Better Buildings, Better Business, Better Neighbors

Posted by Macie Melendez on December 06, 2011
Better Buildings, Better Business, Better Neighbors
Energy Center of Wisconsin's Building Clinic.

The Energy Center of Wisconsin has been putting on the Better Buildings: Better Business Conference in Wisconsin for nearly a decade. In 2012, they will be adding to their annual tradition in the neighboring state of Illinois.

“Energy efficiency is an emerging area of focus for the residential building community in Illinois,” says John Viner, LEED AP Homes Senior Project Manager—Educational Programs for the Energy Center of Wisconsin. “Consequently, there is a significant need for education on all aspects of high performance homes, including reduced energy use, occupant safety and comfort, money-saving measures, and issues of sustainability.” By bringing the Better Buildings Conference to Illinois, Wisconsin is both filling a major need and also showcasing some good, old-fashioned neighborly love.

We had a chance to speak to John further about the updated building codes as well as what the January conference has to offer.

Home Energy: Why is the Energy Center bringing the Better Buildings: Better Business Conference to Illinois now?

John Viner: As Illinois leapfrogs from the back of the pack to a leadership position nationally in energy efficiency, home builders, remodelers, and contractors will need to update their skills to keep up. Energy Center University is filling the gap by bringing the conference to Schaumburg, Illinois (outside Chicago). The conference, scheduled for January 31-February 2, 2012, will feature more than 70 nationally recognized speakers and 80 educational sessions and workshops. There are also significant business opportunities for those who get in early on the energy efficiency movement, because they will be ready to provide their customers with appropriate products, services, and technologies.

HE: What is the current energy code in Illinois and when will it change? Also, where can readers find specifics on the code?

JV: The energy code currently in Illinois is the 2009 IECC. In June, Illinois will be adopting 2012 IECC. These new codes set the bar high by calling for a 15% improvement in energy efficiency over the 2009 codes—requiring more building insulation, a tighter envelope, mandatory whole-house ventilation, tighter ducts, better windows, and more efficient lighting.

We will be hosting a free full-day pre-conference workshop, “2012 IECC Applications for Illinois” at the conference, or you can access a free webinar on our website to learn about these upcoming changes at

HE: Are there other energy efficiency initiatives affecting the state’s building and remodeling professionals in 2012 and beyond?

JV: Yes. Under legislation passed in 2007, electric utilities in Illinois must reduce overall electric usage by 2% of demand by 2015. These are among the most ambitious energy efficiency standards in the nation. Similarly, the state’s natural gas utilities are being challenged by law to meet new energy efficiency goals. Senate Bill 1918 requires Illinois natural gas utilities to meet up to 1.5% of annual demand through increased energy efficiency by 2019. 

In support of these ambitious goals, the State of Illinois is working with electric and natural gas utilities to offer a portfolio of energy efficiency programs to achieve targeted annual energy savings. Several of the state’s major utilities are co-sponsoring the conference, including Ameren, ComEd, Nicor Gas and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas. These utilities will have representatives on hand throughout the conference to explain the new rebate and incentive programs to attendees.

Often, consumers who are interested in participating in these programs will ask their builders, contractors or other suppliers for program details, so it is important for those working in the industry to be informed. The incentive programs should also create new business opportunities for residential builders and remodelers, as customers are motivated to make investments in energy efficiency improvements.

       HE: What makes the upcoming Illinois conference different from other events?

JV: It represents a collaborative effort by Energy Center University and various Illinois-based sponsors and partners, all of who wish to champion the growing energy efficiency movement in Illinois. Many of these sponsors and partners have representatives on an advisory group that has helped to shape the conference. The sponsors and partners include all the major electric and gas utilities in the state; the Illinois DCEO; various trade and environmental groups; and major firms working in residential construction and remodeling. (A complete list of sponsors and partners can be found at Together, these entities have set out to create an event that will not only educate, but also motivate those in the residential building industry in Illinois to embrace energy efficiency.

The sponsors, partners and host of this conference do not view energy efficiency as a passing market trend. Rather, they view it as a movement that will have a lasting impact on the residential building and remodeling industry in Illinois. The outcomes of this movement should include energy and cost savings, increased occupant comfort and health, and sustainability.

HE: What are some of the featured tracks and topics at the conference?

JV: Session tracks will address various aspects of high performance homes, such as indoor air quality, insulation and air sealing, HVAC, and weatherization. The conference will also incorporate workshop tracks on building science, architecture and design, and business development. A building clinic will offer live demonstrations and hands-on learning opportunities.

In addition, participants have the option to attend a full-day pre-conference workshop on January 31, which is included with their core conference registration rate. Topics there include "Deep Energy Retrofits" with Marc  Rosenbaum, PE, South Mountain Co. and "Building Performance Sales Strategies" with Joe Kuonen, CLEAResult. The complete conference program is available at


John Viner brings applied field experience to designing training curriculum for the Energy Center's professional education programs. His background as an HVAC contractor and his work conducting home performance assessments provide the practical foundation for the programs he designs.

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