Okay, here’s the New Year and I resolved to say what’s on my mind and get into trouble in the process. I’ve been doing that a lot lately and my defense is to use a version of a famous quote. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That may be overdramatic (especially when it comes to blogging), but I’m going with it.
We talk about quality as architects. We guide, cajole, plead and lead our clients to quality. Some may think our motivation is really about style or our own narcissistic pursuits, but for the most part, we want to see our clients get the quality that the project deserves. We want to know that what we build will last for generations to come. It is very difficult to sit by and watch our clients forgo our recommendations to include features that we feel are quality as the permanent ‘bones’ of the project. We lead them to durable construction, energy efficiency and healthy building systems. In residential design, they want cheaper (vinyl) construction to afford the third garage, a huge bathroom, granite countertops and a big family room. They say they can’t afford to spend anymore on the project. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Am I over-generalizing…perhaps?
As the market continues to stink, the mortgage and appraisal system is still broken, and houses have become a commodity rather than a place to call home permanently, decisions seem to be based on many factors other than quality. Why invest any more in a house if one may not stay there long enough to recoup the investment? Why include that great feature if the market won’t allow that to be recovered in five to seven years? Why invest in energy-efficient design when the appraisal system won’t consider it. I’ve seen too decisions made for the person who may buy the house someday. In some ways, how can I blame people for their decisions? I have to wonder what homes of this era will be cherished in the future as we cherish houses from a hundred years ago or more. Will they even care? Will there be anything that lasts that long?
What makes America great is the freedom to make our own choices. I generally support that. However, how or when did we become such a selfish nation? Our freedom has led to such self-sufficiency that we don’t believe or care how our actions affect others; especially others in future generations to come. This has nothing to do with style preferences but a decision-making process. Do you ever question your decision-making process? Do you feel you make the best decisions at a particular moment? If you’re not sure, see where you spend your money.
When I was a young kid, I tended to save whatever money was given me in order to save up for something that would last. It was generally some fancy toy or a new part for my BMX bicycle, but it was a tangible representation of my money. My sister (sorry Lynne) would spend hers right away on candy or whatever she wanted at that moment. She couldn’t figure out where I collected all of this money and how I could afford something of value when she had nothing to show for hers. People spend money based on their value system. So when it comes to spending it on quality in terms of architecture, I’m still not seeing it in the (new) house arena. You say they’re just not choosing to spend it on their houses, but they are spending it. It is spent on bigger size, more garages to fit their stuff, new TV’s, the latest iPhone with unlimited data plans, huge satellite TV utility costs and dinner out three or more times a week. Do they have that right? You bet…this is America. However, I suggest saving your money and not spending it on candy.
photo is from zongazeevil’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)