All are good questions or statements. Some are clichés. All deserve to be answered. Which takes me back to my last blog, where I stated, “I’m really pleased to be building and remodeling green in Houston” and even more pleased that I do not have to compete “with the Birkenstock-wearing hippies who ride their bicycles to work down the road in Austin.” With all due respect to my hippie friends in Austin, this point is worth exploring in greater depth. But please note my use of the term “hippie” refers to folks whose preference is to save the planet in part by intentionally grossly undervaluing and undercharging for the work they do. This is in contrast to those of us who desire to play a role in saving the planet but are not shy about charging a fair price for our expertise.
Houston is not known as a hotbed of green building (or green anything, for that matter), and to the best of my knowledge, there is not a large number of hippies building homes here, green or otherwise—which is one of the main reasons why I prefer to build green in Houston. Everybody always asks me why I haven’t moved to Austin, where everybody and everything is green. Wouldn’t it be easier to build green in Austin, they ask, where so many people know what green is all about. Unfortunately, in Austin, as in many other parts of the country, there are many more such builders who do not know the difference between an income statement and a balance sheet. And I would rather compete with a fellow MBA any day instead of some green building fool out there giving their work away.
But the biggest difference between us is that I do my tree hugging from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., and they do theirs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In other words, during the day I am trying to make a profit from green building so that by night I have the financial means to support whatever tree hugging activities otherwise I choose. And it would be very difficult for me (and you) to compete against folks who keep getting confused between mark-up and margin, whose financials look like a 501c3 instead of a for-profit builder.
We know that building green is all about saving money (vis-Ã -vis energy reduction), for our clients (and don’t be fooled, it’s the only thing that matters to most of mainstream America). And if energy use reduction is why our local, state, and federal governments have different programs to reward green building (through rebates, credits, and subsidies), then why can’t it be about the money for the green building community as well? Of course, I’m not saying reducing energy consumption is the only reason that folks build green or that governments subsidize green, but I am saying it is the primary driver.
So if homeowners and governments get to rank money as the deciding factor in the green choices they make, shouldn’t we? The short answer is yes, and we will continue to delve into the how in the weeks ahead.
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