TEDx Boulder: Buy a Home with Values

by Maggie Flickinger

It was a whirlwind week for me, speaking in front of 1300+ people (gulp!) at the Chautauqua Fieldhouse in Boulder for the inaugural TEDx Boulder event last Saturday, August 7th.  I had six-minutes to cover the topic “Conscious Growth: Land Development with Values.”  Using Barrett Studio’s project Twin Buttes as a case study, I discussed a synergistic model for land development founded on listening to nature and to the nature of people.  TED talks are often known for the takeaway, or challenge.  Having worked on this talk for weeks, imagine my delight two days prior to see a New York Times blog post on just my challenge: essentially, view a home through the lens of your values, rather than perceived “market value.”

Essentially, I posit that since we live in a capitalistic society, and homes enjoy a 100% market segment (virtually unheard of), we should take the reigns as empowered consumers and affect change in product availability.  It seems simplistic, but I firmly believe in the power of an annual consumer base of over 5 million people (# of existing & new home sales in US from US Census & National Association of Realtors) supporting a multi-trillion dollar industry.  As I noted at TEDx, housing will be the largest expense of your life…so live your values, make it count!

tedx boulder buy a home with values

Photos by Ryan Behner, Peggy Dyer; Video coming soon!

I do want to thank the tireless organizers of TEDx Boulder – especially Andrew Hyde & Arthur Nisnevich – for the opportunity to bring this salient topic to such a broad & engaged audience.  I’m also grateful to the other speakers and musical guests – thanks for an intriguing (Thad Roberts), informative (Andrew Currie, Shawn O’keefe), inspirational (Diane Israel) and beautiful (Grant Blakeman, Vienna Teng) night…and don’t forget the laughs (Peter McGraw, David Thomas)!

2 replies
  1. claudiaputnam
    claudiaputnam says:

    I saw and very much appreciated your talk at TEDxBoulder. But I had to wonder if, given the current real estate glut, it makes any kind of sense to build ANYTHING? Is that sustainable right now? I can’t seem to find it now, but there was a profile of a MacArthur award winner not long ago in the NYer–he had all these inventions for cool turbines and great solar panels and cool batters for electric cars. And what he realized was that it was just too hard on the planet to produce all these things. It was better to just hang a bunch of old curtains from the thrift store in terrible old leaky houses with bad aspects than to put in great, new energy-efficient windows. Etc. Because using up all those materials to make that stuff was just going to do the planet in. I thought that was interesting. Obviously, we’re going to have to build some new stuff, and when we really have to, we should build green. But we’re probably better off making the best of that cancerous stuff we already have, especially the high-density blgs–don’t most thinkers believe that higher-density living is the way to go, anyway, because it preserves the most land and allows for public transporation and reduces the need for driving? We can grow on rooftops and catch water etc? I think it would be wonderful to see minds like yours bringing green to the rooftops, designing viaducts for rainwater, finding ways to reuse old materials, etc. Just some thoughs I had while listening to you, hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    • Maggie Flickinger
      Maggie Flickinger says:

      Claudia, Thanks for your kind words and for taking time to continue the discussion! I actually cut a portion of my talk (6 minutes is pretty tough!) which echoed some of your sentiments. The Twin Buttes project took a parcel of land slated for new development and considered how to approach that situation in the most conscious manner. It certainly isn’t a panacea for our housing woes….such a complex issue! As you mention, urban infill and (low-tech) energy retrofits are a solution for much of the nation, and high density living may be an even better solution for some areas globally. Embodied energy certainly comes into play in any consideration. What we’ve run into in Colorado is that the mindset of “open range” is still relatively pervasive, especially amongst those moving here. The expansive feel of our social & business culture seems to beg a match in the physical expression of home…most people don’t move to Colorado to live in the “big city.” (we just like to go there in the evening to get our culture fix! 🙂 ) So how can we confront that reality or expectation in a way that inspires a shift? By opening the minds of those consumers to the benefits of sustainable design. With my discussion, I was hoping to introduce sustainable concepts in a manner familiar to more business-minded consumers – familiarity breeds comfort! It remains to be seen if this will be enough, but I think that even incremental shifts in the consciousness of a consumer group this big could be extraordinarily powerful (making a small wave in a big pond still causes a ripple!). Of course, simultaneous “fringe” movements making sharper waves in the smaller pond of already conscious consumers are always welcome too (love your mention of viaducts)! Sweeping small changes and targeted big changes will both be needed for us to truly move toward a sustainable future.


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