The home market is booming. Today’s economy affords us a new opportunity to reevaluate our living environments. In our desert, homes are being built almost faster than we can count—but basically they are all the same. I will certainly acknowledge that any shift from the norm can be difficult—even if it elevates and enhances one’s lifestyle, but why is change so difficult?

To quote John Naisbitt, author of Global Paradox and Megatrends:
“Shifting your thinking from old to new, is perhaps the biggest challenge of the new era. When most people hear about a new technology, they ask, ‘What can this technology do?’ They tend to think of it in one-dimensional terms, like the fixed, single-purpose machines of yesterday. Yet the new technologies are flexible; programmable tools that require us to be creative and proactive. Increasingly, the right questions to ask are, ‘What do I want this technology to do?’ or ’What do I need it to do?’ ”

In exploring options for building our new home I was reminded of the years I spent as a news reporter for Dodge Reports, a subsidiary of McGraw Hill Publications. I attended many bid openings for general contractors and sub-contractors. My job as a reporter was to connect with architects, contractors and owners to gain current information on building projects, both planned and under construction, and follow them to completion. The bid opening process was always interesting and sometimes highly dramatic—filled with enough action material for a feature film by Universal Studios, Warner Bros., or MGM.

In most cases, the lowest bidder got the job. Done, over, finished. In other cases, just getting enough contractors to bid was a challenge. This intrigued me, and as I soon discovered, it was often the innovative design that caused many contractors to refuse to bid on a project. Why? Simply because the elements involved were not standard. If they did bid, the price would be inflated to reflect the unknowns—and understandably so.

In a world which needs innovation and creativity—in a world where we challenge our youth to think critically, innovation, creativity and critical thinking are more often than not, discouraged. Innovation and earth-friendly or smart construction is suppressed in almost every aspect of today’s building process from escalated bidding costs to lower appraisal values, and we know that lenders for construction loans depend heavily on the appraised value. Many building methods and materials purport to be the wave of the future, but in reality only provide a poorly-made bandage to the environmental wound that is deepening all too rapidly. Albeit intentions may be good, the results often fall far short of a non-intrusive, “green” resolution.

Innovative eco architecture remains immersed in the rhetoric of idealism. Even relatively prosperous people who desire creative design alternatives to the norm of slab and stick construction will yield unless the home-builder mentality—all of it focused on the lowest common denominator of design—can be educated to accommodate something more efficient, earth-friendly, and yes—interesting. Modular housing might be one answer. Another would be the publication of plans that are actually inviting to contractors and that specify standard materials to blend with the equation of eco-design, quality, quantity and cost. The premise being that the more innovative, eco-architectural buildings there are, the easier they will be to bid, build, buy, sell, and resell.

Technology will continue to forge ahead with novel ideas, but I would like to think that perhaps, instead of buying into the normalcy of today’s lack of daring design and medieval construction methods, we might be offered a more intelligent option. One that would be not only compatible with affordability and lifestyle, but one that would distinguish itself as a reliable alternative and a smart choice for the future of our population and our planet.

After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all avail ourselves with an inspired design of a Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gage Davis, or a Kendrick Bangs Kellogg?