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March/April 2011 Editorial: The Making of an Industry at ACI

Posted by Alan Meier on March 06, 2011
March/April 2011 Editorial: The Making of an Industry at ACI

Sometimes it’s only possible to recognize progress by turning around and seeing how far you’ve traveled since the journey began. That’s certainly the case for the energy-conservation industry. Gradually an industry devoted to improving home performance is taking shape. The number of technologies, techniques, and tools dedicated to reducing energy use, improving comfort, and fixing building defects continues to grow.

Nowhere is this sense of progress more apparent than when one visits an ACI conference. The most obvious change is growth in the number of participants. To be sure, the crowds are made bigger this year by Recovery Act funding, but there appears to be an underlying foundation of long-term professionalism that will transcend the Recovery Act and capitalize on new waves of energy-efficient, sustainable, green—whatever you want to call it—technologies that simply make sense. There are the mainstream activities dealing with the nuts and bolts of weatherization. It’s fascinating to see the conservation measures—insulation, air tightening, weather-stripping—gradually acquire the trappings of a trade: standards committees, certification bodies, test procedures. Boring, but absolutely necessary to advance the industry.

For me, the excitement is at the fringes, where the creative are exploring new approaches to saving energy, dealing with defects, or measuring stuff. Some of it is impractical, uneconomical, or even foolhardy, but it’s getting hashed out. With luck, good ideas will continue to emerge. In short, ACI is more than a conference, because ACI is training, certification, information exchange, technology introduction, trade show, and job fair. Oh—and renewing friendships.

ACI and Home Energy magazine grew up together. ACI’s birth name—Affordable Comfort—was quaint but wonderfully descriptive of its goals and aspirations. (You can ask Linda Wigington how she came up with the name.) Home Energy’s birth name was the prosaic Energy Auditor & Retrofitter. It too neatly captured the magazine’s intended audience and business. (I’ll take the blame for that.) Trouble was, in 1986 the public didn’t know what an energy auditor or a retrofitter was. (Try selling subscriptions with that handicap…)

There has also been a symbiotic relationship between ACI and Home Energy spanning more than two decades. Many, many of our articles can be traced to a presentation or conversation at ACI. You may have read it first in Home Energy, but you would have heard it even earlier at ACI. We send all of our novice editors to ACI, first for training and then for hot stories.

One reason ACI conferences are so passionate is that participants are actually changing the world, one job at a time. And they know it. You won’t find that attitude anywhere else.

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