Monday, April 26, 2010

City adds $1000 to cost of housing.

Background: Two meetings ago I questioned a proposal to adopt what the city calls “building standards.”  What that means is new mandates about how homes (and businesses) are to be built.  The stated goal is “energy efficiency.”  Absent from any of the documents was any estimate of how much these new rules would add to the cost of a home.

Well a few weeks later there was a “public hearing” on the matter.  Odd, because the measure had already been approved in the first reading.  The 2nd reading and passage and “public hearing” were at the same time.  In other words, it didn’t matter much what “the public” thought about the idea, the “hearing” was a mere formality. 

Well here were things take a strange turn.  After the public hearing, the “Building Guy” says he’s got some information for me.  For me?  Why yes.  And sure enough they actually attempted to find an answer to question I asked at the earlier meeting.

First, note that in the email I got a promotion to individual from my  previous rank of no one

So in response to the query, the chief guy from the state pulled a figure out of his ass of estimated from $590 to $1,095 in additional costs and further guessed calculated that over the lifetime of the house it could save as much as $5,157.  I asked how long this “life of the house” was.  No one knew.  But it wasn’t 20 years. (“No, longer.”)  Over the next hundred years?  “Hm, not sure if that long.”  So according to government figures you’ll enjoy these savings sometime between the next 20 to 100 years.

Seems like a lowball figure to me on the costs.  Maybe one of you in the building trades can say.  The estimate has absolutely no supporting calculations other than “what the guy at the state said.”  And the savings is based on an assumption that the wonder-house will use 15% less energy.

My guess is that the estimate doesn’t include compliance costs.  Those are the costs of following the code.  The code is in three large volumes and specifies everything from where to bang in nails to tables and graphs to figure out how much insulation you need.  Compliance costs are what it costs in your time to read and understand these books, and to modify your architectural plans, and everything else associated with actually following the code.  I wonder if the state’s estimate is simply the costs of the added insulation, the more efficient lighting fixtures, etc.  Which may be only a fraction of the total.

Image45I was about to move this issue off my radar screen when I noticed one other thing.  On the paper someone scribbled to figure the “percentage increase” in costs.  It has two math errors.  Where it says =3.52% that should be 0.352%.  It’s off by a factor of ten.  Sure easy enough mistake, I’ve made that one a few times.  But now we’re left wondering.  The initial estimate at the first meeting was given at 1 to 2 percent.  Just 1 percent is $1,677.  So who knows, are the percentages correct and the real figure is ten times more?  ($5,900 to $10,950 ? )  Probably not, but one never knows. 

By the way, if all they did was come up with three phonebook sized books on “how to build a house that uses 15 % less energy” why not just publish that and let builders build that if they wanted to?  What customer wouldn’t want a house that costs less to heat and cool?  So why is the government involved at all? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It’s a name only Spock’s mother could pronounce.  Now you know why the press calls it “that volcano in Iceland.”  

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ow! My gut!

I haven’t updated lately.  I’ll try to avoid going into a Manteca Bulletin-Ruby-shooting-oswald2esque tale of personal woe (How I was a fat kid, how I fell off my bicycle, how I can’t eat onions, how I got a bad haircut, how we used the hot tub at our honeymoon at Half Moon Bay, etc.)

At right is an artist’s conception of what I looked like at the emergency room Tuesday afternoon.  Oh, I’m not going to go into the excruciating pain, urinating blood, the vomiting, turning colors, etc.  But I guess I just did.

It all turned out well.  Jackie did a yeoman’s job as an ambulance driver.  I’ll be damned if I was going to pay those people a $1,000 for a glorified taxi ride.  And the people at San Joaquin County Hospital did a fantastic job.  Despite the fight taking place in the waiting room when I staggered in doing my impression of Oswald meets Ruby, they took me in right away really took good care of me.  I even got a CT scan.  The machine looked like it was the first one ever made.  But hey, it did the job.

Time to stop being appreciative for all that everyone did for me and get back to complaining.