By Amy Knight

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

For a while, I was taking a medication that made me really sleepy in the afternoons. It wasn’t about a big lunch or need of coffee; I just physiologically couldn’t function at a very high level for a few hours. I don’t have a job one can do while not functioning very well, so I had to go to my boss. I asked him if it would be all right if, on some days if I needed to, I went home in the afternoon, and then finished my work for the day in the evening. He said yes, of course; he wanted the work done right, and wanted me to feel okay doing it. He didn’t want the work, or the employee, to suffer because of what is essentially an arbitrary schedule.

This week, one of the contractors wrote to us, and said that he didn’t think he could get the bid done carefully and thoroughly within two weeks. It was a timeframe one of the other builders had suggested, but I agreed that it seemed aggressive. The email was heartfelt; he wanted to do a good job, and he wanted to give it the attention it needed, and to do that, he needed a little more time. He and his team had dubbed the project “Amy’s Urban Ark.” Two additional weeks, he thought, and they could have it put together, down to the penny. Another contractor said essentially the same thing. Matthew and I discussed it and I agreed that I’d much rather have accurate, thorough bids two weeks later than we’d originally thought than have sloppy ones, or fewer of them, on a date we’d picked more or less arbitrarily.

So we’ve set the deadline out to early May, and I feel good about it. In fact I think adding a little more time into the bidding process has the potential to make the whole project finished sooner. It’s like the way I spend an hour every Sunday looking at my plan for the week, figuring out what I might need on a particularly busy day, working out whether there are days that look promising for biking to work, or when I’ll need to drive. It might take up a little time, but then I don’t expend time and energy trying to figure out those details when I need them solved, stat.

Pretty much every stage of this process has taken a little longer than I’d initially thought it would, and I don’t especially expect that to change, even though a schedule is part of the bids we’ve solicited. And when I talk about how long I thought things would take, I also came in with an awareness that estimates are almost always short of the actual time needed, so I haven’t counted on them.

Do I wish construction was already underway? Yes, of course. But not at the cost of necessary planning, of details that will save headaches down the road. I’d rather be flexible with the schedule and make sure that everything is done correctly, and nobody loses his or her mind. Easier said than done, at times, but I have my boss as a good model of that kind of thinking. I will keep trying to watch and learn.



Amy KnightAmy Knight is the fiction editor for 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 watch courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Amy Knight by Richard Whitmer. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.