Over the past few weeks, several articles have addressed subjects ranging from how to fix our country, the economy and our environment. Many suggest it is necessary to infuse a great deal of tax dollars into research and development. Other support an additional tax system to encourage more viable energy sources. With so many theories and strategies, each approach offers a different solution and fits a different agenda. The real question is how does this affect housing and future of the industry.
On Green Building Law Blog, Shari suggested that an increase in the Gas Tax is necessary to ensure the development of alternative energy sources. You can read my comments on her blog. To sum up my thoughts, increasing the gas tax to ensure gas prices remain high enough to make alternative energy viable is the wrong answer. Gas companies will be less likely to drop prices, in spite of the price of oil, and will reap the benefits in profits. For housing, this will continue to increase the cost to build through higher freight costs and fuel surcharges from contractors. The new alternative energy sources, while important to long term viability, will have little short-term impact on housing.
The right solution is for companies to continue to develop energy sources that are viable and cost effective. Necessity is the mother of invention. As a nation, we are in need of viable, affordable energy. This might require new technologies, new building methodology, something different to make new sources work for housing in the future. This opens a new opportunity to build homes better suited to newer technologies (i.e. – Window Solar Panels). Evolving technologies will bring a new wave of both new construction and remodel work to encourage growth and alternative energy sources.
In another article in the New York Times, Columnist Thomas Friedman suggested we are not in need of a bailout, but a reboot. His comments are pointed at a very important issue we face. As a nation, we have lost our ingenuity. We are consumed with making money through a life of ease, not through work and invention. As a country we seemed to have lost our edge when it comes to new technologies and implementation of those technologies (implementation is the key).
The housing industry is no exception. As an industry, housing has always been slow to change and take up new technologies. Homes today are built much as they were 20 years ago. Even with changes in technologies to improve windows, housewrap, insulation, or lighting fixtures, most homes are still using technologies developed more than 20 years ago. Some manufacturers are implementing better methods to make old products, but the underlying products are the same. Most homebuilder do not begin to change until a code changes, a forward thinking owner takes charge or market conditions force a change to keep pace with the industry.
As an industry, we are at a crossroads where market conditions are forcing many builders to think and act beyond the code requirements. Green building is the next evolution and, as homebuilders, we are only on the first step of our journey. Over the next decade, homes will see dramatic changes and builders who change early will be better prepared for these changes.
As Mr. Friedman put it, we need to “stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets.”