When was the last time you bought a toy for your kids and thought, ‘wow, look at the craftsmanship, amazing!’? Unfortunately, most of us grew up chasing higher incomes while purchasing more goods for less, and the outcome is that we own many things of low quality that don’t really work or we don’t really need.
What does that have to do with your home and “getting the job done”?
Getting the job done #1
First, we know many people who spent a lot of money on a new kitchen which didn’t improve their cooking, and while the new kitchen looked fancy, the quality, functionality, and long-term benefits did not justify the cost.
If you have an extra dime to spend, think first if you really need that new sofa or is it a better decision to spend that money on fixing the roof so that you can protect your home and family from the next storm, hail, fire, or earthquake.
You may not have instant gratification, but you are going to enjoy immediate peace of mind, contribute to sustainability for a better future, and be healthier and safer when that roof protects you when you most need it.
Getting the job done #2
If you are searching for the lowest price, you are being financially responsible, but if you are not doing your homework beyond the price, you can only blame yourself if you get a crappy outcome.
And once more, we have seen many of our friends paying way beyond market price just because they chased vanity, later to find they made a crappy deal. For example, house sidings can easily change the look of a house and turn it into something else. But sidings have an important role, they protect the house and are the first line of defense as they are able to absorb a lot of outside forces. They also need to suit the climate zone you are in. For example, in some cases, its sidings help moderate vapor and allow other structural elements to keep dry.
We are not saying to give up on looks and design. On the contrary, we love design, but don’t opt for cheap materials. If you need to save, choose resilience first (many times resilience doesn't mean compromising design or breaking the budget!).
- Study your project and research a lot upfront (see Getting the job done #3)
- Choose the right professionals. References are key (see Getting the job done #4)
- Set a budget
- Set the time - be prepared to manage the project daily
Getting the job done #3
Say you want to insulate your roof, should you use foam or fiberglass batt? Which one is more efficient for cold weather or hot (depending on where you live and your objective). Do you need to seal the attic? Do you need to make it airtight? Should your attic be conditioned or unconditioned? Vented or not? Do you need a vapor barrier? Why is foam more expensive? Are there different types of foam? Can anyone install insulation? How do you build an energy efficient home? How do you test efficiency? What is the market price? What’s the best time of the year to do this project? Are there any local building codes you must adhere to?
Don't rely on the input of one contractor. Search the web, interview 3 - 4 contractors, interview experts in your local lumberyard, home depot, and ask your friends and neighbors if they have done the same project and how it turned out.
Running the research and getting yourself educated will help you:
- Choose the right materials
- Choose the right contractor
- Find energy efficienty home builders
- Get home energy efficiency ideas
- Properly manage the project from start to finish
- Get the best ROI from your project
Getting the job done #4
When it comes to building or fixing your sidings, walls, foundation, floors, roof, doors, the list goes on, you should aim for contractors that know how to get the job done properly so your house performs well against the elements and lasts for years to come.
How to choose the best and reduce risks?
- Word of mouth. Try to choose contractors that worked with people you know and that they were pleased with the outcome.
- Ask if they are licensed.
- Ask if they are insured. It's ok to ask for proof.
- Do they know what they are doing? If you do your research, you will be able to challenge this.
- Do they choose the right materials? do your research...
- Ask for 2 - 3 referrals and actually talk to their previous customers or even better, ask to see the job they have done.
- Do they have a good team and do they hire good subcontractors? Ask the referrals.
- Do they try to estimate the time and cost of the project? Ask the referrals and compare.
- Do they have extra certifications and do they keep learning? Interview them.
- Do they fix their mistakes? Ask referrals and negotiate contingencies (“what ifs”).
- Do they negotiate fairly and politely? Ask referrals.
- Would they leave you hanging? Ask referrals.
- Do they calculate an appropriate profit to keep their business going, developing, and growing? This may be hard to figure out, but businesses that exist for a long time, and maintain high caliber reviews, usually tend to be profitable.
All these traits cost money, and so if you want to make sure you are doing the best for your home and family, own it and choose right. There are decent professionals and energy efficient home builders out there, and remember: construction is a profession, art, and hard work. Mistakes happen, so don't get mad, plan it right and manage it.
Getting the job done #5
Many bad contractors have set a bad name for the industry. Understanding that even the best contractors are not perfect is the first step.
Let’s list all the things that may happen to the best contractors:
- Make mistakes
- Be late
- Underestimate the cost
- Have a bad day
- Their subcontractor bailed on them (they also make the same mistakes…)
- Your designer actually made the mistake and the contractor missed it
So what can be done?
- Don't lower your expectations, but be realistic. Every project runs into issues so be ready.
- Sign a contract with all the risks, contingencies, and behaviors you want to handle.
- Be present at the working site every day. Check, ask, challenge and comment if needed.
- Hire a project manager or auditor - critical in big/complex projects.
- If you have an architect, let them be involved and manage the misalignments.
- Ask the contractor what they think about the design and plans. Manage the misalignments.
- In certain applications, check the product manufacturer website or contact them if you think their input is required.
Getting the job done #6
Buying a rug can definitely tie the room together, but if it gets stolen you can always get a new one. Rugs aside, everything else you build or fix should be resilient.
Why resilience? Homes should act as safe havens and provide comfort to occupants at all times. Climate change has accelerated the number and magnitude of events and most homes were not designed or built to withstand these extreme events.
The NCEI (NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information) has recently released its final 2020 update to its billion-dollar disaster report (www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions), officially confirming that 2020 was a historic year of extremes.
Communities across the nation experience mounting extreme storms, floods, high and low temperatures, precipitation, snow and ice, hail, prolonged droughts, and wildfires, all of which are becoming the new norm.
While it requires time and money to prepare for those events, adapting to them is inevitable.
The first step is realizing we need to adapt to extreme events, the second is figuring out how, and in between, it's important to realize that building resilience doesn't necessarily mean you need to break your budget. Many resilient solutions are affordable, and the return on the investment is positive - it saves lives and money down the road.
Building resilience into your home will:
- Make your home a safe haven from hazards
- Make your home comfortable at all times, even when there is a power outage
- Make your home energy efficient and save you many $ bills
- Make your home a healthier place - improved air quality, free from mold and toxic materials
- Make your home easy to maintain and cheaper to repair with lower maintenance costs
- Increase the value of your home
If you made up your mind to invest in resilience, then here are the steps we recommend following:
- Set your budget (this can be per year/scope)
- Understand the climate zone you are in and the challenges it brings with it
- Identify the main risks in your area from extreme events
- Learn your state and local building codes and consider going above the bare minimum
- Prioritize adaptation to climate zone and specific risks
- Choose the right materials for your climate zone and/or the right materials and products to serve your project’s needs: form, fit, function and whether or not it has resilience against the specific risks you’ve identified
- Choose the right professionals (architects and contractors) and do all of the above by consulting with them!
Getting the job done #7
This one is a tough one. We are in constant search of eco-friendly products that also demonstrate resilient characteristics. While we want every product to be green, if it's not resilient it cannot be sustainable. Here too, there are information gaps and misconceptions about what is green and what is resilient. Wood can either be fire resilient or not, it can also be green, or not, depending on how it was treated. It can work well in some climate zones and be challenged in others.
Many people still think cutting trees is bad, hence using it is not eco-friendly, but believe it or not, wood is one of the most eco-friendly materials.
- It is natural
- When Properly harvested, it can actually be good for the environment
- When treated properly, wood can protect against many hazards
- When treated properly, wood can maintain its green and healthy characteristics
In addition, when we think eco-friendly, or green, it is not only about the material itself, or about energy efficient home building. If you really care about helping mother earth and your community, you should also consider:
- The methods and process of the materials used
- Where do they come from and how are they shipped?
The bottom line: always choose “true sustainability”. Choose products and designs that are resilient in face of local environmental risks. Choose products and designs that meet the local climate zone characteristics. And, choose eco-friendly products from suppliers that go the extra mile to be part of the sustainability movement for a better future.
Building a home or renovating one is a notable event. For many of us, this is the largest investment we carry in our lifetime. A home is where we spend most of our time, and where we build our relationships, family, career, happiness, and health. As such, we should properly invest in it, so it serves us well over time.
When we buy finished goods such as cars, laptops, and mobile phones, we expect them to perform. One reason why some of these products do very well is they are designed and built in a controlled environment, adhere to industry standards, comply with quality, materials, performance benchmarks, and tested for baseline and extreme use cases—that’s how you should think of your house.
It's most important that the products you are buying are performing extremely well, as their performance has a direct impact on your wellbeing.
Cheat Sheet to getting the job done right:
- Prioritize and set a budget.
- Plan. Do all the research and checks upfront.
- Choose the right contractors for the job.
- Mistakes happen, so manage your mental reserves properly.
- Build resilience: the ability to adapt to extreme events in the future.
- Try to go eco-friendly. The future is green, be part of that change.
KEEP COOL. BUILD RESILIENCE. EAMPACT.