A Montana builder has set out to prove that using American-made building materials is not only better for the economy but also for homeowners’ wallets by building a home made entirely of domestically made materials, including American-made lighting.
Anders Lewendal, a Montana builder with a background in economics, says if every builder used just five percent American-made materials, it would create a couple hundred thousand jobs. He’s taking that philosophy one step further with his current project, by building the first documented All-American Home in Bozeman, MT.
“This is not an example of what to do every time, but it’s to make a point that building with American products is easy to do,” Lewendal says. “It’s just an extension of buying local, and it does have a huge impact on the economy. We could add millions of jobs and we’ll have much better control of the quality, environmental impact and social issues.”
Lewendal says the total cost of the home is only half a percent higher than other homes, and that most materials, including appliances, can be found in the U.S. for a comparable price. The one exception he notes is American-made lighting, which typically costs more than foreign-made equivalents.
“We haven’t been able to find very competitive pricing in lighting,” Lewendal says. “Most of the lighting we’ve come across is very high end.”
However, Lewendal says if lighting companies and showrooms start promoting their American-made products, prices could go down.
“If lighting companies or showrooms used American-made tags or stickers, I think people will ask what else they have, and the more people ask, the more companies will provide,” Lewendal says. “Then, if more people buy them, it will help the companies be more competitive.”
In order to find cost-effective American-made lighting, Lewendal enlisted the help of showroom owner Nancy Gabel of Distinctive Lighting in Bozeman, MT.
“It took some research hours, and I knew some of the manufacturers already,” Gabel says. “I honestly was pleasantly surprised that there were more manufacturers than I expected.”
Gabel says she did run into some issues with cost, but was able to work around them.
“The cost is more dramatic, but if we could get more manufacturing back here, the cost could come down a little bit and it would be more affordable,” Gabel says.
For the All-American Home, Lewendal ended up using Meyda Custom Lighting fixtures for the dining room, stairway and bathrooms, Juno Lighting Group for the mono-point fixtures, International Lighting for the ceiling and crawl space lights, Hi-Lite Manufacturing for the exterior lights and Sylvania for the bulbs.
Gabel says her showroom sells a lot of American products, including Hubbardton Forge, and that she sees a lot of interested customers.
“We do have people that come in and want all products that have been made in America, and when they see the price, they just can’t make it work, but they’ll try to do some,” Gabel says. “We’ve also had customers that want a lamp that’s made in the U.S.A., and if they can’t find one, they’ll go somewhere else.”
This customer interest in American-made products has also increased over the past few years, she says.
“This is something we’ve always carried, but the number of requests and purchases has increased during the recession. Sometimes we’ll explain the difference in cost, and the customer will say yes, that’s worth it,” Gabel says. “What I hear people say the most is that we need to get our people back to work and help our country. I don’t think that’s a negative connotation toward other countries – I think it’s more concern for our country and the situation we’re in.”
The All-American Home project, which started last spring and will wrap up before the end of the year, has gotten a lot of attention over the past several months.
“Between ABC News, which featured the All-American Home three nights in a row, and our website, over 30 million people have heard about our project, so someone is paying attention,” Lewendal says. “Americans are starting to show more interest, and I think demand will go up.”
For more information on the All-American Home, including a list of all the materials used, visit www.theallamericanhome.com.