We have all heard the phrase “two wrongs do not make a right” and I am hopeful that today’s parents are still passing along this value to their children. Looking back, there were many of these sayings and they ultimately had an impact on my life decisions. Another saying that sticks in my mind is, “always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” However, my favorite was always to think for yourself and not accept what you hear as the undisputable truth. These and other life lessons can leave a deep impression on a young mind and become a shaping tool for the journey into adulthood.
My father and I would have discussions about everything from politics, religion or how the family business should be run. Oftentimes, I would say something that would set him off. The tipping point would be when I would respond with my final defensive salvo, “You taught and even encouraged me to be an independent thinker. I am sorry some of my conclusions differ with yours, however I respect you.” This would typically result in him not talking to me for a period of time.
To this day, I find myself bucking what is often considered mainstream compliance. This can result in me having issues with special interest groups. I define special interests groups as having polarized views from one another. These groups tend to filter incoming data and accept only what fits their agenda. They can be harmless or frightening; but my concern grows when they become united for a common cause.
Uniting For The Common Cause
The 1994 NAFTA Agreement is a good example of this. I got suspicious when Democrats and Republicans were in agreement on the issue with little to no dissention. The bill was introduced by George H.W. Bush and ultimately signed into law by Bill Clinton. It was intended to level the playing field in all of North America. However, 20 years later, most would agree it has pretty much failed. Mexico is still a corrupt and impoverished country, and our own middle class has seemed to have grown even weaker.
I feel the “green” movement in construction is a somewhat similar issue. The extreme left and right have collaborated to put the movement in full swing. The intent is pure and noble indeed. I initially became concerned when many began to use what I deem as questionable science or misleading data to push their agenda. I suppose they believed in another life saying, “the end justifies the means.”
Now, the capitalists are on board to being green. Their motivation is an opportunity to exploit a movement in the name of making a profit. I suppose the life saying for them is the movie quote, “greed is good” (Wall Street, dir. Oliver Stone, 1987). I became more than just concerned after witnessing intrusive investigations of failed projects that were constructed with green-friendly products and systems.
I believe we should work hard to save the planet, recycle and build sustainable structures. It is the right thing to do. It makes no sense to create buildings that cost more money and then fail prematurely, all in the name of being green. Rebuilding again in a few years is not sustainable, ecological or earth friendly. Exploiting a good cause to simply grab market share and make more money is just as wrong. I always keep the idea in the back of my mind that, “the left tries to save trees, at whatever cost, the right makes profits, at whatever cost, it is just in their nature.” Let’s try to strike a balance.
There are so many easy, simple and economical things we can do to make buildings better and greener while lowering costs. As the known building science guru Joe Lstiburek said, “We tend to pass by all the low-hanging fruit looking for Utopia.” I have seen reaching for the green Holy Grail result in product and building failures all too often. So has Lstiburek. Adding unnecessary construction costs coupled with failure is more than just sad—it is a travesty. Saving the earth is a big and important challenge.
On behalf of all of us at Walls & Ceilings magazine, we wish you all Happy Holidays and a Great New Year.