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Inexpensive materials can make any project look "cheap." Quality materials and finishes, on the other hand, contribute to the longevity of a project and to its ability to appreciate - not depreciate - in value. They also make a project easier to maintain, potentially reducing operating costs.

"Building in" energy and environmental efficiency - through better windows, insulation and equipment - reduces operating costs over the life of the building.

While the Design Advisor recommends doing everything possible to include high quality materials and finishes, it also recognizes that affordable housing developments usually face severe cost constraints. Not every product or system can be top of the line. In these circumstances, consider favoring exterior materials and finishes over interior ones when making tradeoffs. Likewise, consider favoring products and systems which are permanent and hard to replace over those that the occupant can replace on his or her own. (See 20 Steps to Design Quality, especially Step 15 and Step 16 for additional information.)