Who Drives Change?

Have you ever stopped to wonder how real change comes about?

According to marketing experts, most new products are picked up by people referred to as “early adopters.” These consumers like to be out ahead of the curve, don’t mind a little risk, and–most importantly–think independently. They’re not influenced by the status quo. Early adopters document the truth and spread it to the masses.

We’ve all completed difficult projects, then later discovered a new tool or method that would have saved time and effort. Unfortunately, construction remains one of the greatest defenders of the status quo. Change comes painfully slowly and, for the most part, only when drawn into the market by the end user. Construction is very much a “pull” rather than a “push” market. Rarely do you see builders bringing the latest and greatest to the table.

Think about house framing, which hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Think about home insulation; the bulk of the market is fiberglass batts, which have been around for more than 60 years. These two components make up the structure and energy efficiency of your new home–with technology that’s decades old! What other areas of your house use technology that old? Is it because nothing else is available? Is it because no other alternatives have been approved? NO. For instance, I happen to know of some pretty easy-to-use, energy-efficient structural insulated panels!

There are many improvements available to the current standard of stick building and batt insulation. The question then becomes, “How do we get these technologies into the mainstream?” The answer is an educated consumer. Do your Google research about SIPs and other alternatives and bring the data to your builder. Ask him why he’s not using more modern techniques and technologies like structural insulated panels. If he refuses to listen, move on to someone who WILL do the research and listen. Remember: The consumer drives change, so let’s get behind the wheel.

How Standard Options Hurt Fuel Economy

We’ve all had the experience of buying a car, new or otherwise. Many of us search the web to find the best model for the best price. We look at features. We probably check fuel economy, too, because today’s global marketplace has taught us that we do not in any way control how much we pay for fuel.

Now imagine your research shows that the tires offered as standard in the car industry reduce fuel mileage by over 25%. Let’s say you also find a new, advanced tire that guarantees not to cost gas mileage like the old technology, and most likely increases fuel economy. Wouldn’t you wonder why car manufacturers haven’t made this new tire standard equipment?

That’s exactly what’s happening with traditional exterior wall framing. Using studs and other materials creates what’s commonly referred to as the “framing factor,” which can knock more than 25% off the R-value of whatever insulating materials you use. Who can afford to give up 25% in fuel economy, whether it’s your home or your car?

In the tire example, the alternative was hypothetical. In construction, SIPs provide a real alternative to traditional framing. SIPs not only eliminate the 25% framing-factor loss, but also increase R-value over a standard wall. Before you invest in a new home, make sure your builder or manufacturer knows about the options to “standard equipment.” Share with them and get your 25% back.

What Makes an Upgrade Worth the Investment?

Many builders tell me that SIPs are too expensive. But these same builders tell their clients that “upgrading” to hardwood floors, cherry cabinets, and granite are all worth it. They say that chair-rail and crown-molding upgrades are worth it. Really?? I challenge anyone to show me the economic equation that proves the payoff. Financing any of these non-functional upgrades at 4% over 30 years pretty much eliminates any possibility of a return when you sell your house. The reality remains that most “upgrades” are a financial pit with little or no chance to recoup your investment.

Ahh, but there are exceptions. A few products actually return more than you spend, and most have to do with the climate of your house. Heating, cooling, and insulating systems influence your monthly expenses more than any other products in your home, so new alternatives can quickly produce positive cash flows when compared to standard building options. No surprise, the one with the highest return is structural insulated panels–a one-time, no-maintenance investment. You’ll also save money with smart HVAC and water heating choices.

Before you build, investigate the costs and rewards of potential upgrades. When you talk with your builder, start with the options that carry the best investment value; they’ll make all the other “non-investment” ideas that much easier to swallow.

Why My Winter Coat Reminds Me of SIPs

As summer swiftly fades into the rearview mirror and fall begins the pre-game to winter, we all start what I call “closet turnover.” What was once our staple of short-sleeve shirts and shorts moves to the holding pen until the warmth of summer returns.

As I go through my winter wardrobe, it occurs to me how high-tech clothing has made the winter months so much easier and more enjoyable. Gone is cotton and wool outerwear, replaced by Gor-Tex® and Polar Fleece. High-tech fibers allow for much thinner fabrics that resist cold and moisture. Winter clothes feel warmer and more lightweight. Once fringe names like North Face® are now the staple in winter clothing. They’re not the cheapest, but we prefer them because they achieve the one thing we all desire more than anything in winter–warmth–and they do it without the bulk of clothing of the past.

In essence, that’s what structural insulated panels and Thermocore do. SIPs provide the high-tech Polar Fleece and Gor-Tex® wrap for your house–and more importantly, for you. You can settle for 1950s construction technology. But would you settle for outdated technology in a new coat? Will the gear that kept you warm in 1950 provide the same level of comfort as today’s fabrics? Think about it. Ask your builder as he stands in front of you in a high-tech fabric coat: How are you going to keep my family warm? 1950s or 2012?