Customer satisfaction for home builders in Mesopotamia almost 4,000 years ago--under Hammurabi--was codified and, literally, etched in stone. Of 282 laws the sixth king of Babylon had inscribed on 12 stone tablets set up for public view, five address the residential built environment. Two of Hammurabi's laws read as follows:
229 If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
232 If it ruins goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
Do right by your customers as a builder at that time, and all went on relatively as it should. If not? Well then, justice called for "an eye for an eye." Eugene J. Heady, a partner in the Atlanta office of law firm Smith Currie notes that Hammurabi’s Code establishes the concept of civil damages, whereby one must pay compensation for defective work. Talk about skin in the game!
Attorney Heady also points out that we need look no further than the Bible, Leviticus 14:39-45, for explicit direction as to how Hammurabi's Code could come into play with respect to, say, indoor air quality:
On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house. If the mildew has spread on the walls, he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town. He must have all the inside walls of the house scraped and the material that is scraped off dumped into an unclean place outside the town. Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house...
These measures are stark in their simplicity, profoundness, elegance--and, yes, harshness. And as Heady points out, laws that apply to built environments evolved, and building codes have come down to us over thousands of years. Whether it's antiquity that we focus on or the present, it seems to be that people naturally gravitate around a notion of agency and accountability for architects, engineers, product and materials suppliers, and builders when it comes to the safeness, health, and strength of homes.
Too, since the construction process by nature means that a job site--whether it's a new home or an existing one being remodeled--is a "workplace," what happens to workers as they assemble materials and products into homes is another whole ball of wax when it comes to beliefs as to who's responsible for safety, health, and well-being on those sites.
Now, builders and remodelers and their manufacturer, materials supplier, architect, and engineer partners provide an incalculable, untold value to society, a service one can hardly put a price on. Because of what you do, each and every day, people live improved and healthier lives, and connect with one another in communities that mean the world to them.
At the same time, as author Tom Woolley writes in "Building Materials, Health and Indoor Air Quality:"
"... the health impacts of buildings are still poorly understood and rarely taken into account as a key priority when buildings are designed or renovated."
Woolley, mind you, is trying to sell books that propose to say "why many buildings are not healthy, and the contribution of building materials to this and how it is possible to avoid these problems."
At BUILDER, our job on this subject is clear. The science of healthy homes--or what may make them unhealthy--is still, as Woolley suggests, "poorly understood," evolving, and full of uncertainty, and, what is more, open to wild speculation as to what causes what. We stand open-minded and committed to reporting, analyzing, and weighing the trade-offs of engineering the safest, healthiest, most truly valuable homes possible.
At the same time, we feel it's helpful to alert our community about how people hold them to account for what happens as they live 90% of their lives indoors. Also, given research by the National Association of Home Builders and Dodge Data & Analytics that indicates homeowners will pay more for a healthier home, we feel it will be a service for us to get on that path of learning to shed light on where the near-term, and longer-term opportunities lie.
Ultimately, residents' satisfaction, health, and well-being are in all our interest, no matter what era we're living in.
One more note this morning. Our hearts and prayers and deepest thanks go out to all men and women--past and present--who work for America's freedom, safety, and health as part of the United States' armed services. You are our heroes in so many ways, and your direct and indirect contributions to healthy and joyous homes everywhere in this country are appreciated beyond all words.