Energy costs are affecting company decisions, but what about clients’ remodeling decisions? Remodelers are reporting a raised awareness of sustainability and green products. “High energy costs are a terrific motivator,” says Jonathan Kantar, co-owner with his wife Ruth of Sage Builders LLP, in Newton, Mass. “[There’s] nothing like a significant heating bill to wake people up.”
Energy efficiency offers a quick return, notes David Leff, owner of Leff Construction, in Sebastopol, Calif. “It’s more difficult for clients to justify general improvements because the returns aren’t as great as they were.” California is a good state to watch regarding energy issues, with various municipalities emphasizing green and sustainable building requirements. Several California remodelers report interest in doing home energy audits.
HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, in Claremont, Calif., is now certified from the California Building Performance Contractors Association in Home Performance (a brand name). “We’re positioning ourselves to become the leading experts in that for Southern California,” owner Devon Hartman says. The company has begun a division to test and then retrofit or build to meet the protocols.
According to Ruth Kantar, Massachusetts is also at the forefront of energy audits and home-performance disclosure information for home buyers. The Kantars, who have focused on green building for years, are doing energy audits and HERS energy efficiency ratings. They also recently purchased a blower door and plan to buy an infrared scanner.
Although it would seem that window and roofing jobs should be on the increase, that’s not necessarily the case. While Ray Westmoreland, owner of Wood Windows, in Boise, Idaho, saw an uptick in window sales this past fall, others in his market are having difficulty, he says. On the other side of the country, Donald Tomeny, president of B&L Wholesale Supply, which distributes windows, siding, and roofing materials to western New York state, says energy costs are definitely driving homeowners to invest in windows, and sales are “good” in his region.
Yet sales in roofing, despite the pain factor of a leaky roof, are slower than usual. “It was slow in October and scary slow in November,” says Charlie Graves, owner of Graves Brothers, in Rochester, N.Y., who has been in business more than 30 years. Tomeny is hard-pressed as to why roofing sales are slower than normal; although shingle prices doubled last year, other materials are actually dropping in price. But the tight credit market may be keeping customers waiting.
Graves is somewhat optimistic: “If we’re going to go through slow times with the economy, this is a good time for it to happen. If it were six months ahead, we’d lose our prime selling season.” He’s looking forward with hope. After the presidential swearing in he believes “people’s thinking could change drastically.”