Global commerce being what it is, tradeoffs are a reality for people trying to pursue a buy-American agenda. A case in point: Anders Lewendal, a builder based in Bozeman, Montana, whose pursuit of materials grown and manufactured in the U.S. was recently profiled in the New York Times.
Lewendal calculates that if builders nationwide shifted 5% of their materials and appliance purchases to products made in the U.S., about $14 billion would be added the domestic economy each year. And if all other businesses and consumers applied that notion to their purchases, it would commensurately boost the U.S. economy and help lower the unemployment rate.
Walking the walk
As Lewendal points out in the Times story, though, the pursuit of made-in-America products can be rough on purists, mainly because even goods manufactured here often include components mined, fabricated, or assembled in other countries.
Lewendal, who has an undergraduate degree in economics and is a Certified Green Professional in the NAHB Green program, is by now well acquainted with the realities of manufacturing and sourcing. His point is that for many products it isn’t that difficult to at least come close to buying American and, in most cases, it is only modestly more expensive.
He told the Times that the approach increased by 2% or 3% the $265,000 construction cost of a 2,280-sq.-ft., three-bedroom house he is building.
An economist interviewed by the paper pointed out, however, that the commingling of foreign and domestic parts and labor makes it difficult to predict the larger benefits of buying American. Still, pushing in that direction in the product-intensive world of home construction has convinced Lewendal that there’s enough merit to his theory to justify scaling it up.
He is illustrating his concept through one of his recent projects, called the All American Home. The house is built with materials and equipped with appliances whose provenance is as all-American as Lewendal could possibly manage.
In keeping with his preferences for green building, it is also designed to be relatively energy-efficient, with a HERS Index rating of 40.