Another thought on affordable housing.

I wrote this in June of 2016 but never got around to posting it due to reasons I will post about another time.

I am not a developer, or a builder, but I am a serial renovator. And I am currently 2/3 of my way though a renovation project that would wilt some of the hardiest souls out there. So I have a different perspective on at least one factor effecting housing costs.

I want to talk a little about red tape, engineers who overbuild and a building code that adds more layers instead of fixing the broken ones.

When I applied for my building permit I got in just before the new code came into effect. According to my builder who worked on my foundation and framing, the new code would have added at least $20k to my costs (about 10%). As it was, an engineer (who I wish I had fired) decided I needed to add support to almost all the beams in the existing house which will likely end up costing me between $10-15k (5-7%). The fact that there is a house built in 1956 with the exact same building structure and beams that is .5km away and at the same elevation not withstanding. Apparently my identical yet newer beams would not be able to withstand the snow load. And, in case you are wondering, engineers trump code. So even if you house is to code, if you need an engineer's stamp you are at their mercy.

Fact is, many engineers now overbuild so a new structure should be able to withstand a 500 year event. Why? Because they are afraid of being sued. In fact, engineers are becoming hugely expensive because they have enormous liability insurance costs. Which comes back to one of my favourite pet peeves - people's need to blame others for their misfortune. Forget mishaps or accidents, it is always somebody's fault. 

What also gets me is that there are wood houses that are over 100 years old and still in good shape. I understand the need for creating more energy efficient homes but sometimes it seems like the building code can cause more issues than it fixes - take the condo crisis of the '90s for instance. From what I learned, the buildings were sealed up in a way that water could get in but not out. 

The building code can also be an impediment to innovation in building. How does it deal with container houses, or some of the new prefabs being developed. The building code is often different between municipalities that share the same environmental factors (go figure). Some municipalities won't even let you build a house that is under 500 square feet. Why not?

So maybe, just maybe, if we sat back and assessed the need to build more efficiently and be innovative and created an entirely new building code we might actually come up with a way to cut the cost of building a house. Every step towards affordable housing is a step in the right direction.