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  • Writer's pictureNexGenICF

Return on Investment-Cost (Profit) of ownership

What if a building could create a legacy, generational wealth, value and stability? Time, the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. This definition is from Google and comes from the ultimate “continued progress” of technology. Time cures all and it is set to run out on us all as humans, as well as the things we build with our hands and create with our minds. Legacies are left to question and ponder. Imagine creating or building something that has a longer life expectancy than what is available. Imagine building something that is passed down from century to century; from historic time to futuristic time.


I started my journey with sustainable building long before Google and long before social media chat rooms. To build with ICF, geothermal, and solar meant you paid more, much more. It meant that I, as a builder, needed to persuade and really sell or teach the idea. It meant that the end user saw the value and understood life cycle costs and return on investment (ROI). ROI is so important and so used in today’s world, but not to the fullest. Compound interest is our friend and our enemy, if in the hands of others. It also takes what we have (or don’t have) and grows at alarming rates. As an end-user the best part of sustained, generational wealth could be viewed as how we build. As a builder, I’m left asking questions to my clients in regards to whether or not it makes sense to pay more in the short term to make much more in the long term. Life cycle cost analysis and matrices have been set up to take time into account. They have been created to inform people of the value of cutting operating expenses; thus saving money, investing money and making more money.


Most builders are in business to make themselves money-as they should be. But, what if that same builder looked at ways to build to save you money deep into the future…well beyond the years of your usage and ownership. Let us all look at ways to take this same building and think in terms of generations, your grandchildren’s children type things. As builders, let us all look at your specific building as an investment and what it could do for you, your future, and your customer’s future and their ROI.


In my 15 year ICF career I have seen an influx of this and now look more into selling generational, low operating expenses builds as a way to improve ROI more than anything. All ICF people will talk about the obvious reasons of building with ICF such as energy efficient, environmentally good, safe, healthy, secure, available…But I’m here to talk about time and what this all looks like 20, 30, 50, even 100 years from now as the life expectancy of homes should be and can be extended.


As climate change will continue impacting human health, water supply, and air quality, storms will continue to devastate. Decades will come and go and before you know it, a home or development will have more problems than money to fix it. The size and scope of the project does not matter as costs, returns, and value propositions are all proportional. Customers have in the past questioned the increase to build with ICF. We need to transform their thinking process to how long until I get a return on my investment. In my first hand experience the answer to this question used to be 7 years-oddly enough, the average time someone will live in their home. In today’s world the payback time for initial costs should be 2-3 years-much less in many cases. Do not focus on upfront building costs. Focus on time, operating expenses and ROI. Focus on life expectancy for the building…not your own in this case.


Think of buildings as something better than Wall Street, think of this as a guaranteed winner because no matter what happens with costs, the fact that monthly savings occur is real. Now, take those monthly savings times 12 for the year savings. Invest that, and do it every year you live in the house. In addition you have a hidden return on investment for doing something you wanted to do anyway. Leave the wood structures for the naïve and those that don’t understand investments and simple economics.


The following chart starts to show the breakdown of this in real time with real projects. I have used a 10% initial upfront charge for ICF which is roughly what those “professionals” tell us. (In reality and with projects we are building the number is closer to 5%) I have used 50% deductions in operating costs including insurance, all utilities, and maintenance (Again, these are low numbers) and I have used an inflation rate of 2% even though 3.8% matches the average rate from 1960-2021 according to www.worlddata.info.









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