The hot trend today is “Green” or “Sustainable” building. This can include a wide variety of things like tight building envelopes to low emission finishes and cabinets (which incidentley should go hand in hand) to higher efficient heating and cooling systems. All great things to do. But why do builders and remodelers spend so much time focusing on these and miss the basics?
The photo on the left is a recent repair I worked on. The black stuff is mold, not burn damage, although they both are black and both are destructive. While busy charging for upgraded heating systems and more sustainable flooring, the builder forgot (as did the plumbing inspector) to look at the basics. No nail plates on these pipes, that were strategically placed within a 1/2″ of the edge of the stud. Bam! Drywall screw through the pipe, and the destruction begin.
I caught this damage recently when a customer of mine asked me to come back to do more work on their home. I had finished the basement last year and thought I should do a quick walk through of that project to make sure everything was in good order. The basement project was fine, but I had noticed a rust spot and bubbled paint on my way down the basement stairs. When I asked how long that had been there the homeowner responded, “I think I noticed it just after you left last summer.” Coincidentally, the screw rusted through around the time we had finished the basement last year.
OK, fair enough. But she had thought it was a paint issue, not a leak issue. I knew nothing about either. Note to self, “Do follow up walk-thru or call on all projects.” Another one of the basics I forgot…(sad emoticon). The point is, while focusing on all the really cool green initiatives, the builder forgot to look at a few basic things, the 50¢ nail plate to protect the water lines, and created a different environmental issue: health.
Being “Green” is an operative word used by a lot of people selling things most of us don’t need. NEED. I’ll say it again, Need. If we all turned out the lights when not in a room, we wouldn’t need to burn so much fuel for our power plants or spend good money on cool high tech lighting systems that turn things on and off for us. If we switched to florescent or LED lighting, same thing. Put a sweater on in the winter and turn down the thermostat. Remember to change the furnace filter. Use less of everything and the word “Green” or “Sustainability”, becomes “Frugal”. That was a term my dad used, not because it was chic, but it made good cost sense. It COST less to use things frugally. The upshot was, it also impacted the environment by not putting as much waste into the system, and waste equals all the things sustainability advocates rails against.
Another interesting fact, frugality is still good for the environment. With all the technology we have today, and a lot of it has made our lives better, collectively, we, as a modern society, have forgotten one of the basic laws of nature: “waste not, want not”. Think about it.