What We Do
➜ Custom Building
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➜ Project Management
➜ Strata & Commercial
➜ Cert. Sustainable Building Advisor
➜ Passive House
➜ Home Warranty
➜ Design Consulting
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
Building With A Philosophy
Building is a process of bridging divides and reconciling differences. Every project is a constant linking of seemingly divergent disciplines, roles and even philosophies. The conventional construction world is brimming with such inter-linking. The sustainable building world adds an entirely new set of challenges. Gaps abound.
As a very hands-on residential contractor, I wrestle daily with the dichotomy that is referred to affectionately on-site as the ‘ever-present gap between hammer and pencil’. This adage has been put to use by myself and my crew to describe those sticky situations that can arise when an architect and a building crew lose touch with the differences in perspective afforded to each discipline. The more projects we do, the more I realize that this tension is what makes for the most interesting dialogues and resolutions of details few have thought even in need of resolving. To put it more succinctly: what works on paper in a dry and cozy office does not always translate well on a seemingly perpetually wet Northwest coast job site.
I mention this because it’s a good example of one of the many gaps in the building process that requires constant bridging. It’s akin to an even larger and far more complex gap that sustainability introduces: the gap between the practical and the philosophical.
It’s no secret that we as humans are prone to espousing great philosophy but less likely to fully engage that philosophy on the much more complex practical plane. We dream big green dreams but often allow monetary values to have the final say. To approach sustainable building from a philosophical position means engaging another set of criteria. The question might not be “how many years until I see a return on my investment?’’ but “how will this choice effect my yearly carbon footprint?” or “what are the broader effects of choosing this particular product?”
This process has its pros and cons of course. The most evident pitfall I have encountered is the relativity of being green. Our philosophies surrounding sustainability are informed and limited by many factors. Access to information varies. A client’s willingness to follow a sustainable choice through to its end i.e. ‘cradle to cradle thinking’ ebbs and flows with the budget and the schedule. Aesthetic preferences are also a powerful decision making force, for even the most devout sustainable aficionado needs that special something that complicates the overall sustainability of a project.
A sustainable philosophy can be very beneficial if it’s established from the design phase as a kind of consensual groundwork. A developed philosophy that is discussed and agreed upon from the beginning provides context for resolving issues and allows that proper time is given to find the appropriately sustainable choice for a given situation.
Often it’s the sheer volume of options that confuses and frustrates. A philosophy sets up criteria that in effect weeds out all the inappropriate options. This saves time, money and stress; three of the greatest challenges surrounding the building process.
As a contractor I advocate establishing a philosophy or looking deeper at the impacts of a current philosophy. Though the potential for conflict is always there, I believe the benefits outweigh the pitfalls.
Cradle to Cradle
– William McDonough & Michael Braungart
Dark Age Ahead
– Jane Jacobs
Philosophy Of Sustainable Design
– Jason F. Mclennan