It is midnight and I’ve just spent the last 6 hours with an industrial sized shop vac mopping up 26 gallons of water from the brand new carpet in my super-duper, net-zero, LEED something home. And why, may you ask, do I have a swimming pool in my basement? Ah – because the landscape contractor did not see fit to fill in the big excavation right next to the house which he dug to install the sprinkler system. We’ve had lots of rain, water finds the big hole, it seeks the path of least resistance, finds the old concrete foundation wall (which had no waterproofing when installed in 1936) and percolates through to my nice new carpet.
Sustainability includes durability. And durability is all about understanding the forces of nature, and setting up systems which will prevent any damage to the materials of the house. In the case of water – this means DRAIN the RAIN. Simple. Something I expected a landscaper to do, especially since it is spelled out in the LEED for Homes – points which he was supposed to be documenting.
But I was in Virginia, not in Utah, and not able to supervise. But REALLY? Is our industry so bad that the client has to supervise the worker? And yet this has been my experience on almost every phase of this house. There have been a few notable exceptions - carpet install, insulation company, sheet metal , and my current carpenter. And while I chided myself for somehow choosing the worst of the crop, the volumes of stories of similar and worse experience tells me that I got off easy - probably because I was effectively a site super – which oversaw the GC and the subs.
Sustainability requires a buy-in and commitment from every worker. It can only be achieved through the integration of the team of contractors, each understanding their role in the great game of building science chess. They have to think about how they contribute to the greater whole, how their work impacts the next guy, and how they can inform their predecessors what their requirements are for effective work. It’s called responsibility, collaboration, and thinking.
Santa, please show me some great contractors – ones who still treat homebuilding as a craft, workers who seek to improve their skills and are eager to learn. Santa, please send some inspiration, dedication and pride of workmanship to our industry – we really need it.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!! HO! HO! HO!