At first I was mildly interested and spent a couple weeks researching home performance contracting for a Benchmark column in Remodeling Magazine.
Then I became fascinated and read 3 dense issues of Home Energy magazine and googled ‘super insulated houses’.
Now I’m hooked! I had lunch with a 4 advocates of HPC (home performance contracting) yesterday and one mentioned a house “heated with candles”.
The visual of a small compact house capable of being heated by candles was so compelling and so strangely beautiful to me that this small mental picture became of great scientific and social interest to me.
If the world of remodeling does not return to what many call the “glory days” of lavish jobs, expensive finishes and high end clients, what then?
One answer might be found in home performance, “a whole-house approach to energy efficiency, using diagnostic testing to determine problems and delivering solutions to those problems to the homeowner.” Home Energy Magazine, HPC A Business Development Guide, September 2006, pg. 2
Although this work doesn’t have the potential sex appeal of a high end kitchen, for example, it serves a much bigger need for more of the population. Steve Andrews, co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, said “We are in the beginning stages of the transition from a cheap, abundant energy economy to one in which energy conservation will be increasingly important.”
One of 4 advocates at lunch yesterday, Doug Kennedy of Pathway D/C
(http://pathwaydc.com/greenbuilding/index.html) spoke convincingly of the potential benefits to current remodeling contractors of adding HPC as an adjunct to their current business model. He cited the following primary benefits:
- Opens new doors for remodelers when others are closing;
- Provides free advertising and marketing through national focus on home performance;
- Utilizes government incentives, both federal and state;
- Allows for useful diversification
- Develops an ‘expert’ brand on the company;
- Produces higher margins on smaller jobs;
- Allows for more time with the client, thereby developing increased rapport and greater probability of closing the sale.
- Is ‘the right thing to do’!
The risks though, are huge as well, he said, including:
- Finding competent trade partners and ensuring quality control;
- Smaller job size requires better internal systems;
- Lack of clear national or regional standards allows for inconsistencies in training and delivery.
Before I buy candles, I’m going to look first at insulation, caulk and airflow.