The Remodeling Conundrum…. (Part One)

The Remodeling Conundrum…. (Part One)

I have a day job as an Architect. Over the past two years, I have been asked to work with a number of not for profits who want to receive REOs from banks and from municipalities. The intent is to fix them up, provide local job training, and resell them at affordable rates to help families in need. However, I believe that it is a fool’s errand. The reason is cost.

A home might be free, but sometimes the cost of compliance to the current building code make it infeasible to remodel.

I am a strong believer of fixing up homes in stead of bulldozing them, however, the well meaning people at both the EPA and State of Illinois have made demolition the only practical way to remodel a vintage home.

For those who don’t know, any home built prior to 1978 may have lead paint. Many of us who have purchased a home had to sign a lead paint disclosure. It was a simple form, no further action was necessary, it took just a second to sign.

All of that has changed.

Last year, the EPA has began enforcing the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Program – aka The EPA’s Lead Paint Rule.

The EPA’s Lead Paint Rule. :

Common renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust and chips which can be harmful to adults and children. But with careful work practices and thorough clean-up, renovations can be done safely. EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) lowers the risk of lead contamination from home renovation activities. It requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 be certified by EPA and use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices.

The upshot, like the asbestos abatement push begun in the 1990s, there are programs and techniques and training that will keep you in compliance, but it comes at a steep cost. Depending on the type of project and remediation, compliance on a vintage 1,800 square foot home could run from a few hundred dollars to well over $80,000. (

The penalty for  not being an EPA-approved remodeler or following lead-safe work practices is $37,500 PER DAY! So you could roll the dice and not follow the Rule. The EPA thought about that too. If you go to their website ( at the bottom right hand corner of the page is a whistle blower link.

Bottom line: no one should be remodeling a home unless you have taken the EPA course and provide supervision while work is being preformed. The risk is too great.

But wait, there’s more! –

As part of getting Stimulus Package dollars in 2009, the State of Illinois adopted the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), produced by the ICC.  In January, Illinois updated the code and began enforcing the 2012 version of the IECC. Some of the measures in the IECC 2012 make the EPA Lead Paint Rule seem tame.

Come back next week to find out why.


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The status quo…

One of my favorite LinkedIn Groups is Downtown Revitalization. Today there was a post on: Why we don’t get economic development: we don’t really want it. (

Here was my response:
The most compelling economic development book I read last year was Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City by Brad Feld. It changed the way I thought about economic development.

His idea, called the Boulder Thesis, describes an entrepreneur led grass roots effort to community development in such a way that engages the business community and grows the resource pie.

It is a complete disruptive strategy – and it works.

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Alone we can do…

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.
~Helen Keller

I came across this quote while helping my daughter prepare for a speech at school. It really struck home to me that creating a big tent with room for all is the best way to gain traction. Welcome.

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April 10, 2013 · 1:54 am