Two brothers write books that many of us in this occupation of making homes and communities for others would do well to read. Their names are Chip and Dan Heath, and one of the titles I’m talking about is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.
It’s probably a good idea to read this breezy, case-filled volume from cover to cover, but what its conclusions come down to is this: The only way to change things when change is hard is to do a combination of two things. One is to lower the height of the barrier to change. Oftentimes, although we intend to make a change, we paralyze ourselves by expecting too much too soon. Don’t strive for perfection from the get-go; instead, settle for progress. Lower the hurdle and break the change down into achievable parts.
Another requirement that often goes hand in hand with lowering the height of the barrier to change is this: elevate your own—or your team’s—sense of yourself or selves. In other words, you make a choice to raise the bar of expectations of yourself, or your organization, to get in touch with a loftier purpose, a core value, or a distinctly superior standard.
With a keener sense of an ambitious, distinguished mission, one brings a more passionate, committed intensity to the task at hand. You’re already familiar with this concept in your focus on your reputation—you want quality, integrity, reliability, and trust to be the calling cards you and your team operate with in your market or markets. You are that kind of individual (or organization) who stands above and apart from others, and who could be expected to achieve more and do what competitors and peers could and would not do.
Once you break change into divisible, doable increments, and once you get in touch with the elevated identity—the essential piece of DNA that gets energized and focused on a particular mission—you’re on your way.
Next, look at bright spots. Chances are, when you need or want to make a change, you’re already farther along in getting it done than you might imagine.
All of this is by way of talking inferentially about green, the central organizing theme of the October issue of BUILDER.
Do we here at BUILDER believe that all new residential construction should be green? Yes. That’s only because we believe if you don’t build to solve for progressive engineering around energy efficiency, water conservation, greenhouse gas emission, durability, and an overall stinginess with the use of the Earth’s finite natural resource base, you and your organizations are at risk.
The 4,000-year-old Code of Hammurabi, full as it is of “an eye for an eye” rules of fearsome retribution, says this of home builders: “If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm, and the house which he has built collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.”
The Romans, almost equally stern, made their engineers of aqueducts and infrastructure sleep under the bridges they built.
How can we not look at home building and community making through this lens of “the agency problem” that scholar Nassim Taleb refers to in his work? If we create structures, market them to people, and sell them, and they’re not the safe, healthy, durable, energy-efficient, and affordable places we represent them to be, are we not in what Taleb calls “moral hazard” territory?
Green for most home builders still means change. That’s why we’re looking at the issue from a cost versus benefit standpoint in “Green: Who Buys? Who Pays? Who Wins?” by Jennifer Goodman and Shelley D. Hutchins.
Lower the hurdle to green building and break the process, products, and people into divisible, achievable steps. And raise the identity from which you and your organization draw your sense of mission. You’re the kind of builder who’s trusted and respected for building a home and a community that lasts.
The financial costs of sustainable construction are a mere number; the business you’re in is where we and our families live.