How to lose a client...

Here's a letter just sent to a very nice lady for whom we probably won't work. She's too far away. She also mentioned that although she wants to be green, the local building costs were.... an amount that won't get a truly green home, I fear. Did give me a chance to think out loud, though...

"Dear _____________,

"Thanks for the time on the phone today, and for your interest. I loved the floor plan you sent: concise, personal and yet welcoming and friendly. As much as most of us need.

"If you visit our website, timberframe-postandbeamhomes.com, or peruse our brochures, you’ll see our homes tend toward the woody and natural. While many of our homes are often large, we are known for what is called green, or sustainable, building. I define sustainability with four major points: 1) advanced thermal and mechanical systems; 2) thoughtful and renewable sourcing of materials; 3) longevity in structural enclosure systems, and; 4) high levels of design and craft. I'll break them down a bit more.
"It's no longer a dream to build homes that take little to heat and cool, use water efficiently, and provide fresh air to the inhabitants. Honestly, we've known how to do this since the early 80's, but recently it really feels like people are taking the information more seriously. This includes better levels of insulation, (and no fiberglas!), modulating furnace and air conditioning units that can self-regulate down to very low levels of demand, home-sourced alternative energy like photovoltaics for electricity and solar hot water, heat recovering ventilators, water-efficient plumbing fixtures (dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe for fifty years, for gosh sakes,) and rain-water harvesting systems. All of these items can be considered on their individual merit and project applicability, but frankly, most should be non-optional.
"The embodied energy that goes into each of our building products is now being considered more carefully. Natural and renewable resources like lightly processed stone and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood lead the list, of course. Major manufacturers are “green washing” us all the time as they try to convince us that their own highly processed polymer products are the new answer. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Locally sourced products, while not the most important issue, should always be considered first.
"Oregon and New York alike have seen their share of building system failures due to poor detailing of rain planes and resultant moisture problems. Again, we've known many of the correct methods since the early 80's, but have failed to act on them. This is partly due to laziness in most builders, and the fact that the market (our clients) push for cheaper houses that go up faster. Greed is a major factor for both provider and end user, though I have to give the former the larger share of the blame. For some reason we don't give the builder (or for that matter the residential architect/designer,) the professional status that perhaps we do for lawyers and doctors, in spite of the equally important role these professionals play. We rely on regulatory agencies, and they have caved to special interests. No surprise there.
"Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I believe true sustainability to be closely linked to the timelessness of great design, and the beauty of fine craft. Both inspire us to love and maintain a building, create meaningful work, establish a "high bar" for every one involved on the project, and better use the resources at hand. I fear that part of the reason the "energy efficiency" movement of the early 80's died was that most of those homes were ugly, and poorly made.
"As a side note, I don't link timber framing, which is gorgeous, and what we're best known for, is directly and solely tied with great green building. It can be an important asset in of all of the 4 tenants as described, but they can all be done without a timber to be seen."

And on to the end. Made me think. You? Does this jibe? Here's a picture of Maxine talking to a group of designers and builders at the house this past Saturday from the local Earth Advantage Institute. We've gotten a warm reception in this incredible city.