1) How can building product manufacturers more effectively communicate with building professionals?
Face to face meetings really work best. When we see product samples, along with brochures we are more likely to spec it in our projects. While it can be hard to schedule times to review products, we do take the time to visit with people. Lunch and or continuing education classes are also a good way to get us to spend the time looking at a product. It’s the first hand experience of touching and meeting with a salesperson that makes us more likely to spec that product in the future.
2) What are your key considerations/influences when evaluating new products?
Performance is key – it’s hard to know how new products will perform, so demonstrations or testing information is important. We also appreciate tips on proper installation and offers of support to ourselves, builders and clients. (when a green product does not perform, having to replace it is very frustrating) We also like to hear about how the product is made, where it is made, green strategies of the manufacturer, and energy/water usage during the manufacture of the product.
3) How has sustainable construction affected the way you build/design?
Much of our work is remodeling, and we encourage clients to include energy efficiency and green material decisions in the design process. For new construction, increased standards for energy efficiency codes helps to ensure projects are well built. One challenge that nearly every client seems to face is the balancing of sustainability decisions with the rest of the project decisions. Since designing a home – whether it be remodeling or new - can be a complicated process with many decisions, we do our best to layer in sustainable choices, rather than creating a focus on it (too overwhelming). Of course every client is different, and it’s hard to anticipate the exact design process. Building products that make our work easier address aesthetics, appropriate pricing, ease of installation, and sustainability.
4) What do you think will change in the industry in the next 5 years? 10 years?
I see increased building code standards as the greatest influence of the residential building industry in the future. In Houston, energy standards and rules about impermeable area force homeowners to build homes that have less impact on the environment. Higher standards open the doors for the development of better products as people look for different ways to satisfy code.
5) What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
It seems I focus on three things, and they are intertwined. My business – a residential design firm of three people, my two children, 9 and 14 and working on the Houston Solar Tour. Right now the Houston Solar tour takes up most of the free time I have. I’ve been involved with this since 2004, and will probably continue to be involved until a tour is no longer needed. This year I have the role as Solar Tour director – it involves everything from developing sponsorship, coordinating tour sites, editing the tour guide, and working with different related groups in Houston, such as the AIA and USGBC. With the tour 3 weeks away, my plate is extra full! I hope one day my kids will think about what I did as solar was just becoming mainstream and appreciate that they grew up in the midst of “a quiet energy revolution”. They are very supportive of me. I’m passionate about working on this because one day they, or their children may rely on this technology to maintain a standard of living; we need to do as much as possible to develop renewable energy. At this point I feel that my efforts are best spent focused on this one particular thing (raising awareness), although I am interested in many other aspects of green building. – When I have a few minutes to relax, I walk my dog or play outside with my kids!
Additional contributions from Kathleen Reardon can be viewed here.