Keep Calm and Think Different: It takes money to save money, part 3

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This is the third in a series focusing on the value of investing in long-term savings. The most obvious example of this way of thinking is represented by energy savings and payback period. But let’s not get hung up only on the financial benefits – which can be substantial – while ignoring others such as health, happiness and harmony.

The following testimonials come from residents who have participated in building and renovation projects through Beacon Pathway, “an Incorporated Society dedicated to transforming New Zealand’s homes and neighbourhoods”:

“We know what a warm house is now.”

“We are doing our job as parents keeping the house healthy for the kids.”

“We are happy here, which flows through everything else. Everything has been better since being here.”

“Being warmer made us happier. We were on edge before, and cold. It was a nightmare. This has taken a weight off us.”

These words from four different families speak volumes about the non-financial benefits of living in warm dry healthy homes. I would classify the sentiment of these statements – especially the last two – as one of emotional resilience. In other words, knowing that their homes would be warmer and drier at lower running cost has taken stress and emotional pressure off these families and resulted in a flow-on effect of higher quality of life in many ways.

This is a dramatic contrast to a poem I ran across recently:

Sisyphus in Aotearoa

By Leonel Alvarado


All winter long

I push my oil heater

From room to room


Resilience – emotional and otherwise – will become increasingly important to individuals, families, neighbourhoods, cities and nations as ever more volatile weather patterns result in increasing physical and economic damage. Innovative communities worldwide are planning for resilience. Others choose not to.

Resilience can take many forms on many levels. One important form of resilience on a residential level is durability. Alongside energy efficiency, another way the long-term running costs are kept low at our Catlecliff villa has been by investing in durability. The first and most prominent example of this is the new Coloursteel Maxx roof installed in November 2011. This high quality roofing iron was more expensive than inferior versions, but will last longer in the sea spray zone. A more durable roof is cheaper in the long run because it delays the replacement by many years or potentially decades.

Another example of durability is doing painting right. What this means is: 1) good and proper surface preparation; 2) quality primer applied liberally; 3) quality paint applied in coats.

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For exterior timber cladding and timber trim this also means priming and painting the end grain as well as the backside. Yes, this takes longer but results in lower maintenance and longer life.

Along those same lines, we treated all of the floors against borer before covering them with other materials. Obviously, less “bora” activity will increase the longevity of the structure.

One final example for today’s column, but certainly not the last example of durability on the property, is protecting the end grain of timber fencing from water damage. Biological names for end grain are xylem and phloem. When alive, these “tubes” transport water and nutrients up and down a tree as essential functions. When dead, end grain allows water to penetrate deeper into the timber and accelerate deterioration. From this perspective, protecting the end grain from rainfall lengthens the life of a fence and postpones its replacement by many years of possibly decades.

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As a humorous alternative to the investments we have made in durability and resilience at our Castlecliff property I’ve included a photo of a fence at Wanganui’s Davis Central Library where a water sprinkler unit has been fixed directly adjacent to exposed end grain. There is a term for this in America: “Good enough for government work.” Screen shot 2014-10-17 at 7.53.42 PM

Peace, Estwing

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