our collective landscape.

Ask me about life in this 70’s raised ranch. I have some good things to say about it.

SO we poured the footers this week.