What is Your Currency?

The late William F. Buckley Jr. once said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than the 2,000-member faculty at an esteemed university near Boston.

Buckley was making two points with this ironic remark. One was a knock on college professors for being too liberal ­— which was perfectly in character for the conservative thinker. The other, more pertinent point, was a statement of the confidence Buckley placed in the collective common sense and decency of ordinary people to do the right thing. “Average Americans are above average,” concluded Buckley. I could not agree more. This phenomenon of widespread good judgment — even wisdom — is particularly evident among the many remodelers whom I’ve come to know.

A conversation I recently had with Bill Asdal, CGR, of Asdal Builders, Chester, N.J. is a good case in point. He’s involved in conducting an energy makeover of a home in Pittsburgh, the Home Revival project. (See Home Revival Project Demonstrates Affordable Comfort) He is keenly interested in the macro-level potential of energy savings that can be realized as more of America’s 130 million homes become retrofitted with better insulation, windows, doors, house wrap, etc. Over the years, he’s worked with folks at the Department of Energy and the Building Performance Institute among others on a few of these demonstration projects. In the process, much is being learned about “affordable comfort,” but it will be years before these types of renovations become mainstream.

What does Asdal get for his efforts? He makes the point there are many types of currency — not just the cold, hard kind that we all know and love. Despite being intangible, says Asdal, there is a high value and exchange rate on the simple things like having a good reputation and doing good work.

“How much is it worth to me to know that this project is helping move the ball forward? A lot,” says Asdal. “I take great satisfaction in a job well done and in the pride of workmanship. Certainly my reputation as a remodeler and being known as a person who accomplishes what I set out to do has a high value in the marketplace. And at the end of the day, you can’t buy those things.”

Then I read the article that well-known trim carpenter Gary M. Katz supplied for his first column for this magazine (pg. 94) titled “Honor the Craft.” Katz discusses the real dollars that come back to those who take genuine pride in what they do. Indeed, there are many currencies exchanged in the remodeling market each day. Personal qualities of responsiveness, workmanship, trust and honesty hold increasing value with clients. Those attributes also enhance quality of life and self-esteem.

Shakespeare’s Henry V summed it up nicely: “If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.” I am certain that a high percentage of remodelers feel exactly the same way.