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The Fence Has Run Out of Room

Posted by Ron Jones

Jan 18, 2014 3:56:44 PM

Sorry folks, but there is no neutral ground left where the uncommitted can wait for the rest of the world to determine which direction we are going to steer the future of the built environment. The time has come to take a stand and decide which side of the issue you are going to be on.

At stake is more than how houses and other buildings are going to perform, how much energy they will consume, how well they manage an increasingly precious water resource, how successfully they withstand unpredictable temperatures, precipitation and intensifying weather events. At stake is more than the comfort, physical safety and financial security of people who depend on the building industry to provide shelter in all its forms, even as important as all those things are.

What is really at stake is the integrity of our profession.

For decades the majority of the people I worked alongside as we built projects and handed the keys to our customers chose to leave it to “somebody else” to set the course for everyone in the business. Like many of my fellow builders, I was reluctant to get involved in “the politics” of the industry, leaving the advancement of building science and corresponding developments of codes, standards and regulations to people I didn’t really know.

When I became involved with my local home builders association I did so reluctantly and only after the repeated requests of many of my suppliers and subcontractors. I hoped that I would be able to lead by example, to serve as a positive role model to those who would follow. After a couple of decades of trying to make a difference from the inside I ultimately came to understand that trade associations don’t work for guys like me, or for others in the industry who aspire to excel.

I finally understood that, sadly, trade associations serve the interests of the lowest common denominator, not those who would move the profession toward better performance and higher quality, but those who want to be left alone unfettered to construct the poorest buildings they can legally get away with in their pursuit of profit.

Finally accepting that I was not going to be able to move the boulder any farther up the hill I decided to take matters into my own hands and along with a small group of determined, committed individuals joined forces to found an alternative to the trade groups. We call it the Green Builder Coalition and we are looking for men and women who want to once again be proud to tell people that they are part of the building industry.

We talk a great deal about sustainability these days. I recently read an explanation of sustainability provided by Stephen R. Kellert, Professor of Social Ecology and co-director of the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He writes: Being sustainable means keeping something in existence, and we only sustain those things we feel a deep affection and attachment for because we perceive that their special qualities convey enduring meaning and value.

Sure, we want each and every honest business person to experience financial success and for the industry to thrive in communities across the land. We also want to assure that the people we are working for are benefitting from the best we have to offer as an industry and that our children and grandchildren enjoy what is left of the incredibly abundant world we have all been blessed with.

Being a builder is an honor, and with it comes responsibility to deliver the best product possible. Don’t leave it to others to decide what our level of professional performance will be. Get off the fence and come down on the side of progress. Help us to rediscover our integrity and sustain our profession by adding your voice to the Coalition as we build something of value together.

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