In general, we have asked for and received homes that meet the following criteria:
Compliance with minimum code standards
Cost that the market will bear (and therefore material and labor inputs that match cost expectations)
Consistent aesthetics that the market demands/expects
Level of energy efficiency that regulators enforce or the market demands
Valuation that lenders and insurers demand (durability and maintenance based on typical mortgage cycle)
Design and construction performed by professionals, not homeowners
As little maintenance and homeowner engagement as possible
Location and siting that match expectations and regulations
If these are, indeed, the goals set out for the construction industry, then the industry is doing an excellent job of meeting them, while ensuring a profit margin for developers and contractors adequate to keep the whole enterprise rolling along.
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What do we want?
If we want something different, we have to identify different criteria, and be able to define and explain our goals so they can be successfully achieved.
If we are seeking houses that are “better,” we are typically interested in broadening our criteria — using the wider vision discussed in the previous home design — to include these additional elements:
Ecosystem impacts that are minimized or eliminated
Embodied carbon and energy footprint that is minimized or eliminated
Energy efficiency that exceeds code mini-mums, with reduced or eliminated need for fossil fuel input
Indoor air quality that exceeds code mini-mums, with reduced or eliminated sources of toxins and allergens
Locally sourced materials and labor, with reduced or eliminated need for exploitive labor practices and excessive transportation needs
Waste reduction or elimination during construction and over the building’s lifespan
Resilience in the face of climate change
Aesthetics that are personally desirable