This recession has lasted so long, we may have forgotten how we used to build houses, and that may be a good thing. Experience could be our worst enemy.
Three years ago, I decided to become involved in the “green building” arena. Business had turned down and it seemed at the time like something that may give me an edge over other structural engineers. Fast forward three years, add about six more titles to my résumé and four Platinum and seven Gold Certified LEED homes (all 11 built without FSC certified wood)—this is where I’m coming from now.
Here are my predictions:
- Homes will get smaller with convertible and less traditional floor plans and elevations.
- Successful fabricators will be involved in the design development stage.
- Roof systems will be used as rainwater and daylight harvesting collectors as well as renewable energy system supports.
- Truss systems will be “open” to accommodate high-tech mechanical, plumbing, and lighting equipment (raised heels, 2x6 chords and very few webs, long runs of FAU platforms, etc.).
- Energy ratings on homes will become the norm, much like the mileage sticker on a car.
- The “Conventional Construction” code compliance path will become obsolete (it’s lousy anyway).
- Financing will consider the value of sophisticated front-loaded design work, which can significantly reduce construction costs, rather than just appraise homes at a dollar-per-square-foot number.
- Operating costs, such as energy and water costs that can be greatly reduced through proper design, will be part of the loan qualification process, along with taxes and insurance.
- Buyers will purchase homes to “live in” rather than to sell later for profit.
- Owners will be provided a Building Information Modeling (BIM) style set of meticulously detailed drawings to accommodate forward planning and remodeling. Components will allow for flexible partition modifications and interior remodeling as needs change with time. Plans will no longer be “TOP SECRET” for legal protection.
This list could ramble on for much longer, and each item could have a separate article written about it. I am sure many component manufacturers are, like me, trying to plan how to do things when the market turns. Perhaps the “green” movement will be a lofty and unattainable flash and we will continue to do things as we have in the past. Who knows? I do believe that experience could be our worst enemy. The industry needs to be captained by a bunch of enthusiastic young fire-eaters who want to take a chance and do things differently.
–Norman Scheel, S.E., F SEAOC, F ASCE, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP HOMES • firstname.lastname@example.org