By Amy Knight

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The House We Live In: A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona

Reader, it did not go well.

I had met with the final bidder right when I discovered him. I’d sent him the plans, and a few days later we sat down for a cup of coffee. He’d looked at them, and he gave me ballpark of what he thought the price would come out to be. It was in line with what I’d been targeting.

And then his bid came in. At nearly twice that, and more than twice as long as we’d been anticipating the build would take.

I’m regrouping. The building market is obviously a little crazy here right now—something Matthew has confirmed with research. It might be easier in a year or so.

There are surely more tweaks to be made, but I’m not optimistic that, without a major overhaul of some of the things we were so excited about (and the expense of redesign), it will make enough of a difference.

I’m tempted to ask how we got it so wrong, reader. But it wasn’t just us. It was every builder we talked to, who thought we’d accomplish this—even seeing the plans—for significantly less. It feels in some ways like an echo of last year’s large-scale demonstration of our national inability to predict things.

I don’t know what I’m going to do next. On the list of options: waiting a year or three and trying again. Abandoning the tight control my plans suppose and letting a builder build something approximate but more reasonable. Reworking the plans—essentially, going back a phase and a half in the design and going forward again with careful attention to what Tucson subcontractors are willing to do for what price. I’m not sure what I have the energy for these days. But I do know that it’s disappointing to have come this far only to hit a wall. I feel a little like I’ve gotten to mile eight or nine of a half-marathon only to be told that it’s actually a full marathon, and you don’t get anything—the t-shirt, the medal, the bragging rights, the sense of accomplishment—unless you go the whole distance.



Amy KnightAmy Knight is the fiction editor for Terrain.org. In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at [email protected] or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.

Photo of hill courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Amy Knight by Richard Whitmer.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.