Covering building, home builders, your work, your hand-in-hand participation in the hive of residential real estate and construction, and your topsy-turvy housing-cycle roller-coaster ride across the decades have been like learning a second language.
My background practicing the now-endangered occupation of inverted-pyramid news reporting had prior--for two-plus decades--focused on the business of marketing, and the dark-art and dismal science economics of 30-second artifacts called TV commercials and print ads, and their relative roles persuading people to spend money on goods and services we know as brands. If you're old enough to have called the internet "new media," then you may be old enough to have constructed who, what, when, where, and why articles on a manual typewriter. I'm both. A half-century-old Underwood in the attic tells no lies.
Reporting on this world of building is like speaking and listening to that learned language. I'm certain always that I'm not quite fully grasping what's being said, and that my own terms and usage and most technical descriptions are at least partially off by some degree of precision. I know enough to get by, enough to get in trouble with the nuance, the detail, the very specific way that builders coalesce with others to make habitats for others. From a consumer marketing viewpoint, the area most familiar to me, a builder works off the premise that he or she has something different going for them when they produce a home, which is that somebody, oftentimes needs it as shelter, protection, a place for her, or him, or them to prosper.
This is not about me, however, nor my fluency--or lack of it--in the vocabulary and syntax of the more technical aspects of this most noble and ancient of livelihoods, creating indoors, with their own climates, their own environments for safety, for well-being, for peace of mind. And creating communities that live, breathe, form culture and fiber and character and identity.
Still, when my wife and I traveled recently to Egypt, both my sorely limited technical knowledge of building, and my capacity to be humbled and awed by those who do it shot off the charts. We visited Cairo and the plains of Giza, where the Sphinx and ancient pyramids carve magical misted geometrics into the desert skyline, and then headed to the Upper Nile temples of Luxor and Karnac, Habu and Dendera, Philai and Edfu, Komombo and Abu Simbel, and the west Nile mortuaries of Queen Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings.
Those structures--3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 years old--live and breathe today, monuments to technological genius, staggering achievements of collaboration, shining evidence of creativity, shimmering colossal tributes to Ptolemaic spirituality, and direct byproducts of the power of the Nile itself and the people who subsisted, designed, developed, engineered, financed, and worshiped along its immediate banks and deltas.
We learn, many of us, at some point that many of these structures were built on the backs of slave labor. How else to imagine hewing and chiseling 250 metric tons and 75-feet of exquisitely shaped obelisks out of the granite beds of Aswan, with crude stone tools, primitive hoisting and transport mechanisms, loading them into cedar sailing Feluccas or barges for the trip down the Nile to stand at the entrance, in pairs of each amazing temple? How else to imagine hauling 6 million tons at two-and-a-half tons per limestone block, from distant Aswan and nearby quarries, up to the very 480-foot heights of the Great Pyramid?
Egyptologists today reckon it was not slave labor. Mathematical calculation of what could be accomplished by human beings under the lash and penalty of corporal punishment doesn't add up to the actuality of what we see today of these structures. Consensus today among the most knowledgeable experts is that farmers, ordinary people who lived and toiled in the delta regions of the Nile--which regularly flooded, making farming impossible for extended periods of time--are the ones who built the pyramids, and temples, and obelisks, and other structures that remain among human construction's most towering achievements. Farmers took time off from their day jobs, and families and home lives, and became the skilled labor force it took to do honor and evidence love for the pharaoh, the closest thing they knew to the sun god Ra.
Setting aside, for a moment, consideration of the engineering, the logistics, the workflows, the team management, the critical path solutions of the people who did this work, Egyptologists today agree that the results they produced could never have happened without one simple, primal motivator, common to every soul on every jobsite, and powerful enough to wake with each worker in the morning and rest among the tens of thousands of work crews across the decades of time it took to build a pyramid, or an underground grave, or a temple.
Love as a root source for the strength, the persistence, the willingness to work together, the precision, the creativity, the ingenuity, the endurance of pain, the pride in progress, and the fanatic focus on the purpose at hand would bond 20,000 people across 20 years under many supervisors, several engineers, even changing out an architect or two to build one pyramid.
This, of course, makes me think of you. What you do. Who you are. What you strive for. What it's about.
As individuals, teams, firms, enterprises, and an ecosystem, you build homes, mostly as a business, a career, a livelihood, and as a value-creation model. As a sector you build an integral part of our economy, our societal fiber, and our culture--housing and communities.
In the scheme of things home builders--many, many of them we know--work off the same motivator, love, and it, somewhat uniquely, does far more than the sum of the money, land, labor, talent, materials, and other tangible resources that go into the mill of residential development and construction cost for value.
This labor of love attracts people--who like ancient Egyptians who poured their physical beings and spiritual focus into outsized monuments of salute, and passion, and fervor--who use their hands, their minds, their pocketbooks, and their team skills, not just to construct structures, enclosures, indoor weather systems, and shelters, but to make nests, and communities, and bio-balanced habitats where people and nature thrive. This work, in no uncertain terms and in any language, is miraculous.
Each year, BUILDER salutes individuals whose work--inside and outside the immediate scope and business of market-rate building--helps tell the story of all builders whose root cause for doing what they do is love. We team up with a financial services company, Hearthstone, that has been a capital partner to many home builders over the years, and which has, itself, donated upwards of $1 million in cash to the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award, honoring individuals and their teams who go beyond the call in their charitable work for others, showing the ways builders' love can work miracles.
Our judges, this week, are in the final stages of looking at an amazing crop of entry applications for consideration for this year's Hearthstone Award winner.
And, we need your help. Each year, sponsors--manufacturers, financial partners, architectural services firms, and others--contribute to what becomes the annual award, a big check that goes directly to the charitable organization of our winner's choice.
Economic uncertainty, global trade gyrations, and some headwinds buffeting builders' abiility to continue to meet very strong fundamental need for attainably-priced homes and communities, have made this year extra difficult in raising funds for the Hearthstone Award.
So, this piece is an appeal to you, who are motivated by multiple bottom lines, and a profound, simple, and elegant instinct underlying every bottom line--love--to contribute to the Hearthstone Award fund. Unlike building a pyramid, which used Pythagorean mathematics to achieve right-angles, perfect vertical lines, and the world's first 480-foot tall right triangle pointing straight at the sun ... a thousand years before Pythagoras was born!--it's easy to give.
Simply contact, Cindy Gilmore, senior VP, business development at Hearthstone, at cgilmore@ hearthstone.com.