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From the Tailgate: Size Matters

Posted by Ron Jones

Oct 7, 2015 4:27:00 PM

FOR MANY YEARS now, I have been caught in the middle of the “home size” debate. When I served on the LEED for Homes steering committee and the development group for that rating system back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, the majority of the members of those bodies fought hard to include size as an issue in assessing sustainability and “greenness.” I found it hard to demonize a builder and/or their customer for choosing a larger-than-average house size when it comes down to a matter of choice, and I tried to look for middle ground on the subject.

After all, if a homeowner has come by their financial resources fair and square, who am I to tell them how they should invest them or how big their house should be? Freedom of choice remains one of the pillars of the American dream, does it not?

During the 10 years that I served as either chairman or committee member of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee, and subsequently while serving as chairman of the consensus committee that hammered out the original version of the National Green Building Standard for ICC and NAHB in 2007, the size debate continued. It still finds its way into industry and regulatory discourse to this day.

In the pages of the September 2015 issue of Green Builder, you will find a lot of interesting information about our current VISION House® demonstration project at Mariposa Meadows here in Colorado. What I am personally and especially proud of is the fact that our three residential structures add up to a total of about 4,000 square feet of conditioned space—and that includes a heated garage/workshop in one of the buildings. While they are deliberately compact, I will confidently compare the features, finish, comfort and livability of these three dwellings against any residential projects in the country.

Meanwhile, this past week I read the excited announcement that the 2017 version of the NAHB official show home is being built for the organization’s annual trade show—which will return to Orlando after a few years in Las Vegas—and will be ready to debut as the venerable “New American Home.” The hype is already beginning for this “8,000 square-foot, net-zero, $4 million home.” And it will undoubtedly be promoted as the absolute paragon of American homebuilding and the ultimate dream of homebuyers throughout the country, if not the world.

It will, no doubt, feature stunning architecture, products, systems and finishes, plus all the bells and whistles that will make it possible for the participants to keep a semi-straight face as they tell everyone who’ll listen, with a wink and a nod, how sustainability is a core ingredient of the project. For decades now, in cities around the country, the trade group and its media partners have perpetrated this hoax as these behemoths are presented year after year with much fanfare and noise to the news media, the building industry and the population at large.

I am still not prepared to sit in judgement of a homebuyer who desires a larger-than-average residence. But I believe the time has come for those who purport to represent the industry and the dream of homeownership to walk the walk and demonstrate some authenticity as opposed to conspicuously unbridled consumption.

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