American Innovation

March 3, 2010 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

Contributed by Sam Lai:

“OMG!  Who picked these colors…a bunch of preschoolers?  You should pick colors that fit in with the rest of the neighborhood!”

These were some of the negative reactions to the paint colors of one of our current construction projects, the Sequoia House.  The colors certainly stand out; they were selected by a pair of chic urban color consultants who run Blackbird Painting, our paint contractors.  A poll of local architects, graphic artists, designers, visual artists, developers and real estate agents were also keen on the bold palate.  But perhaps the most meaningful inspiration for the paint colors came from an early 1900’s paint color chart.  While modernizing the functional utility of the home, we’ve aimed to pay homage to the original bones of this home.  Regardless of the historical rooting, the bright colors of the Sequoia House may be controversial because they don’t conform to the grey, taupe and monotonous blue most of us are used to seeing in modern cookie cutter suburban neighborhoods.  Which begs the questions…what’s the big deal?  Why is it so important to conform?

As Americans, do we value protecting the status quo instead of innovating and making progress?  I would hope not.  Our national ancestors should inspire us with the ingenuity of light bulbs, space travel and modern Democracy.  Perhaps we have inherited so much that we think we have more to lose if we step out of line.

The American mortgage industry deemed the conformity of our housing stock bankable.  And it was.  When our neighbors have black roofs, we tend to want to fit in, even when it’s antithetical to the principle that form should follow function.  As a residential real estate appraiser, my entire discipline is built around the premise that we value conformity as a society.  The market sales comparison method is deemed the most direct and dependable valuation approach.  A property’s market value is determined by comparable sales (“comps”) which give evidence to the repetition of the same marketable characteristics.  Line items on the standard Fannie/Freddie 1004 sales comparison grid include:  design style, quality of construction, room count, gross living area, energy efficient items…woa…energy efficient items?  One might ask, “what is the standard boilerplate data input for energy efficient items?”  The answer is “Typical/None Noted.”  Thus far there has been little evidence of notable energy efficient innovations in our residential housing stock today.

Our mission at G2B Homes is to drive energy efficiency into existing buildings.  Our current tactic is to renovate existing older homes utilizing green methods & materials with a primary focus on energy efficiency.  Combining comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits and green methods & materials in an old 1926 Tudor has certainly raised eyebrows of the same folks who stop to criticize the paint colors.  Some comments include;

  • “What’s up with the huge Sequoia tree in the backyard?
  • The 20’+ circumference redwood in the backyard would compel some developers to break out the chainsaw, but we saw the tree as an elegant carbon siphon that’s been around longer than our grandparents and a gorgeous canopy for the backyard.

  • What’s up with all the green hype? All that expensive greenie stuff doesn’t amount to anything!
  • Comprehensive insulation & air sealing is a core element of our program.  It is typically one of the most neglected, yet critical, tasks in a residential remodel.

  • Why would you use a light colored roof?
  • Lighter colored roofs reduce urban heat island affect and building overheating.

  • What are those weird glass tubes on the roof?
    A 30 tube solar system can produce more than 70% of the yearly energy requirements for domestic hot water for a 3 bedroom house.

So why do we stick our necks out?  Why risk standing out when other builders can flip houses by covering up un-insulated walls with a quick coat of paint and a layer of cheap carpet in muted tones of grey & taupe?  Why is innovating worth the risk for G2B?

  1. We aspire to be innovators; deeply connected to those unflappable, optimistic American pioneers who were unafraid to try and make life better.
  2. The new American home buyer understands- “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” -Henry David Thoreau
  3. It’s worth the risk for our planet and our kids.

So, what about those bright colors? If enough neighbors complained, would we be willing to re-paint the house to fit into the neighborhood?  Probably.  The core of our mission is to drive energy efficiency into our existing housing stock – having accomplished that we have room to be flexible  But then again, maybe not.  These colors are, after all, classically American.

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Entry filed under: Energy Efficiency, G2B Homes, G2B Ventures, Profitability of Green Buildings, Seattle Real Estate Market.

G2B in the News! Raise Your Glass to Support Local Energy Efficiency

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