By Lance McCarthy
Remember when the recession was picking up speed? Saving money was cool for a couple of weeks and “green” became the new black. Every news report and TV commercial seemed to be touting how eco-friendly they were. Oil companies, big box stores, even the maker of Hummers (remember them?) were all fighting for a gold medal in the we-are-saving-the-world-one-consumer-item-at-a-time Olympics.
Now where are they? I think we got tired of all the “green” and have moved on to oranges and blues. All we have to show for it are cars that drive further on less gas, and really good milk in little glass bottles that costs a crazy lot (shout out to my homeys at Shatto Milk!) We are on to other worries now. Like why in the world Facebook would spend so much for a texting app. I know, right?
Well, in the meantime, in the background, the construction industry has been slowly and steadily evolving. Many of us have been working to make homes last longer, use less energy, and require fewer resources to construct. I believe that we are in the middle of a sort of Renaissance in the space-building world. We are buoyed by advances in technology, great innovations in products, a hungriness to improve, and even stricter energy codes. This has become the perfect storm…if a storm were a good thing.
Last fall we completed an extensive remodel/addition for a wonderful family in Prairie Village. We more than doubled the size of their home without tearing it completely down. It was a major undertaking. I got an email from the homeowner last week that said he had spent less on his heating bill this winter than he had the previous winter.
That’s right. the house was bigger. The winter was colder. And the gas was more expensive. Yet, the dreaded bill from good ol’ Kansas Gas was lower.
This, to me, is the heart of the reason you should care a lot about “green.” Forget for a second all the baggage that word brings. Forget the spotted owls. Forget the baby seals. Forget the EPA spending millions moving from a green building in KCK down to the an office park in Lenexa. There are a lot of bad moves and inconsistencies that can easily distract someone from a very important question.
I believe you could boil a lot of complex environmental issues down to one really good question:
Will this reduce my cost over time?
That brings the eco-issue into amazing clarity. Will this siding product reduce my cost over time when I don’t have to paint it five years from now? Will this hardwood finish reduce my cost over time when it resists scratches better? Will this furnace reduce my cost for heating over time?
If you weren’t sold by Al Gore’s movie, I can understand. But, as you are considering your home, I would encourage you to remember my question as part of your conversation.
Within the next decade, it is widely believed that “net zero” housing (that is, a house that gives back as much back on the energy grid as it uses) will become common place. There are already builders that are accomplishing this amazing feat. It is a brave new world. And one of the best benefits to this is the fact that it would reduce cost–to the homeowner and society–over time.
Green you can take to the bank. I like that.
This weekly sponsored column is written by Lance McCarthy of ReTouch, a full-service, client-based contractor specializing in home remodels. For more information about their services, or to view samples of their work, visit their website.