All-American-made homes would provide economic boost, but are they feasible?

|  March 18, 2013 |

Is it possible to build a home from 100 percent American materials?

That’s the question Anders and Jake Lewendal decided to try and find out with a recent build, as chronicled by Builder. Anders Lewendal Construction Inc., a custom builder based out of Bozeman, Montana, set out to build a home made completely of materials manufactured and/or sourced from the United States.

Not only that, but they wanted to build the home at the same cost as houses made from foreign-sourced materials—that was also sustainable. In 2011 the company completed a home that cost only 1 percent more than typical builds. The only components they were unable to fit to the American-made criteria were the microwave and doorbell.

Accomplishing their goal inspired the Lewendals to start The All-American Home initiative to convince other builders to buy more American materials as well. They don’t suggest everyone try to build 100 percent American (serveral materials can be hard to come by under the criteria as well discuss later). The Lewendals simply suggest builders buy 5 percent more American materials than they usually do.

They asked Boston Consulting Group to measure the effect this would have on the U.S. The group found that if builders dedicated 5 percent of their spending to American materials, 220,000 jobs would be created over the course of one year alone.

So how hard is it to build a house from 100 percent American materials? The Lewendals said getting to 90 or 95 percent was pretty easy. The last 5 percent is very tricky though. “Apparently we don’t make nuts and bolts (in America) anymore,” Jake Lewendal told Builder. In the end, they were forced to turn to Caterpillar, who makes its own nuts and bolts for its heavy equipment, to make bolts that connect the concrete foundation to the walls of the house.

Other American-made materials that proved a challenge to track down: nails, electrical sockets, switches, drywall screws, light bulbs, lighting and plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinets, countertops and certain flooring.

The company has posted a great list of American materials on The All-American Home website at theallamericanhome.com.

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