New Look at Affordable Homes by Ralph Smoot
Many have heard of the fires inBastropCounty. Though my homes today went through the fires, my wood home burned when I was 13 and we had what was on our backs. Many people have jumped in to help the fire victims, but the loss is still great. Loss of our homes is only part of the picture. TexasForestservice will tell you today that we have to wait and see what will grow back. But the ecology of the land is very severe. Texas Water Control Board will say they are not sure of the effects. The bottom line is not easy to understand. The big question in most peoples mind is “what about my home”? Many people had some insurance to help, but others did not. Others that had little insurance realized a “cursing or a blessing”. Curse if they could not afford to rebuild. It is a blessing in that they could start over, taking whatever insurance they pocketed, and start afresh without a debt over their head Then, the home they lost was not just a place to live and hang their hat; it was time spent, items collected, memories made, and pictures that are now irreplaceable. By now you are wondering “What has all this to do with Affordable Housing”?
Affordable housing is not many things common to us Americans today; why because we do not build homes/buildings to last and perform as other areas in the world do. Our resources are not as plentiful or wasteful as they were 20 years ago. When I was a kid gasoline was 11 cents a gallon; not today. My point is simply made. Today our building decisions have to be based on long terms effects (people, buildings, and the environment), if we are to have a tomorrow. Many of you do not realize that theUSAis the only country building “wood stick” building. In this country wood houses are considered “old”, when they survive 100 years—we put a “Historical plank” on them! Most people do not know that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin developed “wood frame style” construction (400 years ago). Then, there is the “medical” side to housing. Do you remember “green womanized lumber? It was made with “arsenic” and the out gassings were poisonous to the inhabitants and there are other products still used today as well–formaldehyde. Remember the “envelop Housing of the 1990-2000? Well 13 people died before building officials realized the problem—as a result they opened the houses to breathe more—whoops—what about the energy efficiency? As one can see there are a mired of problems involving our past building techniques. One would ask why? Again, as a country with its “unlimited” resources we could do no wrong, but we have. Then there is the problem of maintenance on these “wood houses”. Being a remodeler for 50 years, I always felt my future was secure—wrong again, especially when it comes to keeping the property in a resalable condition! Most people have not put the pencil (math) to “How much it Cost to keep this home”! Here is an example: a 2400 sq ft home with a garage can easily cost one what is cost to build it in less than 20 years! Now if we did not have to spend that money, what could a family do with an extra $200k in 20 years—-how about your kid’s education, your retirement, etc—get the idea! Now today we look at making more energy “efficient” products—a/c units, refrigerators, clothes dryers, windows, and the list goes on. So what is the “cost” of these products, especially when we look at the building we are using them in?
I am not trying to paint a grim picture here, but we need to wake up and see where we are going. So let us look at other countries and their housing— in Europe some houses are over 3000 years old and still more “efficient” than what we are building here inUSA. Let us look atAustralia’s outback—Cooper Pedy! In the summer their day can vary 140 degrees and they get 2-3 inches rainfall a year. How do they survive? The mining industry allows a mine to be converted into housing if it meets certain criteria. The results are homes offering more protection, more benefits, and more savings 10x’s greater than here inUSA. So let us define “protection”, that which can protect the inhabitants against fires, hurricanes, tornados, floods, and earth quakes. So what kind of “benefits” are we talking about—“medical”. How much do you spend on allergies, arthritis, hay fever, colds, etc each year? Is there not a lot to learn? Now the biggest factor according to most people is “savings—dollar savings to be exact”. Unfortunately we have already shown that removing “maintenance” can far save one more, so let us look at the “energy” concept. Energy today is the “power” needed to operate electricity (lights, a/c, hot water, etc), to produce petroleum fuels from raw state to desired application, solar and wind generation and more. The question we should be asking, Can we produce housing that needs a much smaller fraction of what we are consuming today? Very definitely, we are with Earth Sheltered homes/buildings.
I have been in home construction for over 50 years (second generation) and my son is following but with a higher degree of enthusiasm. Yes Affordable Housing is needed is this country, especially if we are to be the leader we should be—helping others and our country.
Feel free to contact me and thank you for your time.
Ralph C. Smoot
Posted: February 22nd, 2012 under News.