Home performance as an industry has been around for a while, but it hasn’t fully matured. It remains challenging to create a consistently profitable business model, much of it is still based on frequently-changing rebates and incentives, and techniques and materials continue to evolve. Not exactly an easy way to make a living. Many remodelers understand that home performance is a good thing, but they are not willing to start a new division or business that may distract them from their core work, or they may have attempted it with limited success.
Instead of trying to create a separate business or division focusing on home performance, perhaps remodelers should incorporate the principles into all their work. If there are incentive programs that help offset some costs, that’s a nice bonus, but home performance remodeling can provide long-term benefits for everyone involved.
About now you might be thinking the following: “Why should I bother to do this?” “It just takes more work,” “My clients won’t pay anything extra for something they can’t see,” “I’m busy enough just keeping up with my regular work now that the industry is picking up.” But take a step back from your immediate needs and consider the long term. If you plan to be in business for a while, you probably want happy clients, lots of referrals, and fewer callbacks–all things that come from good home performance work. I won’t try to fool you into thinking that it won’t take effort--any investment in your business does. And that is exactly what home performance is--an investment in your business for the long term.
MODEST ADDITIONAL INVESTMENT
Considering how much time and energy you have invested in your business over time, home performance is a relatively modest additional investment. If all you care about are short-term profits, then turn the page and move on to another subject. But if you want to make your business more viable over time, consider learning about home performance.
- You’ll need to understand what you are doing, perform the work carefully, and double check and inspect everything. You can’t trust most of your employees and subcontractors to do the work perfectly every time. When you find those people who do--treat them well.
- Schedule time to inspect work before it is covered up--and learn what to look for. Plan for your own team or a third-party auditor to inspect and allow enough time to make corrections before drywall is hung or siding is installed. Your inspections can take place when you are waiting for building inspectors to visit and sign off for your cover-up work. You can’t rely on local inspectors to make sure that insulation, air sealing, HVAC, and weather barriers are done to high performance standards – you need to do it yourself.
DIVIDENDS IN DOLLARS
Energy code enforcement can be spotty, and code minimums are really just D-, a barely passing grade. Don’t you want to do A+ work? You should, because you probably sell yourself to our clients as a high-quality company. You prove it with pictures of your finished work, but you can also show high-quality insulation, air sealing, HVAC ductwork, and moisture management to your clients during the sales process, including pictures and descriptions of what happens when these things aren’t done properly--water damage, mold, drafts, dust and dirt, and even structural damage.
After you have completed a few high performance projects, you’ll have clients who can help you sell your work. They’ll be happy to talk about how comfortable and clean their homes are and how much energy (and money) they are saving. You will have a way to differentiate yourself from your competition, get more high quality work, and ensure the long-term viability of your business. —Carl Seville is a leading authority on single and multifamily green remodeling and certification. He is co-author of Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction. sevilleconsulting.com.