Thursday, November 5, 2009

While You're In There...

Nascent opportunities for architects, builders and remodelers

Sustainability. Hard to define...easy to toss around in conversation.

I’m actively learning about sustainability. As I delve in, what becomes clear to me, is that I know a fair amount...but my proficiency pales in comparison to what remains for me to learn. Do you know this feeling?

Like chaos theory, with sustainability everything is connected, and the relationships aren’t always obvious. Definitions vary. All point to us changing behavior and minimizing environmental affect to support our existence. Heady stuff at an academic level. Practically, being sustainable goes to individuals and the choices we make. Responsible choices. Part of it is doing the unselfish thing; part of it the economical thing; often the sensible thing; sometimes the more time-consuming thing; usually...choosing the right thing. The cool part is that we all play an important role...and impact the result.

Sustainability means challenging assumptions, questioning “the way we’ve always done it”. It connotes openness to new ideas; scrutiny of materials; knowledge of supply chain; affect of transport used to deliver goods and services; awareness of energy consumed in production and use; and appreciation for the waste stream created by consumption, operation, and eventual disposal. So, if you believe your choices have no connection to sustainability, think again.

Increasingly, consumers link sustainability to the value stream, and businesses, at long last, are responding. Sustainability is the proverbial train leaving the takes moxie to get aboard and there is still time to climb on. Click here for more thoughts on the journey.

Emerging technology and adaptability. Think back a few decades and recall what you did for fun and excitement. Whatever it was, it probably did not include streaming music, sharing Blu-ray movies, an iPod tethered to your ear, a mobile phone with more computing power than the first moon landing, or networked games...pitting your skills, in real time, against friendly opponents on a far-flung continent. Technology, once feared as a catalyst for the demise of personal interaction...effortlessly connects people in more ways than imagined. Fortifying.

Consumer electronics, spurred by rapid advancements in technology, have fundamentally changed personal interaction and how we spend our professional and leisure time. Recreation often happens at home...and the adoption of technology there will accelerate. Do you design and build with that in mind?

While you’re in there... 

By “design and build with that in mind” I don’t suggest that you become expert in and recommend electronics or that you prewire with unnecessary cables. Rather, I propose that you approach projects with heightened awareness of shifting homeowner needs. If you’re going to be “in the walls”, then consider newly available products that enable generations of technology adoption while complementing present energy conservation needs.

A single example. Mirror/TV’s. Have you seen these yet? Elegant in their approach, this new equipment takes advantage of the latest thin LED monitor technology. They hang on the wall as you would expect, offering many different frames to blend with decor. With the push of a button they morph into high definition television monitors worthy of true home theater experience. The new devices boast energy conserving LED technology, allow homeowners to reclaim entertainment center space, and remain unobtrusive when not in use. Just a few of the hidden benefits for the homeowner...awkward to wire for once the walls are closed up.

When you tackled your last project did you consider the foreseeable need for homeowners to upgrade? A value-enhancing opportunity for you? Perhaps.

Set Yourself Apart

Homeowners expect value more than ever. Dig deeper. Get familiar with the most efficient climate control technologies. Go beyond installed costs by understanding the qualitative advantages of each approach and market the experience to the homeowner. Couple that with knowledge of today's energy conserving materials and guide customers to decisions they will be proud to advertise.  Add different. Take them a step further and include everlasting technology adoption through systems that are practical today, prepared for tomorrow™.

Risk? Return? Are you insane?

We all grasp the idea of risk and return. You take a bigger risk for the potential of greater return...accepting the notion that failure is possible, right? Well, even in this crazy economy, the risk/return tenets remain valid...and timing, as always, is key.

It’s been about two years since the economy tanked and there are early signs of improvement. This begs the rhetorical question “when is the right time to start taking calculated risks?”. Another way to view the problem is to ask yourself whether the risk of inaction outweighs the perceived risk itself. While pondering your risk tolerance, consider Albert Einstein’s words: “insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.” So if you, like many, are naturally hunkered down perhaps now is the best time to rise and commence the next charge.

While you’re in entrepreneurial, take a small chance, rise above it all. Provide a better alternative to your competition. Leave customers more satisfied knowing that they got what they asked the added value of an integrated solution supporting unplanned needs. Elevate your business by exceeding customer expectations in concrete ways.


  1. Hi Mike,

    I am thinking about building small starter homes that are easy to add onto and it is cool to consider all that can be done during the construction phase to facilitate this. “While you’re in there” expresses nicely the opportunity we have to provide future flexibility at the front end of a project.


  2. Barry,

    Thanks for your comment. We see an onslaught of new technology coming to homes and an opportunity to make homes adaptable with minimal impact on method, schedule or expense. In other words...opportunity to add real lasting value for homeowners.

    Thanks again,


  3. Smaller is definetley in, Value is huge!

    Great blog Mike.