Six years ago, my wife and I traveled with our kids to Italy, and as part of a broader vacation, spent a week in an apartment in Positano. By North American comfort standards, the home was austere. What it lacked creature comforts – tiny shower, lumpy beds, basic kitchen, it made up for with intangibles – fresh figs in the backyard, and a view of the Mediterranean in the front. It was, and remains, our favourite destination of all time, though we have yet to return. Giovanni the landlord was a gem. The apartment we rented, served as his family home in the winter. In the summer, he moves up the hill a kilometre to operate a small inn and restaurant with his siblings. Aside from the beauty and peacefulness of the surroundings, one thing will forever stick with me about the experience: the home has been in Giovannis family since it was built……600 years ago. Aside from the obvious constraints that rate of home turnover would put on my profession, there are larger takeaways from the experience.

Years ago family friends from Switzerland paid us a visit on summer vacation. As we were showing them around the house and trying to help them feel at home, I noticed the Swiss dad gently swinging a door – a standard series 800 door that college kids like to put their fists through at parties. He finished with a light tap, then looked at me: is this hollow? He wasnt meaning to insult me personally necessarily, but his genuine amazement spoke volumes. Yes it is. That is how we do it in Canada came my honest but insufficient answer. I had been to his home. It was clearly built to withstand world war 3. Mine on the other hand, made me nervous on a stormy night. His home will look the same in a century. I on the other hand am interviewing roofers at the ten year mark. Before I give in to the obvious low hanging fruit on the blame tree – the builder- perhaps some personal reflection on my habits as a consumer would be fair. Generally, when presented with the choice between bigger and nicer today, or quality that will last forever, immediate gratification wins the day. Simply put, we as consumers have a tendency to choose style over substance. Giovanni would be aghast.

Societal (and hopefully my personal) carbon footprint awareness has grown in recent years, but I think we – (and definitely me) – still have a long way to go. We often convince ourselves that we cannot afford quality that will last forever. What we dont always consider, is the true cost of poor quality.


Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann