Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are you up to code?

Have you heard this question before? Water cooler, permit office, job site? What does up to code mean? Does it mean your home complies with code? Good. But what does code really mean? Have you ever tried to build a home below code? Have you gotten away with it? Has it come back to bite you?

Enough of the inquisition. A code home (if your jurisdiction has a code) is the MINIMUM home you can legally build. In other words, if you built a home any less than code, you could go to jail. So a code home is the worst home you can build without getting into legal trouble with the state. Is that how you're defining your company, by building the worst homes possible?

If you couldn't tell that we were in a housing slump, good for you. If you're out there trying to market your homes for 30% less than list price without success, let me tell you why. It's because your home is the worst home legally allowed. Meanwhile Joe Toolbelt has upped his ante and is putting energy efficiency features into his homes and they're selling. What's that mean, bamboo floors and low VOC paints? No, that means 24" o.c. studs, increased insulation values, a quality heat pump or 95% furnace and a myriad of other features that make your house use 30% less energy than before. "Won't that cost extra?". No, no, and no. You've made it obvious that there is a learning curve, but you've also shown me that you've broken that before. The 1992 code shattered all your ideals, but you got the hang of it. Now I'm telling you to do it again.

If you are a GC, get energy efficiency figured out, then talk to your subs. I'll bet your subs would frame in a monkey suit right now if it guaranteed they would get your framing job. Tell them how you want your house built, and tell them that you have no qualms about dropping them midway through the project if they're not doing it right. Are you a sub? Figure out the energy efficiency for your trade and market yourself for the same price as before.

If you can figure out new technology like pneumatic nailers and factory-built trusses, surely you can do better than 80% furnaces and batt insulation. Need help? Come to istockhouseplans and get our energy efficiency details with every plan.

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