Recently a colleague of mine lost a commercial bid to perform a rather large infrared study of building envelopes for a multiple building hotel complex. His proposed fee for the task and reporting was in line, if not a tad low of typical industry fees for this type work. The building managers and maintenance department had realized a concern and correctly surmised they should call an expert to help them evaluate the concerns. An expert’s experience, knowledge, skills, and proper equipment would indeed help them to properly evaluate the buildings and determine a course of action to correct the concerns. Once they received this expert’s proposal and fee, the owners began to question cost. They began to look strictly at equipment and labor costs while ignoring altogether the experience, knowledge, and skill set so vitally important to the success of such a project. Through their re-evaluation, the management and maintenance team erred that it would be cheaper for them to invest in an infrared camera and perform the study themselves. Seriously… how difficult could the procedure be? Simply point the imager and look at all the pretty colors right? And the costs of cameras have exponentially dropped from just a few years ago. Why there are some imagers on the market now for under $1500.00. The equipment I use cost over ten times that just four years ago. High end equipment five and ten years ago would have cost forty times that and often more. But the equipment and technology is really neither the important aspect nor the most expensive component. It is the other factors that become important and expensive, and which are often overlooked when relying on price alone. Experience, education, honing skills, research and knowledge all are expensive lifetime endeavors for which are often undervalued by those who stand to benefit from them.
I am reminded of a story regarding Pablo Picasso. The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a café when a waitress approached and asked him to draw a quick sketch on a napkin for her. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin – but not before asking the waitress for a significant amount of money in exchange. The waitress was shocked asking “How can you ask so much? It only took you a few seconds to draw this!” Picasso calmly replied “No, you are mistaken. It took me a lifetime of work.”
A similar story goes something like this: A client walks into an attorney’s office and asks a difficult legal question. The attorney turns around to his massive bookshelf and pulls a rather large book from it. He begins thumbing through the pages and finds what he’s looking for. He turns and reads the answer to the client, then charges the client $800. The client becomes upset and angrily asks “Why are you charging me $800 when all you did was turn around and look up the answer?” The attorney replies “I spent thousands upon thousands of dollars and years upon years in education so that I know where to look, and so that I could understand what I was reading when I found it.”
A third story describes a factory where an important machine has malfunctioned. Knowing they can’t afford downtime attempting to trace the problem on their own, the factory calls in a retired worker who helped install the machine originally and spent most of his years working on it. The worker comes in, walks up to the machine, looks it over briefly, pulls out a piece of chalk and draws a circle around a screw that needs tightening. He then hands the factory a bill for $5000. The factory is upset claiming all he did was draw a circle around a screw with chalk. The retired worker then writes them a new bill: “Drawing circle around screw – $1.00 —– Knowing where to draw it – $4999.”
True or not, these stories illustrate the misconception that experience, knowledge, and skills are of little importance and therefor have little if any value. Anyone can buy a pen and draw on a napkin. Most can open a law book and read the words. Everyone can draw a circle with a piece of chalk. And yes, almost anyone can operate an infrared thermal imaging camera. The equipment and labor are indeed the inexpensive component of a project. Having the knowledge and experience to use them successfully is an entirely different story…
My colleague and I firmly believe that he will receive a call again from his potential clients (so long as their pride doesn’t interfere); asking for his expertise to help them with what they thought should be an easy and inexpensive study. The above thermal image of a building is neat and rather unimposing, but in the image multiple concerns are present. The thermal seals in the windows are in various stages of failure which are currently only detectable with infrared thermal imaging equipment. No outward visible signs are present such as typical condensation between the glass panes (known as lites). These concerns can potentially lead to thousands of dollars in necessary repairs. These repairs will save even more money in reduced energy costs, productivity levels of the occupants, and aesthetics of the building itself. Without the proper skill set and knowledge, these defects would remain undiscovered for potentially many years. The building owners are now in negotiations with the window manufacturer for warranty repairs. The owners have been handed a multi-thousand dollar benefit in exchange for a paltry fee which paid for my provided knowledge, skills, experience, research, and yes… labor and equipment.
Are you concerned about the perceived cost or end results? Good, quick, cheap are your choices, but you can only pick two!