value and love

Several recent events have demonstrated the classic adage “you get what you pay for.” I must abstain from personal anecdotes for reasons of discretion, but I’m watching a few situations play out where clients made decisions solely to save money. Now they’re paying for it or in the next few years I sense they will. When a statement is made that “this is cheaper” there is a reason. Why are things cheaper? It is generally because you are getting less. This isn’t a hard concept to grasp.

In most circumstances, the lowest price is not the best value. This goes for services as well as goods.

So where does this lead? First of all, it causes headaches. Headaches go away, but the remnants of poor decisions could lead to premature failure of building components, more maintenance of materials or worse, early replacement of materials. In some cases it causes premature replacement because the owners discover they don’t like their choice and choose to replace it before the end of its useful life. In other cases the “cheaper” contractor is nothing but problems.

It seems our ancestors generally built things to last and they treasured what they had. In today’s disposable world, we are no longer sentimental with our houses because we’ll probably move in 5-7 years. Even if the homeowner has no plans to move, they often fail to invest wisely on the ‘bones’ of the house before splurging on the cosmetic portions. It is understandable that one may choose to change paint colors or update other interior finishes every so often, but if major elements have to be replaced, it costs the homeowner more money and it’s more waste in a landfill.

I recently heard Steve Mouzon speak again at a conference and I was reminded of his down-to-Earth sustainable approach. I was so impressed that I will probably refer to his writings several times in the months to come. I thought about his principle of ‘lovable‘ this week. According to his website, he writes “…if a building cannot be loved, then it is likely to be demolished and carted off to the landfill in only a generation or two. All of the embodied energy of its materials is lost (if they are not recycled.) And all of the future energy savings are lost, too. Buildings continue to be demolished for no other reason except that they cannot be loved. It is not possible for a building to be considered sustainable when its parts reach a landfill in a generation or two.”

Homeowners are not the only guilty ones here. I watched a Wal-Mart be demolished in less than 10 years of existence so a Sam’s Club could be built in its place. I was amazed that the building couldn’t be modified and such a large building would be simply ‘thrown away’ like paper plates after the picnic. I could endeavor to explain the reasoning that I heard, but does it matter?

If we don’t invest in our buildings, and if we have no connection with them, we won’t love them. If a building is not lovable, it won’t be around for very long. If we keep throwing away materials and buildings without recycling the parts we won’t be able to exist much longer. So don’t buy the cheapest, buy the best value and love it.

photos are from Pepe2000’s stock photo gallery on Stock.Xchng (used under the Standard Restrictions)

value and love

8 thoughts on “value and love

  1. Fantastic post, Lee. This is the message we need to spread:!

    What a great quote: “If a building can’t be loved, it will eventually be hauled off to the landfill.”

    Cheers to putting more emphasis on lasting quality and meaning.

  2. Disposable seems to be the trend at everything we build in our lives – be it buildings, work partnerships or marriages; just throw it away and start over. I agree that putting more time, effort and thought (and often money) into what we do, makes it more valuable. Great link, thank you.

  3. Roxanne Button AIA says:

    Great post, and thank you for pointing us to Steve Mouzon’s site. I’ve focused my career on sustainability for over 20 years (predating USGBC & LEED) so I have always had a broader, more wholistic concept of what it means. Steve’s thoughts and yours resonated this morning: a building that really should be saved is going to end up in a landfill because someone in a position of power doesn’t love it. The people who stand up for historic buildings in this city love it, but the guy who owns it and the guy who runs City Hall do not. This is all going on in a city that hosted the National Trust’s conference just a few months ago. Hmph.

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