Sunday, March 25, 2012

Half a World Away

Rainwater Harvesting Circa 1000ad - Uqair

One of my readers sent me a note with a gentle reminder to get back to work on this blog.   Sometimes it takes a little motivation in this world of constant multi-tasking to get me moving.  That note was sufficient.  It told me that somebody actually cares.

This has been a crazy year.   I have been home only one day out of every three.   That trend will continue into May.   Frankly, I am getting pretty exhausted.   I miss my wife a lot.  But it is an essential part of my job…and I remind myself that I need to be thankful that I am over-employed in this struggling economy.
Some believe that business travel is rich and rewarding.  Sometimes it actually is.   The best part is the ability to meet new people in far off places.   There are differences evident in the varied localities I visit.   But most of the time the commonalities outweigh the differences.

In January, I spent the better part of the month in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.  The Kingdom adopts the same building code that we use in the United States.   Their national oil company employs me periodically to teach code seminars to their staff.   That was the point of my last visit.   It was a rewarding one.
The NICEST classroom I have ever been assigned!
 As to differences, Saudi Arabia is about as different a place that there is.   The landscape and architecture appears somewhat harsh compared to that in the US.  Despite the visual and cultural differences, I find the people to be very genuine with hopes and concerns no different than our own.
 Contrary to how the Middle East is portrayed in western media, the Saudi people are friendly, peaceful, and very dedicated to their families.   We westerners can take a lesson from that.   In the pursuit of our daily attainments, we often forget what is really important.
February provided a milestone birthday for me.  That birthday was one of “those” that usually promulgates wild desires for youthful misadventures, marginally countered with mature reassessments of life ambitions and goals.   I am directing my efforts towards the latter as the former already has a pretty firm hold.  One of those reassessments is determining how I can best provide for my wife and I in our retirement years.  
Unfortunately, savings are a big deciding factor in our eventual success.   I am not keen on spending the rest of my life sitting in an airline seat (coincidentally where I write this now) going from one job to another.   However, one must work doing something in order to save for a time when work is no longer an option.
According to a retirement article I recently read, one ultimately needs to accrue 20-25 times the annual income they desire in retirement.   If one has high expectations of their annual spending in retirement, one will need to work a lot.   If spending can be moderated, a little less money in the "nest egg" is required.   How much is too little or too much is a big question.
Then there is the problem of determining the undeterminable.   What will inflation, world economy, natural and manmade disaster do to affect the annual purchasing power of that fund?   What will the costs of health care be in 20-30 years?   What will our living conditions be and what can I do to ensure they are stable?
Each of these must be assessed and addressed to ensure some reasonable degree of success.   One can diversify ones investments sufficiently to accomodate economic variabilities and hope for the best.   Health care will always be an issue, especially since our dysfunctional government insists on meddling with it.    These two factors will remain certain uncertainties.
The “living condition” variable is the only one that I feel I have any control over.   To ensure the security of my family, I am moving toward maximized self-sufficiency.   If you have read my old posts, you know that we recently bought land in Western Colorado.   The land is tilled and fertile with good southern exposure.  We are provided with copious irrigation water from historically reliable drainage with good senior rights.  We have a potable water tap and a good natural spring in case the former goes dry for some reason.    
We will be building our future house to maximize energy efficiency and work to minimize reliance on unpredictable utilities.   The costs of energy will undoubtedly increase in time.   Gasoline is pushing $4.00 a gallon at the moment.   Home energy costs will follow the trend.   Our new house will take maximum advantage of both passive and active solar technologies.   This is the only means I know to mitigate energy based outflow of our limited nest egg.
This brings me full circle back to Saudi Arabia.   The Kingdom sits on a vast pool of oil that has yet to yeild to production demand.  The current cost of 91 octane gasoline in the Kingdom is 45 cents per gallon.   As incredible as this sounds, the Saudi’s realize that low energy costs are not permanently sustainable.  They also see the need to maximize efficiency and minimize consumption.   They are actively promoting research on solar energy and alternative fuels.   They are starting to seriously look at building energy efficiencies.   They have a strong green building program that appears to be growing.    At the very least, in this respect we are kindred.
It has been a pleasure to travel half way around the world to confirm my assumptions.  I have developed a high level of respect for the Saudi people and their efforts to improve their portion of the world.   I hope that the expertise I shared with them will benefit the Kingdom and their future generations.    I look forward to furthering that relationship in the years ahead.   No matter where I travel, I am pleased to find people looking to better building methods to help provide for better lives.   That makes my toil worthwhile.
New Multifamily Mixed Use Project


PipeMan said...

Great to see you posting again. I love reading your posts. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

For retirement thinking outside the box you might be interested in

and the forums


Ant said...

I love that architecture of Uqair. It has a naturalist design to it from looking at the picture. Much more than that Multifamily Mixed-Use Project. But I am only seeing what is in the pictures shown. People still need to learn how to build our environment completely and not just focus on materials and energy.
Sounds exciting to see all these places that are so distant from America's environment and beliefs!
Love the blog and I am happy the building codes are seeing the benefit of using natural materials.