I was reading a commentary by Michael Anschel over at Hanley Woods Remodeling and it got me to thinking. Anschel proposed four elements to improve the remodeling industry.
1.Self Imposed-Self Enforced Standards
I thought this was the function of the NAHB and the BBB, however my recent dealings with these organizations from the consumer end leaves me less than impressed and I now fully understand the public’s distrust of any governing organization where its sole existence is based on fees paid by the membership.
2.Third Party Inspections
This entails moving away from government employees conducting inspections. I am not sure how this would work, probably similar to land appraisers. My fear is that once the third party realizes it can generate more revenue by overlooking standards than by enforcing them, where are in a worse state of affairs. Last week, I saw in our local paper a picture of a catastrophic deck failure at an apartment complex. The deck was attached to the third floor, and used ledger board construction. The picture in the newspaper clearly showed joist that were at least 24″ center, possibly 2×6. The picture also showed the joist pulled away from the ledger and no Simpson or other manufacturers metal ties used to join the joist to the ledger. I see this failure having many parties to it. The first is the contractor’s failure to build to code. The second is the inspector who signed off on the project with its obvious shortcomings. The third is the insurance underwriters who failed to cite the problem and force its correction before issuing coverage. This last entity will soon feel the pain of what happens when you breeze through an on-site inspection and issue a policy on a property.
3. Trade Accountability
Anschutz puts forth the idea of the tradesmen self policing and reporting violators. Whereas I agree with his premise, I know of no example where this method works. Can you imagine if we employed this on our highways? As part of a creed, I agree with the tenor of this idea. It stands as a noble idea like our college creeds, but fails as a policy.
4. Build a Trade of Integrity Commited to Growth
Everyone wants to feel as though their trade is a profession. Remodelers are no different. I sit on the board of a commercial real estate entity. We just changed the title for some of our staff from housekeeping to event facilitators. Sometimes I feel like I am living the joke of the garbage men demanding to be called sanitation engineers, as though a title change will improve the self worth of a group of employees, we concede and go along with it. I just want my trash picked up.
I see a group like Angie’s List where consumers can post their experiences related to different businesses, therefore rewarding the good sheep and punishing the bad sheep. This has validity to a degree. Ask yourself, which are you more likely to write a review of, a good experience or the bad one. You get my point. I have been asked to interview Angie’s List founder and I think that is one question I am eager to hear her response to.
So I agree wholeheartedly that these are all good and noble criteria. But I also live in the real world where self policing is more of a personal ethic issue as opposed to a trade-wide mentality. The current system has issues and we all know too many companies are taking shortcuts to protect profit margins. Accountability measures are already in place, but they are not universally applied. The deck that failed last week, killed one young man and critically injured four others. My step-son would have been on that deck had he not gone to see the Atlanta Braves game instead. My last conversation with him would have been nothing more than us talking about finding him some proffesional contacts in Birmingham. I am glad he went to the game. But I also took time to question if the builder/inspector/insurance underwriter ever stopped to think that by letting the poor construction slide by, they might find themselves being held accountable. I don’t think they did. All I would ask of anyone in the building trades, is to stop and think, is this the right method and the right material to do this project. Would I entrust my construction method to my own family members?