Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Making It Last A Few Lifetimes

Durability management is about as exciting as it sounds. I remember a few years ago I would always meet prospects on the front porch of a house and start to discuss all of the structural advantages of our homes. I could see their eyes glazing over with that 'just show me the damn kitchen!' look.

I've changed my approach a bit now. But, durability is still important. The shine of that lovely kitchen wears off quickly if you're always dealing with maintenance issues.

Part of the LEED for Homes certification process is to have a set of defined strategies to enhance the durability of the home, and to have a third party verify that those strategies have been implemented. Things like kick-out flashings, keeping the foundation at least a foot above grade, insulating all hot water lines, putting ice and water shield in roof valleys...they're not sexy, but they help a home not only outlast it's present owner, but a few generations after as well.

One of the premises of a green home is that they are less resource intensive than a standard home. If a house is built to last for 150 years, that obviously uses fewer resources than building a home that will only last 50 years.

Having remodeled several homes that were not constructed with green building standards, I can tell you that even after 10 or 15 years they start to require significant maintenance, and by the time they reach 50 they're about at the end of their useful life. I confident that with proper homeowner education (another part of the LEED process) and maintenance, our LEED certified homes will last 150 years if not more.

Today we poured the footings on our next LEED certified home. As the picture shows, we use steel reinforcing bar ("rebar") in our footings. This steel bar greatly strengthens the concrete footing which is the support for the home. The result is less settling, and greater stability over time.

One of the things I look forward to when I'm much older is going back to the homes I've built and seeing how they've stood the test of time. Undoubtedly they'll weather the years better than I. Although by that time I may be well past my prime, it will be gratifying to see that our homes are still going strong. Durability management is what will make it happen.

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