Years ago, my remodeling business had a specific market — freshly tenured Syracuse University professors buying their “grown-up” houses: a place in a nice neighborhood of older homes near the university where they’d raise their families. Those homes needed lots of work because they had just been vacated by the previous generation of faculty who’d made them into their “grown-up” houses.
When Doug and Fran — particular favorites — wanted their dream kitchen, what could I say? “One dream kitchen coming up!” Then 20-some years crept by and that kitchen became just another dated room calling out for remodeling by new young faculty.
Many things changed over those years, but some things in the house did not: uncomfortable rooms, ice dams, roof leaks, frozen pipes, damaged ceilings and hardwood floors, high utility bills, water damage, a furnace dumping flue gases into the home, a dryer that ran too long due to an improper vent, a commercial cooktop with burners like a blast furnace, and a wimpy rangehood with a vent pipe that ran for miles.
The other thing that changed was that I took to building performance the way others take to religion. The failures in Doug and Fran’s house now represent to me a complete inventory of the priorities of building performance: health and safety, comfort, durability, and energy efficiency.
How much it would have benefited my clients if I had known even the little bit that I know now about building performance. We could have put together a package of improvements that prevented many of the costly, inconvenient, aggravating, and potentially hazardous building performance failures that arose.
That’s my new model for our industry.
—Ed Voytovich is a principal at Building Efficiency Resources. He has been involved in repairing, improving, remodeling, or building homes since 1972.