Our Friend the Economy

Okay, nobody likes the economy right now. The economy is like the kid in the 2nd grade who ate a lot of paste and bit people. It is like Rudolph, excluded from the reindeer games because of an excess of red. I hear people curse it everyday and, honestly, I can understand the feeling. Things look bad . . . really bad. But is there a bright side to this thing? Is there a silver lining in the huge, black, tornado-producing cloud? I think so. I think that while this economic train wreck has us shopping at the dollar store and canceling our HBO subscriptions, it will also be driving positive change.

Are We Screwed?

Nothing props up tradition like prosperity. When things are going well there is little reason to change, little cause to adjust. Even if there are better methodologies, more effective processes or more progressive ideas, people will generally cling to what they know. Significant change usually has its impetus in some sort of crisis or, in the case of our current socio-political situation, many crises. Change (as overused as the term might be right now) is a reaction, of sorts, to a problem big enough to jolt us out of our rut.

Size of 100k house

Now, if I might be allowed to hit you over the head with a metaphor: “Stuck in a rut” is a term that comes originally from old wagons or carriages. The wagons, passing down the same path over and over on thin hard wheels, would dig deep ruts until, at some point, they were committed to their path nearly as completely as trains to their tracks. It took a large jolt or a concerted effort to remove the wagons from their determined course. Even when there was plenty of cause to change course it could be difficult.

Geothermal Beer Cooling for a Green Beer Lover

Ruts are formed by repetition. This repetition occurs because the repeated action “works”. The path those embedded wagons took was a successful one, a good way from Point A to Point B. Sure, a better way might exist, but why take the risks involved in finding it if your ends can be accomplished via the proven route? The building industry is “stuck in a rut” for this same reason. Builders have developed techniques, sourced materials and used plans that “work”. They generally take on projects in the path of their rut and avoid those outside of it because they are averse to the risk involved. Can you blame them?

Our project, for many reasons, is definitely not a path many builders take with any sort of regularity. We are a rut free zone in many ways. The margins are small. The materials are strange, and the techniques are virtually untried (in their opinion). In a boom time, when business is up, they would not even glance casually at the plans for a project like ours before telling us to roll those plans up and insert them in an uncomfortable anatomical location. Even Brian, our current builder, who is now as on board as they come, admitted that he would have passed had our project arrived a year earlier when the living was easy.

We have been helped by this economic downturn that many are lamenting. Sure, it has made other things more difficult. The banks are in full on turtle mode, terrified of sticking their necks out for anything. Home buyers, even those that know this is a good time to buy, are having trouble getting mortgages, but the economic dip (or whatever you want to call it) has brought willing participants to the project. They have had to lift their wagons out of some deep ruts, but our framers are learning to put SIPs together, our HVAC guys are figuring out solar thermal and our builder is following (and growing to appreciate) an involved LEED certification process. Would any of that have happened last year? And, if so, would it have happened within the tight budget constraints we set for ourselves?

We are in the midst of change because we are in the midst of crises. The economy is hurting, our reliance of fossil fuels is politically problematic and environmentally irresponsible and war has its dangerous, unpredictable grip on our country. While these are certainly unfortunate events and issues, they are the types of problems from which change arises. I have given you my individual, selfish reason for appreciating (in a way) this climate of crisis, but what could your reason(s) be? What kind of change can we expect in the coming years? How will these and other crises open up new directions and possibilities for you, for our country and for the world?

Let’s talk crisis driven change in the comments.