Way back in 1977, Roy Franklin, one of my earliest builder-clients, was the first person I ever heard say, “The Building Code is the least you can do and get away with it. Rise above it.” I took it to heart and Rise Above became my motto.
In the aftermath of hurricane Michael, it’s very obvious that the primary personal motto of most builders is, Build the least and get away with it. The storm left behind every variety of damage: leaning walls, roofless hulks, collapsed wreckage, wood framing smashed to splinters, debris from used-to-be neighborhoods scattered over multiple counties, and home-sites scoured to bare ground with only leftover stilts stabbing the empty sky. This was the least that could be built; and the storm did not let ‘them’ get away with it.
However, the evidence for Rise-Above thinking is also mixed-in among the dross of the storm, across broad swaths of sandy beaches and near-coastal neighborhoods. Rise-Above homes were built above the code. Rise-Above homes are easy to spot because they’re still standing.
Get-away-with-it homes, built by the code (barely), are composed of light-strength wood parts held together by also-light-strength metal connectors, like nails and brackets, all resting on top of stilt-borne floor platforms; and like a paper napkin on a tabletop, easy to blow away. Build-Above homes go far beyond the code, involving heavy-duty concrete walls, very strong steel anchor-cables, and a superstructure from ground to roof, so strong it will almost never blow away, even when assaulted by the likes of Michael or his bigger brothers.
Homebuilding hasn’t changed in 500 years. Mostly because change is hard. So, get-away-with-it thinking has been the norm for that whole time. Michael’s visit made it more than obvious that it’s time for a change. But, this time, change should be easy because all that’s needed is to copy what already works. Those few well-built homes, punctuating the landscape like happy thoughts in a horror story, are the model to be duplicated.
The solution is so simple. Copy what works. Rise above.
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