Posh Houses

Posted on 13. Jun, 2009 by in Building Science, Eco-Inspector

Wallace Stegner’s comments about the West, and by extension the Sunbelt including my home Atlanta open this blog:

“…the West at large is hope’s native home, the youngest and freshest of America’s regions, magnificently endowed and with the chance to be become something unprecedented and unmatched in the world.”

A caution:

“But exaggerated, uninformed, unrealistic, greedy expectation has been a prescription for disappointment that the West has carried to the the corner drugstore too many times.”

An Observation:

“Western cities are likely to have an artificial look, and why not, since so many of the are planted in an artificial environment maintained by increasingly elaborate engineering.”

And a hope:

“I believe that eventually, perhaps within a generation or two, they will work out some sort of compromise between what must be done to earn a living and what must be done to restore health to the earth, air, and water. I think they will learn to control corporate power and to dampen the excess that has always marked their region, and will arrive at a degree of stability and a reasonably sustainable economy based on resources that they will know how to cherish and renew.”

Stegner did not get his wish to see that compromise brought to life; he died in 1993.

I’m an American Studies graduate of the University of Texas, Austin and find Stegner’s analysis Western US culture applicable to our current economic mess. Housing and mortgage excesses got us to this point. In the boom years it seemed like everyone was building or renovating their home.

Many of these projects had less to do with our needs than with our wants:

We tossed out the old rules about how to build homes, neighborhoods and cities after WWII and replaced them with increasingly wasteful and opulent buildings.

We ignored science, specifically the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, when designing and constructing buildings

We failed to follow the universal prescription for building first recorded by Vitruvius and later reformulated by Palladio that:

Buildings should be Beautiful, Functional and Durable

My job focus is on Function and Durability. It’s a wonder to me how few people care about anything other than appearance. Reality TV is all about “Painting the Pig”: cheap, quick makeovers that do little to make homes truly worth caring about.

Our national obsession with the size and features of our homes has, from my perspective, long since divorced itself from reality.

The home pictured above is well built but thumbs it’s nose at building science and requires, in Stegner’s words, requires increasing elaborate engineering.

I often inspect big “executive” homes in the suburbs or oversized intown bungalows that look impressive from the street.

Homes that are POSH

Because they often end up requiring more money to maintain and really don’t fulfill the function of a home there’s usually a FOR SALE sign out front of them every couple of years

What some inspectors call a Piece of S*** House

Your Eco-Inspector

Link to Comprehensive Home Inspections: www.inspectatlantahome.com

Dan Curl

Nature Strikes Back

Posted on 08. Jun, 2009 by in Eco-Inspector, Nature

Eco-Inspector’s brother Matt was bitten by a Copperhead on his pinky toe. If you think he was grubbing around in the woods you are mistaken: he was taking a stroll down the sidewalk of his upscale subdivision near Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County, Georgia

Matt’s encounter with the snake is one unfortunate result of the end of our regions’ four-year drought. The rains have rejuvenated dormant animal populations and the predators that feed on them.

Another unforseen result is more power outages. The crowns of drought-weakened trees are full of new leaves making them perfect sails. Even modest winds topple trees and power lines

So here is our lesson for the day: every event has a consequence.
That includes wearing flip flops while taking a stroll

Matt spent five days in the hospital. Snake venom is nasty stuff: in addition to attacking the nervous system it “tenderizes” the flesh of its’ victims. This can lead to a number of complications.

We should be happy our long, dry spell is over and prepare for more snakes, downed trees and mosquitos.

One final comment: I am REALLY keeping my eyes open during inspections these days. You never know when a snake might bite or a tree might fall.