Familar vs. Innovative

As a general rule, the use of familiar products and construction techniques will result in lower construction and maintenance costs than construction with innovative alternatives. I wish that this were not the case and that I didn't have so many examples to help illustrate this point. I love to see new ideas and innovations but have found that the "early adopters" pay a premium for their efforts and all too often end up disappointed with the results.

Straw-bale construction is just one example. Straw bales are cheap. They have adequate structural capacities, provide good insulation and can last for a very long time. The basic construction technique is relatively simple. But straw-bale houses are different than standard frame structures. They require some special siding and interior wall surface work. They also require different electrical and plumbing systems... Most of these differences are relatively minor but they do require some extra planing and different work on the part of several specialty trades. And those differences cost money.

Good quality and standard specialty work runs on auto-pilot. For example, the apprentice electricians job is to nail up the boxes for the receptacles and light switches. They learn to place these boxes in bedrooms without even looking at the plans. Most don't even know how to read the plans. Bang, bang, bang, the boxes are up. But what about in that straw-bale house? How do you nail the boxes into those walls? The answers are not difficult but they are 'different' and 'different' work costs more time and more money.

Most 'standard' work also tends to be good and reliable. In most cases, it has stood the test of time, has not resulted in too many call-back, legal problems and other expenses and complications.

And "standard" materials and installation practices can be used to create wonderful and useful living spaces!