Developing Durable, Healthier Homes and Office Environments

Rick Davenport
Director of Sustainable Construction, BASF

Why is environmental impact such a construction priority?

By the year 2050, over 9 billion people living on the planet will be using twice as many resources than the earth can produce. Obviously, something has to change fast. Buildings use almost 48 percent of our resources — they represent a great place to start.

What role does insulation play in sustainable building?

Effective insulation reduces a homeowner’s monthly utility bills. But a proper thermal strategy, coupled with a proper drying strategy, will lead to a living environment that’s healthier, safer, more comfortable and more durable.

For many, the path to a career in construction begins in high school. But for home renovation expert and reality TV star Mike Holmes, the journey began much earlier.

“My dad was a jack of all trades, master of none,” Holmes remembers. “He did drywall; he did electrical; he tinkered in plumbing, all while still working full time at General Motors. But as a little boy growing up beside that guy, I was amazed.”

By age six, and under his father’s supervision, Holmes had successfully rewired the entire second floor of his family’s home. He continued to tinker throughout his teenage years, but hadn’t yet grasped the role this industry would end up playing in his life.

“I didn’t know that this would become my career,” he explains. “I don’t think anyone does. I think you just become who you’re supposed to be. I still didn’t know that at 19 years old, when I was offered a contract to manage a large construction company.”

Hacking your homes

Holmes has been fixing people's crumbling, troubled homes ever since. “Humans are creatures of habit; we tend to learn from our mistakes rather than learn from education,” he urges. “One area you don’t want to make a mistake is your home, because that mistake can be very costly — not just in finances, but in long term impact for you and your family.”

According to a recent Harris Interactive study, 85 percent of homeowners say remodeling is stressful. From budget blunders to contractor conflicts, a home remodel can be treacherous.   

'“We need to think not only about ourselves, but about the environment and the people who may live in that home in the future.”'

“The biggest mistake people make is not doing their own homework,” Holmes explains. “This ends up being a vicious cycle and a disaster for a bad or botched renovation every time.”

Pinching pennies       

According to the same study, nearly half of remodelers went over budget. With so much on the line, preparation and research are both critical. “It’s all about spending your money right the first time,” he explains. “We need to think not only about ourselves, but about the environment and the people who may live in that home in the future.” All too often, new homeowners will focus more on price and location than on energy efficiency. “This is an opportunity for you to consider smarter renovations, smarter construction and a healthier home.”

The most important thing a homeowner can do to ensure a successful renovation is thoroughly understand the scope of the project. “If you call 20 different contractors and ask them the same question, you’re going to end up hearing 20 different opinions,” Holmes cautions. “But education is key. The more you can learn, the better.”

UNDERSTANDING THE SCOPE: If nothing else, Holme's wants potential renovators to keep the size of their projects top of mind. 

New vs. lived-in

If you’re in the market for a new home, you will have to consider if you want a home that you’ve helped design, or if you’re happy with a house with a history that may only require a few fix-ups. While the answers to these questions vary based on a family’s unique needs, there are factors that each new homeowner must consider.

“The assumption is if you buy a new home, you’re not going to have any problems,” he explains. “If you build it from the outside-in, odds are you are going to have a much better home.” Mike urges that families carefully research drywall, insulation and tile options before committing to one specific blueprint.

On the flipside, Holmes details, “If you buy a home that’s been renovated by five different families, you might step into a project that isn’t comfortable.” Previous renovations may have not been performed properly, which could lead to costly ventures down the line.

Holmes urges young people to consider a career in construction. “Working in the trades is hard work — it’s long hours and complicated projects,” he shares. “But if you love it, there is no other option. I still love it, and it’s been over 30 years.”