Triple bottom line image

Yesterday, it took nine hours, from clearing security at Washington Reagan National Airport to exiting the destination terminal at Chicago O'Hare, to go what normally--gate-to-gate--would be 120 minutes.

Travel disrupts schedules for many of us, and can be a big time suck (despite smart devices, power sources, wifi signals, ear buds, and video streams). Yet, we do it. Why? Because, it's worth it, mostly. We're willing to deal with the disruptive forces of travel usually because people on the destination side give more value than the money, time, and energy costs of the trip.

That's why many, many businessmen and women travel today in spite of tech solutions that render sharp, audible, face-to-face video conferencing capabilities, ideal for a certain realm of transactional information and exchange, but not up to the job of an in-person meeting.

What travel does to my schedule is to make it harder to carve time for tasks like this one, an attempt to be relatively faithful and consistent in trying to level-set my observations around home building industry challenges and opportunities. Nine hours in transit, plus the opportunity to spend time with members of our Residential Group audience, plus the day job, add up to more hours than there are in a day. So, necessarily, something has to and does give.

Still, when I step back a bit from the fray of the travel--the particulars of which bridge the sustainability and resilience-focused agendas going on now at Greenbuild in Washington, D.C., and the affordability and resilience-focused agenda going on at our AHF Live! event here in Chicago--a couple of blinding insights emerge.

One has to do with the whole notion of "preaching to the converted." In both events and both communities, champions, advocates, acolytes, crusaders, heroes, and loyal followers gather like tribal nations, all splendid in the war paint of their particular discipline, area of expertise, special agenda, and message.

They talk amongst themselves. They exchange trade secrets, tips, best practice, and together surface and wrangle with pain points, frustrations, paralyzing forces, inertial impasses, etc. They inspire one another; kindling and re-kindling hope. They clarify roles, responsibilities, and accountability, and then they disperse back out into the wider ecosystem they're a part of, carrying the torch.

Preaching to the converted, it seems, is not the waste of time and energy it might appear to be. Preaching to the converted may be more efficient and effective, and more meaningful, after all, than preaching to the un-convertible. That's where the real time- and energy suck may be. For there, where great effort meets with little or no response, the cost produces no value.

And related to that, both in the Greenbuild gathering and in the Affordable Housing Finance community, we have another identical theme we can look at. Good, safe, high-performing, healthy, lasting, and affordable homes with assured-access to supplies of fresh water and power and health-care make for stronger societies. So, what's the catch?

Leaders in sustainable and resilient design and architecture, engineering, product development, manufacturing, and distribution, construction operations, community building, etc. and leaders in affordable and resilient design and architecture, engineering, product development, manufacturing, and distribution, construction operations, community building both say this:

"There is so much we've done. Our work has changed and saved lives. Our advances are critical. The risks and threats of not progressing--fast--with our solutions are clear. The answers are there. We can do it."

We hear from the scientists, the designers, the engineers, the financiers, that within our grasp, today, huge strides forward are not only plausible, they're completely doable. We hear from community developers in affordable, and from housing finance agencies, and from government agencies, and from builders, and corporate sponsors that more housing for more of society's income-challenged populations is not only plausible, but completely doable.

And yet, and yet, and yet, for both sustainable and resilient residential construction and development and for affordable and resilient community development, the status today is exactly the same:

"There is so much more to do. And time is not on our side."

So you have to look at the resistances, the powerful inertia, the push-back, the suppression of progress, of new thought, and new ideas, and new programs, and new investments. And you have to look at them as the villains that they are, be they our own complacency, ignorance, or a pervasive fear that clouds reasoning around the cost and the value of doing the work.

It comes down to accounting. A simple ledger. What goes out and what comes in. Only, the difference comes when you add a dimension of time to the accounting framework. Only over time does one see the ledgers true values. This is where "triple-bottom line" accounting gets its meaning in sustainable capital investment decision making.

What goes out and what comes in is not a simple, static snap-shot. It's a time-lapse stream--a time-value analysis--that comes clear after all the separate images form into the whole.

So, the nine hours it took to get to Chicago yesterday were well worth it.