Declaring the mission of the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) as “changing the world,” EEBA President Gene Myers reminded attendees at the group’s annual High Performance Home Summit in San Diego of their true impact. "We're all environmentalists," he said, "but we express this by creating the environment in which our customers live. It's our duty to make sure they thrive and prosper."
Myers is owner and CEO of Thrive Home Builders in Denver. The company has won numerous awards for its high-performance homes, a track record he credits to his involvement with EEBA.
His remarks gave voice to a common belief among the 300 plus builders, architects, raters and other professionals in attendance—that high-performance, green building represents the industry's future, and that it will play an important role in solving the most difficult issues builders face, from rising insurance costs to a shrinking labor pool.
The annual event teaches professionals how to design, build and sell high performance homes. This year it included 32 educational workshops in four tracks: Sales and Marketing; Building Science; Energy Codes and Policy; and Resiliency, Durability, and Quality.
Topics ranged from advanced air sealing to delivering clean air and water, to resiliency in the face of natural disasters, to creating a Quality Assurance program that pays for itself. EEBA also offered its Houses That Work fundamentals of building science course and, for the first time, a Site Supervisor Designation for high-performance homebuilders.
The growing complexity of today's homes makes education like this crucial. As one instructor put it: "when you advertise yourself as a high-performance builder your clients have high expectations for everything from comfort to craftsmanship."
One of the most valuable benefits offered by Summit attendance is the ability to learn from pros with a track record of meeting those expectations. "Nowhere else will you find a collective group of individuals as dedicated to leading the drive and changing the culture of home building," said Jim Ingman, Customer Care Manager and Quality Assurance Lead at Tim O'Brien Homes in Milwaukee.
One theme that came up throughout the three-day event concerned what many see as the biggest challenges facing today's builders—the difficulty of finding young talent.
EEBA has begun addressing this with a new program called “Bring a Student to EEBA” that covers travel expenses to the event for a group of college students. The scholarship fund raised a total of $15,500 this year, thanks to generous contributions from Addison Homes, AeroBarrier, DuPont Tyvek, EnergyLogic, Imery Group, Mandalay Homes, Revive Properties & Philgreen Construction, Thrive Home Builders, and TopBuild/Environments for Living. EEBA expects to continue the program in 2019.
"I heard uniformly great comments on our inclusion of students," said Myers. "Everyone saw it as a positive move EEBA was making to attract the next generation."
In fact, many attendees expressed the belief that high-performance green building offers the three biggest elements younger workers consistently say makes a job attractive: a commitment to sustainability, use of the latest technology, and the opportunity to make a positive impact. (The average of Myers' 62 employees is just 40, with half of them in their 20's and 30's.)
Ron Jones, president of Green Builder Media, echoed Myers by telling the gathering that the most effective way to attract young talent is to focus on how green, high-performance builders impact people's lives. “What we do is extremely important, and not just for the economy," he noted. "Think about the importance of shelter and the security it gives to a person, a family or a community. We have one of the richest and most wonderful jobs in the world.”
Jones also noted that builders who want to keep that talent need to make a commitment to investing in their future. "We have to pony up," he said. "We have to pay a reasonable wage, compensate people in a fair way, and provide decent benefits. We have to instill in them the pride in workmanship and the pride of being in this industry, and give them a realistic opportunity to advance.”
Event sponsors included AeroBarrier, Aprilaire, Cardinal Glass Industries, CertainTeed Gypsum, Dorken Systems, DuPont Tyvek, Goodman, James Hardie, LP Building Products, Mitsubishi Cooling & Heating, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Owens Corning, Panasonic, Sonnen, the Structural Panel Association, Uponor, and TopBuild/Environments for Living and NAHB.
Next Year's EEBA Summit will be from October 1-3 at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Denver, Colo. Registration will open in January. Don't miss it.