From Luxury to LEED
Used to building big houses with big budgets, the Picton brothers earned a platinum rating with their first modest green home—but mastering the learning curve wasn’t always a smooth ride.
Synopsis: For builders Jim and Mark Picton, building a house often meant a big project with a big budget. The process began to leave them feeling hollow, though, especially when they began to consider the amount of waste and extravagance they were generating. They decided to re-examine their process by building a small house that would be LEED-certified. By considering the process every step of the way, the Pictons learned some big lessons, reduced their construction waste, and ended up building a 1700-sq.-ft. two-bedroom house that was certified LEED platinum.
Like other building contractors, we have enjoyed the challenge of building big, fancy houses, and we are honored by the confidence and trust their owners have placed in us. In the best of those projects, the details were exquisite and demanding. Besides providing a good living, however, the single-minded, spare-no-effort pursuit of quality in big projects should leave us spiritually nourished and enriched.
In recent years, though, we began to feel a numbness as over and over, we saw materials thrown in Dumpsters because of design changes and skilled workers lose their edge as they tore out their own good work to accommodate the whims of busy globe-trotting clients. There also was something troubling when International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) minimum standards were dealt with as stumbling blocks to get around or over rather than as a starting point to improve energy efficiency. There’s something unwholesome, too, about building heating and cooling systems sized to meet the demands of an inefficient envelope, then seeing a fuel truck routinely replenish a 1000-gal. tank and being assured that for this client, fuel costs are “not an issue.” Were all costs being considered? And to whom, besides the clients, might those costs matter? Might they include us? Might they include you?