“Passion” and “building retrofit” are not three words you might typically see together. And yet they fit Matt Golden, founder of Sustainable Spaces. While I could see that his company had a different, more human approach to presenting what they offer, I had no idea how fired up someone could get about green (re)building.
While the headlines in blogs, newspapers, and Planet Green seem to focus on the latest gadget wizardry in making homes greener, Golden thinks people and government incentives have it backwards. For Sustainable Spaces, they see the process in three sequential steps:
1. Building fundamentals: Cover the basics, weatherizing the house. When you start by fixing the deficiencies in the current structure, you can make a lot of impact, previous to any inclusion of renewables. According to Golden, there can be a 25-30% reduction in energy load from these measures alone, costing $4-6000.
2. Major systems – Now that there’s less need for energy, reduce the size/capacity of support systems of the house to match with that reduced load, so you don’t have a fire hose where a tap will do.
3. Renewables – Once you’ve got a house whose major systems match with the energy needs, and have reduced all you can, while at the same time maintaining a comfortable home, then look to include renewables to meet the optimized energy load of the house.
In doing these steps, in the right order, it reduces the cost while increasing the effectiveness and impact. Basically, the high ROI on energy efficiency helps pay for renewables, as there’s less of a need for them in the first place.
Sustainable Spaces main customers are not the well to do LOHAS, but middle income people, more women then men. That should tell you that their approach is working, reaching beyond what could have stayed a smaller niche. This has the chance to make a huge impact, with the collective reduction of energy dependence.
For much of their history Sustainable Spaces has grown year over year, without dependence on rebates and incentives. They are able to achieve this in part because of how vertically integrated they are, being general, solar, mechanical, and insulation contractors, in house, covering 80%+ of the jobs they do themselves, generally in 5 days vs. 2 weeks.
It is their results focused, technology agnostic, customer centered approach that has and will continue to have them be a successful business in this rocky economy. And they are active in Washington DC to advocate that this increasingly be the model for the energy industry. The recently launched Efficiency First site brings all these threads together.
If ever there was an opportunity an need for this, it’s now.
Readers: What other examples of smart greening of houses have you seen out there? Ever been a customer of Sustainable Spaces? What else do you think can be done to effectively, affordable reduce our energy consumption, while maintaining/making more mindful our life practices?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.