An odd image dug it’s way out of my mind the other day. I pictured a person sitting in their suburban track home flipping the channels on the latest hi-def, flat screen TV. I imagined them telling me all the amazing television performance specs as hundreds of channels whisked by at the speed of an excited thumb. Then the scenario changed and instead of a TV it was a phone. State of the art technology and an absurd list of features were captured in a wonderfully small bundle of brilliant engineering, and this imaginary person was excitedly explaining why their phone is the best piece of technology since the calculator watch (everyone loves a calculator watch right?).
This train of thought continued through all sorts of products owned by this figment of my mind. Each product from the home computer to the car in the garage was worthy of exposition. Every thing this person owned was chosen for its exceptionally high performance. The computer had the latest quad core processor and the car had an engine that made lesser cars weep oil. This fictitious friend of mine knew every impressive statistic that lay behind every purchase. Every major item was carefully chosen for quality and performance. Except, of course, for the house.
Around all of these incredible examples of human ingenuity stood the walls of a leaky, inefficient home built with techniques that would have been obsolete many years ago in any other industry. This dreamed up person, who was so careful and picky in all of his other purchases, had bought a shockingly inferior building in which to house them. Leaky inefficient double hung windows shed light on his beautiful machines of modern convenience, but did nothing to lessen the load on his poorly installed, over-sized HVAC system. The structure of his walls were less a protection from the elements than a glowing image of thermal loss in his brand new digital SLR camera with it’s fancy infrared setting.
This person may have been a mere daydream, but I seem to know so many people like him. I have family and friends who were no doubt the inspiration for my phony pal. These are people that demand quality, that save and sacrifice to have the best, that research and question before any purchase. Yet, they almost invariably live in houses that perform worse than a middle school orchestra (sure there are some good ones but come on, for the most part there are few things worse than an amateur string section). For some reason, their expectation of quality does not extend to their home. It is the one place where size trumps performance and location excuses everything.
We need to introduce performance as a key way of understanding a home. We need to point out the absurdity of the ways in which homes are chosen. Somehow we need to convince people that a home should be evaluated much like any other product. It should be expected to be built with recent technology and techniques. It should be durable and well crafted. It should be professionally designed for comfort and ease of use. It should, above all, perform at least as well as the vast collection of smaller purchases we all make.
This is a bit of a rough little post but I would love to hear your thoughts. Has anyone else found it strange that homes aren’t held to the same standards as most products? Why do we think that’s the case and what can we do to remedy it?
Lay it on in the comments.
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