Too Easy Being Green

Is it really too easy being “green?”

On October 24, 2012, USA Today ran a critical, almost cynical, article about the USGBC and their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED).

The USGBC was critiqued for, among many things, giving away points in the LEED rating systems too easily.  The strongest accusation is that by allowing commercial projects to take credit for ’low hanging fruits’ they would easily earn LEED Certification, subsequently making it too easy to achieve tax incentives that are tied to that certification.

While it is true that multiple LEED credits can be automatically earned from a single decision, it is important to understand that those “low hanging fruits” are actually an incentive for builders and developers to dive deeper into the LEED program to explore what else can be done to be more sustainable.  It is also a good way to reward builders and project teams for making conscious choices that factor in the sustainability of the location, materials and energy features of their projects.

One example of free or automatic credits would be a project selecting an inner city construction site.  A project team could automatically earn 3 points for an ‘infill site’ and another point for ‘previously developed site.’ In many cases, the inner city lot would also mean close access to public transportation, which would count for some more points.  So, that single decision on the site location may result in the project receiving points in multiple categories.  Is that unfairly rewarding double-dipping, or a justifiable reward for making a decision that results in a more sustainable project on multiple levels?

While USA Today criticizes those “free” points, one has to see the flip side; in the example above, the project team chose to develop an in-fill location over the more typical green field site. While an inner city lot might not be intrinsically “Green” the redevelopment is helping the entire community indirectly by avoiding additional new infrastructure of a typical new project and will likely help traffic and emissions levels in the area by selecting a site where many public transportation possibilities are offered right outside the front door.

We (EnergyLogic) believe that the author of the USA Today article misrepresented and oversimplified the philosophy of the LEED program.  LEED certification does not necessarily mean that a building in itself is the greenest object around, but rather that the interwoven synergies of the design elements, human comfort, livability and a general “awareness of natural resources” most certainly have an impact on each resident or tenant of the new building as well as the surrounding community.  There are a lot of paths to certification within the LEED program.  Depending on the project, some of those points are easier to come by than others.  But in the argument over whether specific points are automatic or too easy, the big picture is lost: contrary to public perception, earning the LEED label was never intended to represent the building as the greenest object around.  Instead, LEED certification means that among the thousands of decisions were made during the planning and design phase of a building project, sustainability was included as a major factor in a large number of them. The LEED program provides a system to recognize and reward project teams for those decisions.  It’s been a long time coming, but as LEED and other labeling programs grow and gain momentum, sustainability is finally earning a long-overdue seat at the table.  Still, we have a long way to go before this becomes the norm.  We work on thousands of buildings each year.  From what we see, the average building project could not even come close to meeting LEED certification requirements.  When it comes to LEED, is it too easy being green?  We say no.  What do you think?

Thanks, with Mushroom Soup and Dried Onion Topping

Reenactment of the EnergyLogic Team during my benefits presentation last year.

It’s that time of year for the birthing of Thanksgiving blogglings, giving thanks to every employee, employer, client, reader, parent, child, babysitter, brand of tequila, and famous pretend love interest (I heart you, Dr. Doug Ross).  I can’t help but jump on that ship.  My apologies if this is too personal, but I’m guessing nobody reads blogs on Thanksgiving, so I’m going for it.  Here we go.

Thank you, EnergyLogic.  You are a fabulous place to work.  You’re flexible, dependable, growing and quite fun at times.  I’m lucky to be a part of the family who shares it, truly.  And I’m not just sucking up to the bosses either!

Thanks to everyone at EnergyLogic who has supported me in this shared social media, marketing, and benefits adventure.  The learning curve has certainly challenged my batting average of excellence in the workplace, but my numbers are picking up.  Thank you for your faith in me.

Thank you to the owners and managers of EnergyLogic who thought I would be great at this.  My current employment position is truly the fruit of being in the right office at the right time, sprinkled with the fact that I show up every day and I talk too much. Thanks.

The EnergyLogic Scheduling Team

Thank you to the EnergyLogic scheduling team who allows me to pilfer their chocolate reserves on a regular basis without asking me when I’m going to contribute to the ‘chocolate fund jar.’  I’m aware that I have eaten approximately $56.00 in chocolate this year and I’ve only contributed $3.00. I swear to you all I will step up my game. I swear. And thank you.

Thank you to the entire staff of EnergyLogic who allow me to fly my “organize everything” freak flag as high as I want.  It’s a beautiful and well organized flag.  I wave it proudly and most efficiently. I also appreciate the drop in sarcastic comments to more of the ‘rolling of the eyes’ attitude from everyone when I have one of my organizational fits.  My deepest thanks.  Now please get your dead or dying crap out of the fridge. I love you all. Thank you.

Bear

Thank you to my beautiful Pyrenees, Bear, who accompanies me to work most days.  He makes my arrivals to work each morning a joyous occasion.  I feel as though each of my coworkers’ lavish hello’s is a treat for me as well. Thank you for being so handsome, Bear. I wish I loved you more as a dirty gross dog because your grooming is painfully expensive.  But, thank you anyway.

Thank you to my direct supervisor  and COO Will, for the occasional pat’s on the back.  It’s all I need to feel great on any given day.  I also thank him for recognizing my need of emails as reminders of things I need to do.  My aging brain no longer remembers every little detail, and I feel as though written lists are an admission of defeat.  Thank you, Will.

Thank you to our Controller, Janet, for freeing me from accounting.  I wonder if I ever belonged in that meticulous and precise profession, although it seemed like a never ending puzzle and I thought I was pretty good at it when I really wasn’t.  In the end, there is just no good outlet for jokes in accounting. And blogging about it… don’t get me started.  Thank you, Janet.

Thank you, Kelly from GrafikNature Design, Jen from WebsitesByJen, and ‘Amazing Steve’ the leader of EnergyLogic’s Circus Division, for holding my hand through pretty much every aspect of everything to this point.  Your patience is ever present and appreciated.  No jokes here.

Thank you customers, clients, builders and students of EnergyLogic.  We would be nothing without you.  Literally.

There is always something new to be thankful about at EnergyLogic, which is another thing I’m thankful for.

Enjoy your Thanksgivings, Everyone!

 

 

 

‘Company Pet?’

The other day as Janet (our controller) and Will (COO) and I were looking over our budget, we wrestled again with the question of how iRate, EnergyLogic’s proprietary enterprise management system, should be classified.  It always looks sort of costly to them, both in terms of cash and time and brain cells.  Is it an Expense?  Revenue stream?  Asset?  Company Pet?

Is it an expense?  It certainly is expensive.   In addition to paying our developer, we spend lots staff time figuring out how to make iRate do what we need it to do, and change as the sea of programs and expectations of our clients shift beneath us.  Like our other business expenses—phones, computers, office space, RemRate fees, cars—iRate is just another cost of running this company in the most efficient and best way we can.  And like other expenses, it constantly requires upgrading.

Is it a revenue stream?  It is, but we don’t market it very hard.  We want it to be wonderful because we use it to manage both our field ratings division and our ResNet providership.  We sell it to our friends and to our Rater Partners.  The revenue offsets, but doesn’t cover the costs of development.  We’re not software developers—we’ve just developed amazing software.  Like our other business expenses—phones, computers, office space, RemRate fees, cars—iRate is just another cost of running this company in the most efficient and best way we can.  And like other expenses, it constantly requires upgrading.

Ollie, the REAL EnergyLogic Pet.

Is it an asset?  We couldn’t run EnergyLogic without iRate.  It’s hard to even imagine what this company would look like without the iRate database at the center of everything.  We schedule through iRate, and we also bill, track, communicate, report, and archive.  It allows everyone in the company to have access to the all the work we’ve done and are doing at the same time.  It allows all of us to work remotely, and to share everything in real time.  Without iRate, we’d have to double our scheduling staff, double our bookkeeping staff, and we’d have to add raters and auditors too.  So, yeah, it’s definitely an asset.  Next to our amazing staff, it’s our biggest asset.

Is it a company pet?  Maybe it’s that most of all, at least to me.  It’s a working dog, for sure—probably a herder of some kind, like a super-smart border collie.  I’ve seen this software grow up as we have grown up as a company.   It’s loyal and dependable.  We pay attention to it.  We log in to it every day and fill it up with everything we know.  We teach it new tricks.  We care about it as the distillation of our best practices over the years.

Wynne Maggi
President
EnergyLogic, Inc.

Is the Grass Greener?

I was mowing my lawn this past weekend – it was a 10-minute pass to get up some leaves and trim a few long blades – and I noticed that my neighbor’s lawn is still much greener than mine and still growing energetically.  What’s up with that?  I watered, I fertilized, I mowed, I trimmed all summer – still, my lawn is already dull and browning more each day while his is still a healthy green.  As I was putting away the mower my neighbor came out and started getting ready to work on his lawn.  I moseyed over and we began talking about how green his lawn still looked.  Turns out he decided to use a commercial lawn fertilization service this summer and he’s had to mow about twice as often and pay about 10 times as much for this privilege.  He doesn’t mind because he’s retired, has the money and enjoys the time doing this.  I had to admit that his lawn really looked good – but it seemed like a lot of time sacrifice and cost.

Have you ever read any of the articles talking about the, “Best companies to work for”?  Maybe you work at one … good for you!  The writers draw their conclusions through surveys and various opinions of what makes for a “best” company.  There are dozens of ways this can be sliced; location, hours, benefits, company morale, autonomy, fun factor, etc.

Sometimes, I read these surveys and think of those luxury yacht shows on TV.  Yup, that’s a really nice yacht; sure would be nice to have one of those.  But really – is this realistic?  When I think of all the strings that come attached with that yacht — maintenance, crew, someplace to keep it when not in use, fuel, and of course the fact that I probably can’t even afford the captain’s chair much less the whole yacht —  it brings me back to reality.

Same is true with those “best places to work”.  Is it in a place I want or can afford to live?  Is it near the things I want to be near?  Are the perks and benefits right for me?  Most important of all, do I have the right skills to work at one of those companies, and even if I do … are they even hiring?

I’m not saying one shouldn’t aspire to be at one of these places that “appear” to be the “best”, but really, isn’t the company you work for right now the best company … for you?  After all, you took a job there, right?  No one forced you to take the job.  I’m not saying everything is ideal.  Maybe the hours aren’t perfect, the commute is long, your boss can be too demanding.  But did one of these “best places to work” offer you a job?

If you’re trying to figure out how to get into one of the “best companies to work for” – for you, for now — you need to consider, maybe I’m already there.

As I left to go play with the kids, my neighbor started in on what looked to be a long time with his mower; I thought to myself, “I love my lawn – and it’s just the right shade of green.”

 

Will Lorey
Chief Operations Officer
EnergyLogic, Inc.

EEBA Conference 2012; Recap from a Soap Box

EEBA Conference 2012

Scottsdale, Arizona provided the perfect venue for this year’s EEBA Conference. After dodging a few rattlesnakes and drooling over the TPC Scottsdale golf course on the walk over, it was time to dive in headfirst. With the wealth of courses offered at EEBA this year, it’s hard to know which path to take. I chose to bounce around between some of my favorite speakers and course topics which either excited and/or scared the crap out of me before the conference.  Case in point, I could probably teach the ESTAR Version 3 session by now, while the answer to plethora of moisture issues encountered in Climate Zone 2 still eludes me. Thoughts of inadequacy placed aside, I trudged on.

As I perused the course schedule, I saw that the duo of Steve Baden and CR Herro were speaking about regulatory updates happening in Washington, can’t miss that one!  Hopefully they have something to get the juices flowing in this industry again; things seem to be in somewhat of a holding pattern. Then I thought to myself, hold on, nothing is happening in Congress right now, what could they possibly have to talk about? The answer to my question came in the form of the S.A.V.E (Sensible Accounting to Value Energy) Act. Finally, we have something on the table that holds government loan agencies accountable to adjust mortgage underwriting to include savings in energy efficiency. Not only will borrower capacity be adjusted for energy cost, but the actual value of the home will increase based on the energy cost savings. Hallelujah, we could finally get home appraisers to recognize all the work that we put into increasing the energy efficiency of all the homes that we rate!

The sobering news is that the S.A.V.E Act is currently stalled in the Senate along with every other piece of legislation known to man. Pessimists beware; this bill has bipartisan support with cosponsors Senator Bennett of Colorado (D) and Senator Isakson of Georgia (R).  Add to that the main opposition to the bill, the National Association of Realtors, has finally realized the potentially huge economic impact this bill will have if passed.  You want some numbers? The Mckinsey Energy Efficency Report estimates that with an investment of $520 Billion into improving energy efficiency in homes, the country has the potential to save $1.2 Trillion. That is more than a 2 to 1 payback. How’s that for a stimulus.

Now that I’ve stepped off my soap box, let me tell you all that it was a real thrill to attend this year’s EEBA Conference. My enthusiasm for the industry has been reinvigorated by the passion of some incredibly gifted speakers, tireless innovators in the field of building science, and of course the dedication of my fellow Energy Raters from around the country. If I can leave you with anything, it’s to remember who your elected officials need to answer to. It is you, the constituents that have the power to sway their votes. With that said, write, call, email your State Senators to make them aware of this bill and the impact that it will have on our industry and the American Economy as a whole.

Adam Jonash
EnergyLogic, Inc.