You’re the best cure for the com­mon code

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

IOFTEN get asked why, when we know how to build things bet­ter, we don’t change build­ing code to re­quire it. That’s a good ques­tion. Why, when we know cer­tain stan­dard build­ing meth­ods and ma­te­ri­als will lead to prob­lems in your home, do we still keep­ing us­ing them?

First, we need to un­der­stand build­ing code. Ba­si­cally, it’s a set of rules that have de­vel­oped to gov­ern how houses are built to pro­vide min­i­mum stan­dards for safety. Min­i­mum code makes sure your house won’t fall down, that your roof will stay at­tached, that your floors will hold the weight of fur­ni­ture and peo­ple, that your rail­ings are high enough that the av­er­age per­son won’t fall over the bal­cony, or if a fire breaks out in a part of your home it won’t spread quickly. To my mind, min­i­mum code is about min­i­mum value. And it’s def­i­nitely not about sus­tain­abil­ity.

Some code does re­late di­rectly to ef­fi­ciency — min­i­mum R-value for in­su­la­tion, for ex­am­ple. If we add more in­su­la­tion in new build­ings, that means less heat­ing and cool­ing costs and less de­mand for en­ergy, which is a good thing for the en­vi­ron­ment.

Min­i­mum isn’t ideal — and you’ve heard me com­plain about min­i­mum code for years. Hey, don’t get me wrong; min­i­mum code is bet­ter than no code. But min­i­mum code just isn’t about forc­ing builders to make houses sus­tain­able or green.

The only way to change the build­ing in­dus­try is to cre­ate de­mand for bet­ter prod­ucts. There was a time years ago when the stan­dard way to lay tile in a bath­room was ce­ment and mesh on ply­wood. That was the way it had al­ways been done, and that’s what contractors knew and what home­own­ers ex­pected. Then peo­ple started to see the orange Schluter prod­uct used on cer­tain TV shows. Mine, for in­stance.

The more it was shown and the more con­sumers learned about how good a prod­uct it was, the more they de­manded it from their contractors. No one even knew the name — they’d call it that orange stuff when they went to the build­ing sup­ply store.

Now it’s stan­dard —it’s not part of code — but ev­ery­one knows it. Sales of that prod­uct and sim­i­lar prod­ucts are through the roof. It’s a su­pe­rior prod­uct but you’ll never see it as part of min­i­mum code. It’s about do­ing the job right, and about mak­ing it last longer.

That’s how we need to change build­ing prac­tices for green prod­ucts. You, the con­sumer have to drive that de- mand. It won’t come from stores and it won’t come from sup­pli­ers and it won’t come from govern­ment. It has to come from you. Con­sumers need to de­mand green and healthy prod­ucts.

De­mand no-VOC (Volatile Or­ganic Com­pounds) paints and stains and car­pets. Use only sus­tain­able For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil wood and floor­ing. Refuse to buy any­thing else. Be­lieve me, when man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers start to sell green prod­ucts, they’ll pro­duce and stock them.

You also need to con­sider the life span of prod­ucts. Yes, as­phalt shin­gles are less ex­pen­sive than a metal roof, but they last a frac­tion of the time, are dif­fi­cult to re­cy­cle, are an oil-based prod­uct, con­trib­ute to ur­ban heat is­lands and they off gas like crazy. And they burn. We can do bet­ter than that.

Spend the ex­tra money, have a roof that lasts a life­time — or longer — and your house’s value will in­crease when it’s time to sell. Think long term, not short term.

I once had a con­ver­sa­tion with the pres­i­dent of a build­ing sup­ply store chain and I sug­gested they stop sell­ing crap prod­ucts. Why are they sell­ing ma­te­ri­als that will mould, that will rot, that are the low end of the scale when there is bet­ter stuff on the mar­ket? I told the pres­i­dent to sell only the best prod­ucts, the green­est prod­ucts. They’d be the No. 1 re­tailer in build­ing ma­te­ri­als. And I was schooled in re­tail: They stock what sells. So that means it’s up to you.

I can’t change code and re­ally don’t care to. Change won’t come from govern­ment. And it def­i­nitely won’t come from builders and sup­pli­ers. But if we all de­mand bet­ter, and don’t set­tle for crap, then builders will start to make bet­ter houses. If bad houses don’t sell, and good ones do; you do the math.

You have the power. Take it.

— Postmedia News

Spend the ex­tra money, have a roof that lasts a life­time — or longer — and your house’s value will in­crease when it’s

time to sell.

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