Sunday, November 6, 2011

Holmes Inspection: Making Homes Right????

While mindlessly flipping through TV channels at my mother-in-law’s house the other night, I got caught by a show on HGTV called ‘Holmes Inspection.’  The featured show casts a tough looking builder guy with a crew cut and overalls, along with his trusty entourage of tight black T-shirt wearing guys with dust masks which he orders around by saying things like, ‘drop this ceiling!’ and ‘kill this stud here!’  The edition, like so many shows these days, showcased the confused homeowners with a house full of problems and no idea what to do.  So the trusty building team came to the rescue to renovate while the couple is away;  turning their problem-ridden home into the ‘healthy’ and’ safe’ home they deserve.

Mr. Hot-Shot Builder guy starts in the bathroom where I do admit, the bathtub recessed into the floor to be a bit strange, declares this to be a ‘tripping hazard!,’ and this is simply ‘unsafe!’  He stands up, dramatically bangs his hammer into the tile shower surround, and orders one of the tight black shirt crew men to ‘Take it out!.’

Mr. Holmes
 Next Scene: the fiberglass tub and tiles are ripped from the bathroom and thrown into the oversized green dumpster sitting in the driveway of the house.  Later in the show we learn that a brand new fiberglass tub and new tiles are re-installed in the exact same place!  I could never quite understand why the same perfectly good tub couldn’t be reused?  Or why all of the tiles had to be ‘dumpstered’ as well, and retiled? Or why the perfectly good tub went to the landfill to begin with???

Mr. Holmes continues to stroll through the house, prodding walls, and saying things like, ‘This probably doesn’t meet code, so let’s go ahead and tear out all of the ceilings and rebuild them!’ …..and ‘This probably DOES meet code, but let’s go ahead and pull it out anyways, just to be on the safe side.’

Dumpster filled with construction waste
The camera crew then shows us shot upon shot of demolition....walls and ceilings coming down all over the place….and the big green dumpster outside is filling…and filling…and filling…................

Obviously Mr. Holmes is not really in control of a real budget with real money, because most homeowners don’t like to hear things like ‘It’s probably alright but we’re going to spend $5000 of your money replacing it anyways, is that OK?’  And I suppose it never occurred to him that checking the code book really isn't rocket science, but then again this is TV and thumbing through the Building Code doesn't really make for good ratings.

While it is funny to sit back and crack jokes and poke fun at the annoying home remodeling shows (and trust me, Architects love this kind of fun ), all jokes aside, shows and messages like this are disturbing and are a disservice to all who watch it and believe in this model as an industry. The message of this show, as I saw it, was to throw away, and rebuild; just toss it all in the big ol’ dumpster that takes all of our garbage into the invisible landfill that we will never have to see again! Voila!  The decisions made were made from speculation; not knowledge.  Not once was the idea of salvaging or recycling or simply improving the house with a minimal amount of impact and waste ever entertained; not even with the perfectly good bath tub that was tossed in the big green dumpster.  

Landfill; construction waste

In the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, the building industry was flooded with cheap, fast housing; cookie cutter houses;  houses with little to no thought about materials, functionality, aesthetics, or longevity.  Investments were the focus, and faster and cheaper was better.  That was then and this is now. The year 2011; we’re knee deep into ‘Green Building’ for Pete’s sake! The construction industry produces the largest amount of landfill waste over any other industry in the United Sates.   In a world which is currently overpopulated, over-polluted, and natural resources are diminishing, we as individuals...and especially those of us who serve in the building industry have an obligation to become creative and efficient in how we deal with these situations; our decisions should be based off of research and knowledge and when we do have to demolish items, have we exhausted all options for re-use and salvaging before mindlessly tossing our fiberglass bath tubs into the dumpster???  HGTV's message of unconscious wastefulness and uneducated decision-making is influencing 78,000 people across America who are now watching this show,  I personally find this to be disturbing.  Not only do we as individuals and professionals need to take responsibility for our construction-based decisions, but our TV networks should have an obligation to think harder about the messages they are broadcasting as well.  Perhaps if these well-watched programs focused even a little on the ideas behind conservation and creative solutions and less on the wasteful practices which have been haunting us for over two decades now, then maybe a small percentage of the 78,000 people might make different decisions about their own home and their own waste; and in this inter-connected world in which we live, better decisions equals a better future for all of us and for this fragile Earth.

Typical 1950's House

Typical 1990's House

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