Energy Circle at Solar Power Northeast, Dry Climate Forum & More

As most of our beloved state of Maine has been hitting the slopes for what has proven to be a banner year on the mountain, the Energy Circle team has set off on a whirlwind tour of the nation’s top industry conferences. We often report on the many changes facing the digital landscape of our industry, and these events give us a chance to be fully absorbed in the changing landscape of what the contractors are facing in terms of product updates, technology advancements, advocacy at the state and federal level and new players entering the game.

Oh, and it gives us a chance to taste the culinary wonders of each city; which for a true Portlander has become the defacto reason for being homesick. Did you know Bon Appetit called us the “2018 Restaurant City of the Year?” — well, they did.

So far, we have been fortunate enough to attend:

  • Solar Power Northeast - Boston, MA
  • Better Buildings by Design - Burlington, VT
  • The Northwest Regional Home Performance Coalition Conference - Portland, OR
  • The Dry Climate Home Performance Forum - Yosemite, CA

Stats:

  • Miles Driven: 582 miles
  • Miles flown: 6,565
  • Cups of Hotel Event Coffee: Too many to count

Caption: Moderator Boaz Soifer with panelists Stephanie Bonini, our very own Peter Troast and Lamara d'Arbeloff onstage at Solar Power Northeast

 

Solar Power Northeast - Boston, MA

We attended the first day of this two-day event, and our CEO & Founder, Peter Troast, spoke on an exciting panel led by the CEO of BayWa r.e Solar Systems LLC, Boaz Soifer. The topic was “Key Pillars of Running a Healthy Solar Business” with much of the conversation being about workplace culture, change management and internal softwares. Peter was joined by Lamara d'Arbeloff of SunBug Solar and Stephanie Bonini from Sungage Financial. As fast as the Solar industry is moving, this dynamic foursome provided evidence and welcomed candor that stability in the workplace can be achieved through consistent feedback reviews, streamlined communication and work outings that don’t feel obligatory.

Unfortunately, our time was too quick to indulge in the local culinary oasis, as we had to hit the road for Burlington, VT.

Better Buildings by Design - Burlington, VT

One could say with confidence that building science and Vermont go hand in hand — like lobster and butter, which makes this event not only educational but also inspirational. In a state as green as Vermont is, they are always a leader in the movement to live sustainably. You didn’t need to look further than the exhibit hall, where vendors were displaying the latest vapor barriers, full exterior airtight systems, sustainable insulation, high end window jambs and more. Stopping at each table provided a unique conversation centered around a value proposition that almost always involved a message of efficiency in how it is made or energy savings for the consumer. Peter spent the full two days doing one-on-one trainings with Efficiency Vermont’s contractor network in addition to a well attended workshop on digital marketing trends.

I attended a handful of workshops and was lucky to get a seat in a workshop on “Stealth Passive House” by Portland architect and Vermont native, Jesse Thompson of Kaplan Thompson Architects. Passive House design and building techniques seemed to be the norm throughout many discussions at this event, as efficiency and sustainability are always top of mind for builders and consumers in Vermont. I attended a hands on “How to Air Seal” workshop taught by the infamous David Keefe and another workshop on How affordable and efficient can you build tiny? Answer: $152/sqft — that is incredible!

I walked away from these two days impressed with the technology of the building products that are hitting the market with the goal of being carbon-free. I was even more impressed with the evidence presented that proves the financial and earth saving benefits of techniques that are more costly upfront, but which can provide a return on the life of the house. There was a lot of talk on the all electric home as ducted and ductless technology advance, which is encouraging given the cold climate of Vermont. It will take well informed consumers and builders who want to make a difference to push these trends on a national scale. It seems like a tough sell in this current market where housing demand is at a historic low, but conferences like this one are a great reminder — there are contractors doing their part to help move the needle when it comes efficient building design.

Where did we eat? We had a great dinner at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. It had a great local vibe, a brew list that felt like home and exceptional service. A post-dinner walk home down a lit-up Church St is just the perfect nightcap for a chilly February night in Burlington.

The Northwest Regional Home Performance Coalition Conference - Portland, OR

The other Portland, we in Maine like to call it. For those who don’t know, it was a famous coin flip in 1845 that dubbed a settlement on the Willamette River after our thriving port city in Maine. The losing name was Boston but we can all agree, there is only ONE Boston — Go SOX!

This regional conference for the Home Performance Coalition happens every two years and brings together an exciting mix of utility programs, local builders and designers and top brands like Daikin, Mitsubishi, and 475 High Performance Building Supply.

Highlights included the CEO of the Home Performance Coalition giving an introduction speech to tease a newly formed organization that will carry this industry forward for decades to come. It will be announced at HPC National in Chicago — coincidentally on April Fool’s Day — and seems to be a great synchronization of many organizations that share a common mission. Our own Peter Troast currently serves on the Board, and we look forward to seeing all of our HPC friends in Chicago in April.

Where did we eat? Many places, but one that sticks out for its tastiness in food and ambiance is Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen. An untypical, counter-service establishment, it has all the authentic smells and a more youthful vibe with hip hop tracks appropriately blasting in the background. Oh, and the line is continuously out the door. A must-have next time you are in other Portland.

Photographed by Peter Troast on his recent visit to Yosemite for the Dry Climate Forum

 

The Forum on Dry Climate - Yosemite, CA

Peter Troast was invited to this exclusive event that features building science geekery royalty. He reported it was very productive and engaging and full of sno w. They actually were stuck there an extra day, as the road out of the valley was closed due to too much snow. Other than that, there isn’t too much to report on this insider’s event. You’ll have to ask Peter next time you see him.

Next Up: ACCA ‘Optimize’ 2019 - San Antonio, TX

If you will be there or near there, we’d love to meet you. Reach out today to let us know so we can find the ideal place for our meeting, or just tell us where we should get a steak. We are looking forward to some sunnier temps in Texas and meeting more contractors from the Southwest.

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