JLC Live Preview:

The March 23-26 JLC LIVE Residential Construction Show at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, is fast approaching (early-bird registration discounts end Thursday, February 23). The full PDF-version of the conference educational program schedule is now posted at the show website. JLC LIVE offers one of the best technical education programs in the industry. In the field of home energy, for example, contractors could learn a lot from the 3:30 PM session on Friday, March 25, Top Ten House Strategies for Making Existing Homes Perform, presented by Mike Rogers, senior Vice President with GreenHomes America. This week, Rogers shared this outline of his session with Coastal Connection:

Ill be challenging the conventional wisdom for some people, Rogers told Coastal Connection in an email. For example, explaining why they should ignore the DOE recommended levels of insulation, explaining why tankless water heaters wont make your hair grow back, and why some LED lighting is better quality light than the incandescent lighting it replaces. Some of his advice may be contrarian, but Rogers has solid credentials as a mainstream authority on his topic. As an EPA employee and contractor, Rogers led the development of the joint EPA/Department of Energy Home Performance with Energy Star program. Now as an executive with GreenHomes, hes leading the rollout of the companys planned nationwide network of home-performance contracting franchises, dedicated to cutting home energy use house by house using a house-as-a-system approach. GreenHomes has spent several years perfecting its business model for local home-performance contracting in Syracuse, New York. In 2009, Rogers authored a feature article in The Journal of Light Construction, focusing on the Syracuse units work in older homes there ( Home Performance Contracting, by Mike Rogers, JLC 9/09). With the glitches ironed out of the system, GreenHomes is starting to expand. By coincidence, the companys three newest franchises are in coastal markets: Thayer Corporation, based in Auburn, Maine; Master Mechanical Corp., based in Farmingdale on Long Island, New York; and Energy Efficient Solutions, based in Yorktown, Virginia. A GreenHomes employee blows insulation into the roof system of a Cape house in Syracuse, New York, in 2009 (Photo by Ted Cushman). Business and building science lessons learned in GreenHomes Syracuse unit will be applied nationwide, under the companys business development plan. Why all this action in coastal markets? Its probably coincidence, says Rogers: Were just looking to pair up the right market with the right company, and we look at a lot of different things. Typically, GreenHomes likes to partner with an established HVAC company, and add on whatever insulation, window, air-sealing, and diagnostic capabilities are needed to complete the whole-house approach. In the case of Maines Thayer Corporation, says Rogers, GreenHomes had a long-standing relationship with the company. As for the Long Island and Virginia moves, he says, each situation seemed right, but for completely different reasons. With a mixed climate, Rogers explains, Virginia offers a variety of home performance challenges. They get cold air in the winter, but it gets quite warm and humid in the summer. And they have a variety of structural issues, especially around crawlspaces, that mean a lot of homes are really under-performing. Virginia doesnt have a long track record of state and local programs supporting energy upgrades, he says; but GreenHomes saw that fact as an opportunity. None of our competitors had moved in and started to muddy the waters with mixed messages. So in that sense Virginia is very much sort of virgin territory, and were excited about that. In Long Island, by contrast, theres a lot of government support for energy improvement, says Rogers: Theres the states Green Jobs for New York program, theres a LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) program, and then towns, like the Town of Babylon, have programs. Theres a variety of strong programs that provide a lot of generous incentives at the consumer level that help to drive the conversation. In the long run, says Rogers, conditions favor strong growth in the home performance industry in many more markets, including coastal areas. If you look at what the utilities are on the hook for, most of them are going to be facing serious capacity issues over the next four to five years. Theyre not going to be able to build plants fast enough to meet that demand not in the face of the regulatory and not-in-my-back-yard hurdles that pop up every time you talk about a power plant. So these folks are going to have to look for deep energy savings and you can only get so far with a light bulb program. Theyve already skimmed that low hanging fruit for the few percentage points its going to get. Now they have to go in this direction. And in the larger context, home performance fits into the national trend that favors remodeling over new construction, Rogers argues. The analyst reports that Ive read say that we shouldnt expect a big new construction boom over the next several years, he says. People are staying put. They arent moving every couple of years as part of real estate speculation. So its all going to be about remodeling, retrofit, and renovation.