Creating Building Solutions

As our process, and our software, improved, we became better organized and found it easier to get the work done while still taking the time to find more jobs.

September 07, 2008
September/October 2008
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Finding Government and Utility Support

In spreading the word, home performance contracting faces another great challenge. The success of our industry depends heavily on the energy policies of the federal and state government, and of the public utility companies. If we want them to support our cause, we must reassure them by presenting them with the measured benefits of our work. And unlike the PV solar industry, for example, where benchmarking installations is as simple as comparing cost to watts, the home performance industry must deal with numerous variables—the scope of the project, the condition of the house before the project, weather patterns, the client’s lifestyle, and so on. For this reason, home performance contractors need to collect more data—years of utility data from before and after each installation—in order to impress those in state and federal government and utility leaders who can support us through tax breaks, tax credits, marketing, and so on.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to expect every home performance contractor, who must meet all the various demands of their day-to-day business, to take time to collect and report data, when there is no immediate reward.  And most contractors are reluctant to keep returning to customers to get data for a job that was long since completed. For this reason, we believe that there should be solutions, preferably incorporating software, that make the process of collecting these data seamless and painless for the contractor. Ideally, the software that contractors use to create reports would have the ability to collect the necessary information and automatically report it to some central source. This is easier said then done, however, since it would also require utility companies to allow customer utility data to be collected electronically—something that they have been reluctant to do because customers argue that it would violate their privacy. We believe that this hurdle could be overcome, by establishing a protocol allowing homeowners to give third parties access to their data for a specified window of time. Organizations such as one we belong to, the California Building Performance Contractors (CBPCA), are already working on improving the process of performance data collection, and with the help of other organizations and contractors, we’ll come up with a solution.

Despite these challenges, we see great things ahead for our company and the home performance industry in general. As energy bills continue to increase, and homeowners becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their energy usage, there will be more and more demand for our services. We look forward to meeting this demand in new and innovative ways—and in the process, to making homes healthier, more comfortable, and more energy efficient.

Neil Buckley is a founding partner at Building Solutions, in Oakland, California.

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