Building locally? Use local buildersBy Sean Sullivan on 03/06/2012
For thousands of years, the “tailgate market” concept has been the way that small-scale contractors have done business. A local customer base is how we have survived through the generations. But the terms seem to be changing and the scale is shifting.
For example, a frustrated subcontractor contacted me recently about how he had been passed up for a large project in our area by an out-of-town contractor. He exemplifies a sobering trend: low-priced competition from anywhere and everywhere usurping local markets. While this has been common practice in commercial construction for years, the problem has become more frequent and severe. What good is it for our legislature to fight for projects, or to provide tax incentives, if our local construction industry doesn’t get the work?
The impact is dramatic when you consider that the food chain of architecture carries to engineering firms, then to general contractors and subcontractors and finally to the vendors and the jobs that are associated with each phase. Using that perspective, is “green” about soliciting the cheapest price from anywhere in the nation, or is it about providing jobs and using local resources — in other words, buying locally?
In residential construction, the problem becomes even more troubling. Our market has been flooded with every builder, subcontractor and handyman who has ever heard of Western North Carolina’s promise. Building in the mountains is difficult. Experience is important. Too often, I hear about homeowners hiring builders (or subcontractors) based solely on price (or estimated price), regardless of their experience in the local market.
An example from a couple of years ago provides a cautionary tale. I was building a home near a creek. A builder from out-of-state was constructing a nearby home and hit a natural spring during excavation of the site. Neither he, nor his grader, knew what to do, so the builder drove over to my job and offered to employ my grader. I see this all the time while estimating projects. Without enough experience in the market, builders cannot reliably price a project.
If you live in WNC, you probably enjoy its beauty and uniqueness. The region seems to inspire environmental stewardship. While the retail market may be competitive worldwide, residential construction should not be. An important aspect of building green means using local resources. For us, that means using experienced builders, trades and products from here and those that contribute to our own local economy. Any way you slice it, buying local is the original “green.”
Sean Sullivan is an Accredited Master Builder and past president of the Asheville HBA. He is currently the Region X VP of the NCHBA. His firm, Living Stone Construction, is mission-motivated and value-driven to meet the budget of any client. To learn more LSC, you can visit livingstoneconstruction.com.