Friday, December 5, 2014

Are the materials of a house worth more separately than together?

About 30 seconds ago I had a realization that I feel like I need to get out of me. Perhaps I just need to write about it in order to fully process it, so thanks in advance for indulging me.

Everybody knows that building materials are expensive right now. They're so expensive that it's preventing people from starting new construction projects. This idea took on a different light today when talking with a couple members of the city council and the city manager.

One of their houses is worth probably 300,000 on the market, but if they were to rebuild it right now, with the current price of materials, it would cost them a million dollars.

I think what this means is that the raw materials a house is made of are worth more than the house put together. That means houses right now are the opposite of a value-add to the materials. This is just the opposite of the way we typically think of processed materials - the more processing, like with cheese, the more expensive it is. It adds value.

But this is just the opposite. The processing of the materials (in this case, building the house) has devalued the materials. How curious!

Of course, I'm not totally surprised, because in the an economy that's bumping up against its limits to growth, it makes sense that new raw resources would eventually out-price old, used resources.

It makes me wonder though, would it be economically viable to buy a house and then disassemble it and sell its parts at a profit? If the gap between the price of raw materials and processed materials widens, it certainly seems possible.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Becoming a Maker?

Last spring or so I went to the Generator Launch up in Burlington, a maker space as they say. There were hundreds of people all milling about a warehouse looking at neat gadgety things spaced out amongst food and cubicles. There were some really neat toys creations there, some of which I hope to replicate, but mostly I came away with a sense that I had to become a maker and that decision mattered twice as much because of my gender.

I don't recall a single female exhibitor. That bummed me out a little bit.

There were a couple of devices that had rattled around in my brain for years that had never manifested, and so I decided they needed to come out. I had to at least try to build these things. I knew there was some kind of blockage that prevented me from doing so, but I have yet to fully name that blockage, but I knew I had to get through it for all of the other young female makers of the world. For my physics classes. For myself.

So I started this summer cleaning out a space in my garage for tinkering. I have three projects I'm working on at once (of course) so that when I get stuck with one of them I have something else to keep my hands busy. But I'm finding that for so much of this I don't know what I don't know. I feel like an utter novice.

Here's the basic plan for one of the three projects: music from a headphone jack is modulated over voltage of a very bright flashlight. That light is picked up by a solar cell, which then transmits that voltage to some kind of speakers (probably with an amp).

Yesterday I made a little progress.  It was a tiny tiny amount or progress, but it was still exciting. I had an old phone handset that could be used as the speaker end of the project, so I had cut the end of the cord off. Inside there were four wires. I attached two of these to the leads of a 1/8" headphone jack plugged into my iPhone. And you know what? I could hear the music playing on my iPhone in the handset. :D What glee!

But the next step was unclear to me. I thieved this plan from the former physics teacher and he really just told me about it, so I don't have any written instructions or diagrams.

Perhaps this is why the maker space exists. What I really need is advice and alone in my garage answers are sometimes hard to come by. I know probably 100 electrical engineers, and all I would have to do is call one, but there's this block.

Short term solution - I'm just going to email the former physics teacher for some clarification.