As of the end of October, Six-million acres will have burned across Oregon, Washington and California.
The fires combined with the chaos of Covid-19 on mill production and distribution has caused lumber prices to skyrocket by 120% at the end of September.
An estimated 900 million* harvestable trees were destroyed plus approximately twice that number of immature trees. In addition, several lumber mills were destroyed along with all the inventory of previously harvested lumber. Many logging operations lost all of their equipment in the fires.
To give you an idea of the magnitude, we lost enough lumber to build 23 million homes which would have been enough to replace 1 of every four single family homes in the US.
A mature and healthy forest has less than 100 trees per acre. One of the many forest management problems we face today is that the density of trees has become as heavy as 300-400 per acre in some areas. This creates a thicket and fire hazard instead of a forest.
The good news (if there is any) is that as terrible as it is it lose 6 million acres of forest, it is still less than the 9-million acres lost in 2018, and the 10-million acres lost in 2017.
The total lumber lost in the last four years would have replaced every home, apartment and condo in the US.
*Let’s say the harvestable trees amount to an average of only 150 per acre, then this last summer in Oregon, Washington and California where six million acres have burned so far 900 million marketable trees have been lost. During the last four years nearly 30 million acres have been lost to fires.
A strategy for maximizing the value of your home…and enjoying it more too!
If you’re thinking about selling your home and wondering what you should do to fix it up, I’m afraid I have bad news. It may already be too late. I hate to tell you that you are about to lose time, money, and any enjoyment the sprucing up of your home would have brought you.
It’s true, even if you rake in a ton of equity from appreciation, you are still losing out because you will not be getting anywhere near what you could and should have. The reason is simple and it’s a lesson that most homeowners learn too late.
The more marketable your home is kept, the more value it has.
Here’s the secret: Even if you do not intend to sell your home…having the ability to market it quickly makes it more valuable. In other words, the faster it can sell, the more it is worth.
Your home is not a “liquid” asset and getting money from one is not like cashing a check at the bank. Selling a home is complicated and takes time…and time is money. Once you have decided to sell, you will need to hire a realtor, have the home inspected, perhaps fix it up, set a price, advertise, market, hold open house, entertain offers, open escrow, allow buyer inspections, repair problems, negotiate the price further and hopefully the buyer can secure their loan and finally, actually close the sale. All this can take months even if your home is in perfect condition…and it probably is not.
Today’s home buyers want homes that are in good, and preferably excellent condition. Fixer-uppers are not desirable and will be avoided or heavily discounted at best. If your home needs work the selling process will take longer, and there will always be more work than you expect.
Your home has to be exceptional as it will be competing with others for buyers and these days home shoppers are very sophisticated, more demanding and much less handy than in the past. Buyers will be hiring professional inspectors who will pick your home apart if it is not in good shape. Splashing a little black paint on the front door and replanting a few dead shrubs is not going to cut it if you really want to get top dollar. And you do!
Waiting around till the last minute to fix up your home for sale is the worst possible strategy.
Bottom line, having your home ready to sell at any moment makes it more valuable. Conversely, waiting around till the last minute to fix up your home for sale is the absolute worst possible strategy.
“Fixing up” will cost more than you think. It will also take longer than you want, and as a final insult, you will not get to enjoy the benefits from any of the improvements. Those will go to the lucky buyer.
Forget about enjoying the new paint, carpet, water heater, cooktop, oven and shower etc. …you waited too late.
Here’s my tip. The way YOU can get maximum value from your home is to do something almost no homeowner ever does…start planning for the eventual sale the minute you take ownership.
With my strategy, you can avoid falling into this money losing trap while enjoying a nicer home too, but you need to start now. This is what I call the “live like royalty” strategy. Keeping your home in palace-like condition all the time.
Start living better!
And here’s the really good part. In order to make your home more valuable you must start living better. Yes, you have permission. You must stop delaying repairs, stop avoiding replacing those aged appliances, stop deferring maintenance and start enjoying your home more while keeping it at top value at the same time. It means everything about the home is maintained proactively and kept in excellent condition. The way it must be to sell. And you get to enjoy living in it that way!
Why don’t most homeowners do this? Good question. Many can barely afford to buy the home and perhaps do not have the resources to care for it. Some simply do not know how. Some have no time. Others are just misinformed and think that this big expensive home will never wear out.
I’m sure there are other reasons why homeowners don’t do this, and I am trying hard to inform them otherwise… but seriously who cares? As long as you know better… your home will be more valuable and more fun to live in… and that is what matters.
If you have $500,000 in cash, the best way to keep it from drifting away is to put it in a bank vault. Unfortunately, you can’t put your home in a vault, so the best way to maintain its value is to keep it in perfect condition… through a smart Stewardship strategy from HPS.
Want to know more? Keep reading this website or go to www.homepreservation.com and learn how they can do it all for you. This year HPS is celebrating 25 years of service to Silicon Valley’s finest homes and smartest homeowners.
URGENT UPDATE! Wet wipes and baby wipes are NOT a replacement for toilet paper!
Wet wipes and baby wipes are NOT a replacement for toilet paper!
You’ve read my earlier warnings about using wet wipes and their damage to your plumbing and septic system, now listen to why a Surgeon Is Begging You to Stop Using them! Wet wipes were a go-to solution during the Covid-19 TP shortage and, from that experience, many have adopted them as the afficionado’s version of Toilet Paper. Some feel like wet wipes are fancier and more grown-up. In addition to the tush pampering factor, people who swear by them believe that the method is more thorough and leaves things cleaner than it would otherwise be.
Unfortunately, it appears those beliefs are misleading, and a rectal surgeon says it’s time to “can” those wet wipes for good.
“…wet wipes aren’t the best option for the health of your posterior.”
“People think if they can use a wet wipe on their baby, they can use it on themselves,” says Evan Goldstein, DO, colorectal surgeon and founder of Future Method. However, while wet wipes might make you think you’re getting your bum cleaner, they can actually cause myriad complications that you really don’t want to have to deal with in the long run. In addition to being a major environmental concern—which was discussed in our earlier article—wet wipes aren’t the best option for the health of your posterior.
Wiping away good bacteria
Just like the skin on your face, your anus and its surrounding skin is covered in good and bad bacteria. These work together to find homeostasis and keep your pooper in tip-top condition. “This is important, so when you start to augment that [microbiome] with wet wipes, what happens is that you’re wiping away the good bacteria and the imbalance becomes a problem,” says Dr. Goldstein. When there’s an imbalance, you can wind up with irritation, rashes, or fungal or bacterial infections. “With the homeostasis in the biome altered, bad bacteria starts to populate fungus or irritation, which I see all of the time,” he says, noting that a obvious signs of this are redness and overall discomfort. Even wet wipes that are “chemical-free” will do this.
Wet wipes can cause major problems for your home’s plumbing, the ecosystem as they can wind up in rivers and streams and now they are unhealthy to boot.
Another big risk with using wet wipes as a replacement for toilet paper is excessive moisture. “People tend to use wet wipes and then pull up their pants, so what happens is that the moisture sits there,” says Dr. Goldstein. “The moisture just festers, and it causes a change in bacteria and leads to irritation.” If this continually happens, he notes that people can feel as though they have fissures or hemorrhoids when really it’s just a buildup of irritation and bad bacteria. If you experience something like this, make an appointment with your doctor to see what’s going on.
Wet wipes can cause major problems for your home’s plumbing, the ecosystem. They can wind up in rivers and streams and now they are unhealthy to boot. “This a major issue,” says Dr. Goldstein (a major Toto washlette and bidet fan) — so wet wipes should never, ever be used.
At this time, I think we have got to the bottom of this issue!
Taking quality real estate photos of your home or project is easier than ever.
Here are some pro tips to help you capture beautiful images.
Make a site visit to inspect the property before the shoot. Be sure you have access to all the important areas. Try to identify lighting and composition challenges ahead of time.
Turn on the lights and open the blinds. Lighting is your most important tool. If the lighting is poor or the wrong color, bring some portable lighting equipment to properly set off the scenes. If there is a good view, take advantage of it.
Choose flattering elevations and compositions. Like people, every home or project has its best side. It could be an exquisite design, or an interesting shape or color. It could even be something with a dramatic backdrop. Get in close with a macro lens to highlight intricate details and workmanship.
Don’t spend much time or money worrying about equipment. The model and type of camera you use is of little concern. Any average digital camera will do. Much more important than the equipment is your knowing how to use it properly. In fact, really awesome project images can be captured using a cell phone. I especially like the iPhone 11 pro max because it is small, easy to use and it has an ultrawide (13mm) lens built in. It also compensates for poor lighting situations automatically and produces awesome colors.
Another great camera for this type of work is the six year-old Nikon D7000. See a full review including settings and use of this camera at my friend Ken Rockwell’s website. Mate this camera with a 18-300MM for outdoors and consider a 12-24MM lens for indoors. The 18-300MM zoom makes it possible to easily see flashing and roof details without a ladder.
Why have an ultrawide lens like the 12-24mm in your kit? Normal lenses that come with cameras usually only go wide enough to capture one part of a wall at a time. An ultrawide lens captures an entire room instead of part of a wall. As a bonus, an ultrawide-angle lens will make any room or structure look bigger. Realtors love this. Unfortunately, all but the most expensive ultra-wide lenses impart distortion. Distortion will show up in images with straight walls and flat horizontal roof lines that most homes have. The good news is that slight distortion isn’t a major problem unless you are trying to emphasize straightness or square mechanical aspects of the home.
Aerial images using drones equipped with cameras can provide access to exciting perspectives that would not normally be available. Drone images are well suited for showing off pools, landscapes and dramatic features.
Declutter the home and remove distracting flaws from your shots. Once you have decided on the composition and shot angles it’s time to scrub the area down. Remove any unsightly items or anything that distracts from the shot. Take a practice image and study it for things that do not belong, then remove them. Repeat till you get an undistracted image of the important subject material.
Choose good lighting for your shoot. Understanding how to properly light your subject is the most complex technical subject you will need to master. Most electric indoor lighting is terrible and difficult to work with. Be especially careful of bright light at the windows and dark shadows outdoors. Early mornings or evenings around sunset are best for the outdoor shots.
Focus on interesting subjects. A beautiful kitchen is just another beautiful kitchen so try to zero in on the things that make it beautiful. Is it color, texture, clever design, symmetry, fancy appliances or whatever?
Stage the shot
Take some practice snaps and look at the thumbnail images. If the thumbnails of your practice images are lacking character or empty looking, your full size image will look bad too. If this happens, it’s time to refine the composition or maybe bring in the props. This is often necessary with new homes or additions that are still unoccupied. New landscapes and hardscapes can look much better with strategically placed outdoor furniture, teak tables, chaise lounges, BBQ’s etc. Even a couple of colorful floaties in an empty pool will help bring some life to the shot.
Use a tripod to take the final picture and get the composition just right. Avoid tilting the camera oddly or accentuating too much distortion. A tripod can help you get the best focus and can get the camera closer to the surfaces. This is especially useful around pools of water to get cool reflection shots. Use a tripod and set the ISO to its lowest setting. The tripod is stable and allows you take long exposures. Long exposures mean you can use small apertures for sharp focus and clean crisp images.
Before and after
Before and after images can tell very compelling stories. If you have an interesting project coming up, be sure to get great “before” shots. Take shots in good lighting from all directions and angles. That way at the end of the project you will likely have a decent image that will match up with some photo of your new work.
Make large prints
Architectural images look their best in larger sizes. Images taken with the equipment described above will allow for truly huge enlargements.
Former SF Giants GM Bobby Evans named to lead innovative San Francisco Peninsula home services firm.
HPS Palo Alto, Inc (Home Preservation Services) has announced that Robert C. “Bobby” Evans has been named their new CEO. Bobby has a business degree from UNC at Chapel Hill and comes to HPS after a long, successful executive career in professional baseball. Home Preservation Founder Steve Spratt will remain as President.
After working for former commissioner Fay Vincent in MLB’s main office, Mr. Evans spent a quarter century with the San Francisco Giants before retiring in 2018 as General Manager. If you are a Giants fan, Bobby shares credit for some of the best baseball moments of your life. As director of player personnel and vice president of baseball operations, he had a significant impact on developing the players who would form the core of the Giants three World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In addition, Bobby was responsible for successfully recruiting, hiring and managing over 350 employees in the Giants organization and developing one of the most respected and loved baseball cultures ever produced.
Steve Spratt, Home Preservation Services founder and president comments that “HPS offers a unique home management service called Stewardship and is well positioned to be a disruptive growth agent in the home services and construction industry.Stewardship provides systemized, high quality and comprehensive preventive maintenance, repair and construction services that assist homeowners to better manage and care for their homes. Bobby Evans has been utilizing our services as an HPS client for many years and we are honored and excited to now have him as part of our executive management team. We look forward to Bobby’s help leading and expanding our culture of quality and high standards across the US. Bobby created feelings of great pride and accomplishment in our community that stick with us and will be passed down for many generations. We welcome Bobby to our HPS team and look forward to bringing meaningful and needed improvements to the home services world.”
HPS is an established and innovative home services company based in Los Altos CA, employing 45 people and currently serving nearly 300 homes and estates on the San Francisco Peninsula.
This Pandemic reminds us that home is both refuge and investment.
At HPS, we have always promoted the home as serving two valuable functions for the family. First, your home is a refuge. A trouble-free, safe, comfortable place where you and your family can retreat, reconnect and reenergize. Second, your home is a financial investment, an asset that should be protected and kept at its highest marketable value at all times.
Since most of us have been confined at home to help control the spread of this pandemic, the last seven weeks have offered a good opportunity to assess how your home is serving you. Has your home been a comfortable refuge? Do you feel the home is in its top marketable condition?
Make your home both a refuge and investment
If the answer is no to either of those questions, it is time to allow HPS to provide some more help. Here’s how we do it:
Getting the home into top marketable condition is a matter of inspecting the home, preparing a list of defects, repairs and worn out items and creating a prioritized plan to get them fixed as quickly as your budget allows. Once the repair list is fixed, our quarterly Stewardship maintenance will help to keep the home in top condition.
To turn your home into more of a refuge for you and your family requires a more personal approach. Bottom line, you should love being in your home, even after seven weeks. If you don’t, the solution is to make a list of things that you don’t like or that irritate you or make you uncomfortable. Then let HPS help you create a strategy to change those things.
It’s amazingly easy to implement change once you have developed a plan to make your home is a refuge and investment. Just let HPS follow through with quality planning, estimates and repairs!
The last several weeks have given us all an opportunity to learn more about our home. Let’s use what we’ve learned to better care for it. Contact HPS and let us help you create and implement a plan to take better care of this most valuable family refuge… and investment.
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains Whats Coming
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming
Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing.
he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”
Originally published by Three Sixty HR – the HR experts, Menlo Park, CA
A Quick Guide for Employers Impacted by COVID-19 “Shelter-In-Place” Requirements
Note: this guide is California-centric. Check your local state rules for nationwide use.
Workplace disruptions and developments in response to COVID-19 are very fluid. There are some commonsense guidelines, augmented by modifications in government programs and requirements, that can help you and your employees.1 We have created this brief guide to help during this uncertain and unprecedented time.
If you temporarily close and send employees home without work to do…
Your employees may use accrued vacation or PTO to continue their pay for as long as possible.
Employees may apply online for Unemployment Insurance (UI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period, but it may take a few weeks for payments to start. You don’t have to terminate employment for employees to be eligible for UI. (edd.ca.gov/Unemployment)
Consider augmenting UI, if possible. Remember that UI will only provide partial pay replacement.
Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.
Stay in touch with your employees. This is important!
If you temporarily close and send employees home with work to do…
Be sure employees have the tools to work from home. If they do not have some or all the tools, you are responsible for providing them.
Reimburse employees for use of their personal services (e.g., cellphone, internet) needed to work from home.
If employees are in nonexempt (hourly) positions, be sure to reiterate in writing the requirements to take meal and rest breaks, and to accurately record their time worked.
Be sure to state your policy regarding overtime and checking email and voice mail. Employees may use your automated timekeeping system if they can access it from home. If you don’t have an automated system, we have attached a manual form. Tell employees when and to whom time reports are due. Collect the signed time reports when employees return to work.
If employees are in exempt (salaried/management) positions, they will most likely need to be paid a full week’s pay if they do any work during the workweek, including checking email and voice mail. If they request in writing a full day off work, they may use accrued vacation, PTO or sick leave for that day. Otherwise, they need to be paid for a full workweek if they do any work during the workweek, including checking voice mail and email.
Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.
1There is a state notice requirement concerning mass layoffs of 50 or more people during a 30-day period in a facility that employs 75 or more people within the preceding 12 months. An employer who meets this threshold should consult with counsel.
— Stay in touch with your employees. This is important! —
If your business is open but you send an employee home, or s/he self-quarantines, due to exposure to the virus…
Will they work from home? follow #2.
They will not work from home, or will reduce their hours while working from home, follow#1 except the employee may apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period. It may take a few weeks for payments to start, but SDI will provide partial pay replacement. Then follow the rest of #1. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Disability_Insurance.htm)
If exposure to the virus occurred in the workplace, an employee may file a Workers’ Compensation claim instead of SDI. Employers are responsible for providing the paperwork to employees who need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Do not require a doctor’s note confirming the beginning/end of a temporary disability.
If your business is open but your otherwise healthy employee can’t work due to caring for a family member who is ill, or for a child whose school has closed…
Your employee may use accrued sick leave, vacation and/or PTO to continue pay for as long as possible.
If they do not work from home or work reduced hours while working from home, follow #1 except the employee may apply for Paid Family Leave (PFL) for partial pay replacement. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Paid_Family_Leave.htm)
Follow the rest of #1.
Delivery Services: If your business is such that your employees can be converted to delivery drivers or are delivery drivers (e.g., drivers for restaurant take-out orders), ensure employees have a current driver’s license and proof of insurance. Make sure your company liability policy will cover them as drivers for the business. Have a clear written policy regarding distracted (cell phone, text, email, GPS) driving. Contact us if you don’t have a policy. Track and reimburse mileage, tolls, etc. Ensure employees follow CDC safety guidelines when interacting with customers.
Retaining Staff: Business will resume and employees will go back to work. Your ability to retain valued staff may hinge on how well you communicate with employees and mitigate their financial hardships. If employees sense that you are trying to do everything you can for them and the business, you are more likely to retain staff.
Employees: are concerned about pay, benefits and keeping their jobs. Encourage employees to use all their accrued benefits as well as take advantage of state income replacement programs. Jobs should be held open for employees who held them before the mandatory shelter-in-place and before they missed work due to COVID-19. Keep employees’ benefits in force for as long as possible. (This may be mandated.)
Government: Intervention. Federal, state and local governments are working hard to find ways to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19 on employers and employees. These ideas include everything from cash payments to payroll tax credits to prohibiting evictions. Stay alert to legislation, announcements and news stories. Coordinating multiple relief/benefit programs will be another issue entirely. It is going to take a while to sort all this out.
There may be additional forms of relief offered to individuals and businesses through CA’s Work Sharing Program. It is designed to address a temporary reduction in hours where regular pay is augmented by UI. (edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Work_Sharing_Program.htm)
Bottom line. Be careful, patient and thoughtful. We must do the things we can to help each other. Please understand that things are changing rapidly and that some of this information could be outdated by the end of the day. We hope this information helps.
Face masks? Gloves? Hand washing? What is the best way to protect yourself from the growing threats of the new coronavirus? At HPM we’re committed to keeping our team and clients healthy and safe. To do this, adopted the a number of practices and precautions within our organization for the duration of the problem.
From the eminent pathologist Dr James Robb:
I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.
How to Protect Yourself:
NO HANDSHAKING!Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What to stock in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you!BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.
AS of January 1, 2020, all General Service Lamps (home light bulbs) are subject to the 45 LUMENS PER WATT (“LPW”) requirements and any product that does not meet this standard is subject to “stop sell” restrictions prohibiting the sale within the State of California. This means that any light bulb that does not provide at least 45 lumens per watt may no longer be sold in California.
The lamp groups below had been exempt but are now included:
Many decorative lamps (Torpedo and Flame tip)
Globes (G16.5, G25, and G30)
Three-way or multi-watt lamps (any)
Reflectors – R20, BR30, BR40 and Halogen PAR20, PAR30 and PAR38
Previously labeled as “stop sell”
PAR16 and MR16
What this means is that replacements for the above bulbs will only be available in LED versions.Sometimes the color renditions of the new replacement LED’s do not match that of the existing bulbs. If you would like a uniform appearance we recommend replacing all non-conforming bulbs at once with replacement LED versions.
Carbon Study Determines Remodeling Is Better Than Building New
Architects, designers, magazines, websites and builders all present good arguments for homeowners to build new houses. Unfortunately lowering your carbon footprint is NOT one of them. A new study compares the difference between building new vs remodel carbon footprint.
While true that a new house can require far less energy to run than an older home, tearing down an old structure and building a new one generates tons of CO2. 80 tons or so actually, and all for just a 1400 sft cottage according to one study. A relatively small home by US standards.
New homes are far costlier to the environment than renovating and maintaining older properties.
Carbon footprint is a horribly abused phrase, so it’s worth spelling out exactly what it means.
When talking about climate change ie global warming, footprint is a metaphor for the total impact that something has. And carbon is shorthand for all the different greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The term carbon footprint, therefore, is a shorthand to describe the best estimate that we can get of the full climate change impact of something. That something could be anything – an activity, an item, a lifestyle, a company, a country or even the whole world.
Human caused global warming is a result of the release of certain types of gas into the atmosphere. The largest man-made greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is emitted whenever we burn fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, wood or natural gas) in homes, factories or power stations. But other greenhouse gases are also important. Methane (CH4), for example, which is emitted mainly by agriculture and landfill sites, is 25 times more potent per kilogram than CO2. Even more potent but emitted in smaller quantities are nitrous oxide (N2O), which is about 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and released mainly from industrial processes and farming, and refrigerant gases, which are typically several thousand times more potent than CO2.
True footprints are heavy
To give an example, the true carbon footprint of driving a car includes not only the emissions that come out of the exhaust pipe, but also all the emissions that take place when oil is extracted, shipped, refined into fuel and transported to the petrol station, not to mention the substantial emissions caused by producing and maintaining the car.
New house footprint
The carbon footprint of building a house also depends on all kinds of things – including, of course, the size of the house and the types of materials chosen. Be sure to see my article on How Many Trees to Build a Home. For this article, the subject homes were based on a study for Historic Scotland.
The estimate of 80 tons calculated above was for the tearing down and reconstruction of simple but energy efficient, brand-new, 1400sft cottages. The homes had two bedrooms upstairs, with two reception rooms and a kitchen downstairs.
The study looked at the climate change implications of various options for these traditional cottages in Dumfries. The options were: leave as it is, refurbish, or knock it down and build a new one. The study looked at the climate change impact for each option over a 100-year period, taking into account the embodied emissions in the construction and maintenance as well as the energy used and generated by those living in the building.
The results of the study
The worst option by far was to do nothing and leave the old house leaking energy.
The second worst option was knocking down the old structure and building new. This produced about 80 tons CO2e. Eighty tons is a lot of course, but a house may last for a century or more (hopefully). If so the “annual” carbon cost is much less – and for all the new-build options, the up-front emissions from construction work will be paid back by savings from better energy efficiency in 20 years.
The winning option was to refurbish the old house, because the carbon investment of doing this was just eight tons CO2e. Even the highest-specification, highest-cost newbuild option could not catch up this advantage over even a 100-year period. Once the actual cost was taken into account, refurbishment became dramatically the most practical and attractive option. This makes sense because saving the existing structure also saves all the embodied footprint of the original materials that do not have to be mined or manufactured or shipped.
This of course is just one study. But I believe the concept is representative. If so, the bottom line for the new home building industry is clear. Even at the very highest levels of energy-efficiency, newly constructed homes are a step backward as far as saving carbon vs remodeling. Better is to default to remodeling and save new construction for when there is no other alternative.
Investing in improvements to existing homes is dramatically more cost-effective CO2-wise than building new. Can the same be said of new or electric cars?
I spent last Friday checking out the exhibit hall of this years Pacific Coast Builder Conference for the newest cool building products for 2019. This year the show was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Here are a few of the highlights for me:
A welcome sight at the entrance to the exhibit hall was a well patina’d old Ford pick-up.
No, it is not a hot tub. A cutting-edge builder conference needs to display the latest kitchen technology and PCBC did not disappoint. Here is the latest offering from KitchenAid for really BIG families.
The next thing to catch my eye were these job protection products. Successful builders and remodelers know that nothing exemplifies professionalism more than showing respect for the clients existing property. At HPS we do this by installing a heavy layer of protection to any area of the home that might be in the path of the work. Included in this manufacturers line-up was a waterproof, dust-catching protective floor mat. We have already been using the foam corner protectors and they are great. I like them because they install quickly and are tough and reusable. Use these during your next bath or kitchen remodel to both improve your image and save yourself a lot of damage repair expense at the end of the project.
The PCBC show did not leave out Man’s best friend. For those of you contemplating a serious renovation, you might consider adding this dog-washing station to your wish list. It is available on Amazon here. It is free standing and comes ready to be plumbed into your home with your choice of stainless sprayers and a loading ramp for easy in and out. These look great if not a little hospital-like. I would use them in a garage or outside area or even inside if the area is water-proofed properly and has a floor drain.
Modular concepts are becoming more mainstream with production builders. Here is a modular lavatory system that bolts between wall studs on a standard stud layout. The module holds are the mountings and piping for attaching choice of faucets and bowls. Currently only offered for commercial applications, I can see this moving into the spec or manufactured home arena next. A neat idea for humans needing to wash up.
Schluter innovation continues to kick butt in the industry with some of the best systems for waterproofing showers. They also make the best base materials for stone and tile systems, including edge trims and anti-crack mats with integral floor heating. These systems have become extremely popular for curb-less shower systems. I installed two in my home. One in the master bath and the other for my moms bathroom shower. You can order a full range of Schluter products at Amazon.
One of my favorite new devices is this secure mail and parcel system designed for the “delivered” world we are heading into. This mailbox on steroids is built into the wall fitting neatly between the studs. The outside is accessible via a code to drop off parcels. While the homeowner has access from inside the home. This mailbox is secure. If you own a home and want one, contact me through this website I can arrange the manufacturer to provide one to you.
At the show I found this new line of outdoor kitchen cabinets that are made for the outdoors. All stainless steel, including the hinges. For folks living on the coast, this company will even make these for you out of the fantastic 316 marine grade stainless. Unfortunately the makers of the cabinet drawer slides do not offer them in 316 stainless steel just yet. Too bad as there is definitely a market for them, especially in marine environments. If you are contemplating a new outdoor kitchen be sure to read my post on “outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid.“
That about wraps up the cool building products for 2019 that were present at the PCBC show. It’s good to see that the industry continues to innovate and put out useful new products.
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