Business Benefits: Reduced Risk, More Sales, Better Employees

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Taking a whole-house approach provides opportunities for you to differentiate your company in a competitive marketplace and to protect your jobs from building failure.

August 01, 2003

 

To improve bathroom ventilation, Entherm installed an isolated fan in this attic (above), with separate intakes in the bathroom ceilings and a pair of relays. In the same house, it removed moldy batt insulation from the crawl-space ceiling (below), disabled the foundation vents, covered the floor with a 6-mil poly vapor barrier and insulated the perimeter walls with 2-inch extruded polystyrene.

Taking a whole-house approach provides opportunities for you to differentiate your company in a competitive marketplace and to protect your jobs from building failure. It reduces the risk that your customers will be dissatisfied with your work because of comfort, efficiency or durability issues, and increases the likelihood of referrals.

Upgrading your construction practices also can upgrade the quality of your employees. David Johnston of What's Working, a design and consulting firm in Boulder, Colo., that specializes in energy and environmental concerns, has found that remodelers who are overt about their commitment to better building practices attract higher-caliber employees who care more about their work. Additionally, Johnston says efforts such as selecting materials to improve indoor air quality (low-VOC paints, for example) make job sites safer, so employees feel greater commitment from their employer.

Dick Kornbluth agrees. President of Entherm Inc., a contracting company in Syracuse, N.Y., he says that offering Building Performance Institute training has introduced a higher skill level to the field and given employees opportunities for promotion and pay raises.

"Employees now see a path for advancement, and that's a motivator," Kornbluth says. "They also understand why they're up in the attic with caulk guns, and it motivates them to do better work because they see the significance of what they're doing. That's important."

Learning about the whole-house approach has transformed Entherm's business model as well, from "just" an insulation contractor to a building-performance firm that does energy retrofits as well as insulation, roofing, siding and windows.

 

On a different home, with basement leakage caused by poor grading and no gutters, Entherm installed gutters connected to drain tile going to a dry well buried in the yard.

"The jobs are much larger now, on the plus side, and this approach has created a much broader world than the one we came from," Kornbluth says. "The downside is that the jobs are more complicated, with more coordination of trades and a longer paper trail." But, Kornbluth notes, the knowledge he and his staff have gained from the training behind their BPI certification allows them to mitigate risk to their business much better than before.

"Also, because of the level of testing we do, we know that when we leave the house, we've left it in a safe condition, and documenting that gives us even more protection," Kornbluth says.

As for impact to consumers, Kornbluth says that in his region, the Energy Star program is creating a strong consumer awareness of home performance. "People are buying into it, and because of this, we've been able to change what we do," he says. "The program gives us the ability to sell these improvements to homeowners. And I've had feedback from people who have said, literally, that it's like they have a brand-new home."

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