Building for the next generation

I am really enjoying the renovation of a one hundred year old building. As I uncover layers of material I come across the craftsmanship of the builders from a hundred years ago. This house has not had a such an in depth renovation since it was first built in 1908.

I connect to these builders. I look at what they made and think, “How can I continue it? How can I strengthen it again so that a hundred years from now somebody else can carry the torch?”

There is a long term sense of connection in this process. Life is not fleeting. I am part of a long tradition. This is a grounding and comforting process.

Many buildings today are built in a time vacuum without any connection to the past or present. They are not even built to last. They are built through the eye of cost and profit. Time has no part in the equation.

But when you build through the lens of time cost and profit takes second row. It is not how much does this cost. It is how long will this last. My time frame is another one hundred years.

This week I had a conversation with the my salvaged roof company. Dough from Reclaimed Roofs. He is a good guy and gets the concept. Our conversation was whether to use copper nails or galvanized steel nails. One would last fifty years and one would last a hundred and fifty.

Copper costs twice as much so it is a real deal. Why? Because it doesn’t last twice as much. It lasts three times as much. That is a huge savings. Not for me but for future generations. Just like the wonderful savings I was given by the builders in the 1900 who built a home that would last way past their demise, thus allowing others to live in the home “for free”.

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(The font of the house where we are fixing the slate)

This attitude is a holistic one going beyond our immediate narrow minded needs. It provides more wealth to the universe. It creates more abundance. It is better. In the short term it may look like it costs more. It may look like I am paying money so future generations can live off my expense.

But I am only passing on the favor that was given to me by past craftsmen. I have been given a huge savings in the form of a brownstone that is largely intact. I only have to upgrade the innards. The shell was built for me a hundred years ago.

To a conventional builder this talk may appear dreamy and ungrounded. But I am very clear that this is the most personally beneficial thing I could do. It will help my family and my community. In that sense I am still doing it for personal profit. The only difference is that my sense of self is not isolated. I feel connected to the past and future. Their gain is mine.

If you aren’t connected in that way then there is no way to understand this.

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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  1. martha - February 18, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    “We don\’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”

    I always thought this was a Navajo proverb, but the Internet is telling me it\’s Davie Brower? In any case, seems fitting.

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