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Webinar: The Home Performance Opportunity in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy. Professional content

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By Will - November 21st, 2012

Every Friday, we hold a free webinar for our customers discussing a range of topics related to marketing Home Performance. Two weeks ago, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, our webinar featured a panel of industry thought leaders including Larry Zarker, CEO of BPI; Paul Eldrenkamp, long-time leader in the green building and energy efficiency field and chair of this year's NESEA Building Energy Conference; Jay Murdoch, Executive Director of Efficiency First; and Peter Troast, Energy Circle's Founder and CEO.

Due to the importance of the topic, we opened up this particular webinar to the public. We also recorded it, and the full audio is available right here:

For those of you that are short on time here around the holidays, we've pulled some of the most compelling quotations from the webinar, which we think together sum up the arc of the conversation. There's some good wisdom here from some really smart people, and we think it's worthwhile for anyone in the industry to check out. 

Some highlights:

Paul Eldrenkamp: 

... there was a general consensus that resilience was just too downer of a theme, too apocalyptic and that we would be putting people off. It it is true that resilience as a concept has historically been pretty hard to sell. When you're working with a homeowner in particular you're supposed to be upbeat about all these great things and if you start talking about the need for home to withstand increasingly random weather events you can turn some people off pretty quickly. It's a really tough balancing act, really tough challenge to figure out how to talk about resilience but talk about it in terms of what you can do, or positive terms. I think events like Sandy help mediate that disconnect that we've been seeing, that difficulty in selling resilience as a theme because basically what people are looking for in their homes is that list you put up there just now, comfortable, healthy, safe, dry, warm, durable, and efficient. Strategies that yield these characteristics in a home create homes that can be called resilient by pretty much any definition. I think that potentially there is some silver lining in the clouds that Sandy brought.

Larry Zarker:

I think that's the message that resounds because the contractors who are accredited and who use certified people are very familiar with the durability issues, moisture issues, potential for carbon monoxide problems, and can help homeowners deal with the problems that they are having in a systematic way. Yes there is damage from the storm but I think there is the potential to actually deliver the repairs and deliver comfort, health, safety, and energy efficiency in fixing the problems.

Jay Murdoch:

So you've got urgency in the mind of the consumer but also what you have is an opportunity to inform and educate. You plant a seed for future work. Here's what you want to not have any your customer say in April May or June of next year, I wish someone had told me back in November that this is something I should've done. To the extent that you can educate, inform, and serve their immediate need but also lay the foundation for here are something you should be doing once were through this brief period.

Peter Troast: 

The point in particular that resonates with me is that the typical homeowner does not understand the whole house concept. They don't understand the full set of benefits. We are starting to see this even in the search data just over the course of the last week, people are not searching for holistic home performance solutions. They are searching for a generator, or they are searching for a solution to a flooded basement, a sump pump. These entry points that we have to engage the conversation are different but they are very much in the forefront now.

Steve Byers (CEO of EnergyLogic):

I'll speak without official sanction as a RESNET board member to say there's an opportunity for BPI and Resnet here to work together on this because as new construction energy ratings etc. I'll just throw that out Larry we can talk off-line about that. We've talked a little bit here about one value added thing that auditors can do, when you're going to do an energy audit of any kind, to talk about disaster preparedness and as a disaster preparedness and in you can talk about comfort, energy, etc.

Paul Eldrenkamp: 

To me the key mantra is let's not reproduce the conditions that cause the failure to begin with. People have touched on that but I think that's a core message that as an industry we really need to communicate. I mean in the trades people tended to do what they're comfortable with which tends to be how they've always been doing it. I don't know how many times I've seen someone repair a failure by building it exactly the way that failed to begin with... The main message to communicate and probably the highest leverage way to be able to do the repairs or reconstruction in a way that you think is most appropriate given the new climate that we face both literally and metaphorically. Let's not reproduce conditions that caused this failure to begin with.

Peter Troast: 

Today so much of marketing these days is about communications. I think there's two sides to it. There's getting your message right obviously and then there's how you get your message out to the world. I think that one of the things we all need to be recognizing is that there's a lot attention to this right now. I think to the extent that we could be using all of the vehicles that we have at our disposal, and push you all to be engaged in social media to tell the kind of stories that Paul is talking about. Don't repeat those mistakes. Look at the opportunity that you have to change things.

Larry Zarker: 

First of all I was glad to hear Steve Byers talk about RESNET and BPI working collaboratively and we should take that forward. You look at an organization like Efficiency First, which really has organized at the state level throughout the country and works closely with state government. We can work with the policy community at the state level to work with the insurance industry. I think the idea of having a common voice is really important.

Paul Eldrenkamp: 

It is important to work with organizations, work within the industry, communicate to policymakers but I don't think you should trivialize or diminish the amount of good the contractor can accomplish just by going out there and doing great work on all your projects. It has a huge impact on the homeowner and then there's a ripple effect through the industry. All the people on your team develop a different understanding of what quality is. By your team I mean not just your direct employees of the subcontractors and suppliers you work with. They get a different understanding of what quality is. I know our industry is capable of much better quality than we've produced. I'm referring to custom builders, re-modelers, weatherization contractors but we haven't communicated clearly enough what quality is. As a result too many people put up with mediocre results than they deserve or then we could deliver. Don't trivialize what one contractor can do, just by doing really great work house by house by house. It has an impact over time.

Peter Troast:

I think we all need to keep in mind here is this is going to unfold over a long period of time. We're in the very beginning, our friends we are talking to a New Jersey who are texting me from a gas line at four in the morning where they have been waiting for five hours just to try to get enough gas in the car to go to work. It's almost Mad Max but there will be this evolution of this discussion. What is a wet basement today, three weeks from now will be mold. The things on the mindset of people is definitely going to evolve.

Larry Zarker:

I'm thinking of the building performance industry has spent a long time trying to understand what's going on in a house and how you can effectively make a really good older house quality, and deliver comfort, health, safety, durability, and energy efficiency. You get an event like this and house gets compromised. This is an industry that really should take the very high road to consumers, to state government, the utilities, the insurance industry to say we've spent a lot of time figuring this out. We we know how to deal with an issue like this. I think that's very important to people.

Paul Eldrenkamp:

We really have to transform the construction remodeling weatherization field. We really need to pick up the pace by several orders of magnitude. As hurricane Sandy demonstrates I think we're running out of time. I think we have to view those in the field with us as colleagues and competitors in terms of our willingness to share information, share resources, work together.


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