A Powerful Green Building Partnership

Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed and the Youthbuild Philadelphia Charter School took center stage at Greenbuild 2012 to share their experience in preparing young adults for a career in the building industry, while transforming a long vacant structure into a sustainable home. This public-private partnership provides a useful framework that can easily be leveraged by other communities, offering a win, win, win scenario.

First of all, the partnership provides young adults with valuable hands-on training that will prepare them for a career in the construction industry.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a growing demand for construction-related skilled workers, which means these students are especially well positioned for future success.

The CertainTeed building scientists who provided on-site training walked away with new ideas on how to design and install products — which was fueled by the fresh insight the students brought to the project.

From the community’s perspective, the project is helping to expand the availability of affordable, green housing.

The “Starbucks” of Sustainability

Lucas Hamilton

In my travels across the county, I am seeing a new phenomenon in the sustainability movement – regional sustainability or green clearinghouses.  These are places where people can come together to share information, experiences, and get recommendations for all things Green.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Consultants are setting up shop to provide services and information for anyone interested in learning more about sustainability and providing a broad array of services and information.  The hope is that it will lead to business.

This is an example of the emerging green economy.  These are new businesses that are being created to meet the demand for information.  Often, people want to be able to go to a brick and mortar location to speak directly with people who can answer questions and provide services particularly when it relates to building improvements.

These local clearinghouses can also provide training sessions both for contractors and consumers as well as information about programs or incentives that are available locally.  Looking for information on rebates from utilities?  Find a green clearinghouse – they should be able to help.

From downtown Boston to Portand, Oregon to Upstate New York these clearinghouses are popping up all over the country.

Another interesting, international movement – very organic, self-organizing – is called GreenDrinks.  This is a grassroots initiative where people interested in green and sustainability get together and share ideas and information in a happy hour type of setting. These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of clarity.  These events are happening all over the world.  Just think, you can travel to Europe or South America and hook-up with green professionals through the GreenDrinks organization.

If anyone is associated with a green clearinghouse or has attended a GreenDrinks event, I would love to hear about it.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation

Promises Are Being Made But Can They Be Delivered?

Comcast Center in Philadelphia  - United States’ Tallest Green Office Building

Comcast Center in Philadelphia - United States’ Tallest Green Office Building

In the world of building design, green and sustainable promises are being made.  We are building and certifying green construction but when we come back in 10 years will they still hold up to a “green standard?”  Have we completed the education process of the maintenance and mechanical staff to properly maintain and operate these buildings?  If you remember from the Living Building initiative, it is imperative that education of the building operators and occupants be part of the process in order to ensure sustainability over the life of a building.

Do you remember when you could work on your own car?  I do. I also remember when, with a little common sense and a few simple hand tools, you could work on your home. Now we are installing very sophisticated mechanical controls in buildings that adjust the micro climate zones in a building based upon the sun’s orientation as it comes around a building. Some of the newer systems have the ability to increase the heat supply on the shady side in the winter, and increase the cooling supply on the sunny side in the summer.  Maintaining the building’s efficiency with these complex systems will be challenging both in new construction and in retrofitted existing structures. It will require knowledge and skill which frankly may be beyond the scope of the historic “maintenance man.”

The maintenance staffs and building operators of the near future will need to be as technically sophisticated as the architects and engineers who design these complex systems. It is not just plug-and- play energy efficiency; the newer systems require constant tweaking and tuning to keep running as intended.  Green professionals will be in demand to fill these green jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, the core mechanical competencies of building maintenance such as assisting with plumbing repairs will always be in demand.  But maintenance personnel need to up their game now and increase their capabilities in the future. They need to be technically and mechanically savvy engineers to help in running green buildings to their intended performance.

Why is this important?  Because building owners are going to come back in 10 years and say “you promised me a green building.  I paid for a green building.  I don’t have a green building.” 

Then what are you going do?


Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 


Energy Auditors in High Demand

Lucas HamiltonOn Sunday, October 11th, I read an article in the New York Times titled City Aims to Reduce Carbon Output by Buildings stating that New York City is going to require energy audits on all existing buildings.  New York is setting its own guidelines for the reduction of carbon dioxide production based upon the usage of electricity in the city, which is a tremendous undertaking. But the first step towards measuring energy efficiency improvements is to get a baseline and then track going forward.  This will require qualified auditors to conduct these audits on the existing inventory of buildings.

This got me thinking about the increasing need for qualified energy auditors. For two years, I have been getting calls from people to conduct energy audits on their buildings. In the construction industry, there are HERS raters (Home Energy Rating Service) who use a program called REM Software that features two evaluation programs REM/Design and REM/Rate.  This program enables you to upload your building design and location and run a simulation based on local utility rates. It can tell you month by month what your energy bills should be for heating and air conditioning. This helps quality homes for Energy Star tax credits.

In doing a quick search, I discovered there is a huge need across the country for trained energy auditors. There is a website, energyauditorjobs.com that lists all the available jobs nationwide.

There are three skill sets needed to be an Energy Auditor:

  • You need to understand how buildings are built and operate
  • You need to understand the science of buildings
  • You need to have knowledge of the softwares.

 Some of the entities that will be looking for energy auditors are:

Weatherization Programs produced from the stimulus. We are currently training quasi-energy auditors in weatherization programs, like the Pennsylvania Housing Resource Center at Penn State University program. They are trained in the Building Science part but not in the audit software or simulations.

Municipalities and state departments of energy, like NYC, will need thousands of energy auditors to test all the buildings in their cities and towns.

Real estate investment portfolios, utility companies, hotel and resort operators, manufacturers, especially large manufacturers, will need to conduct audits on their plants and buildings. CertainTeed is currently conducting audits on all our plants and buildings due to our own corporate mandates. 

Building management companies could find this as a differentiator in the marketplace if they can offer building owners the expertise to evaluate and control the energy costs for the buildings they manage.

This need for energy auditors is only going to mushroom and get bigger over time.  This is one of the green jobs that the green evolution has promised us. This is a new workforce that will be needed to meet the demands of the marketplace.

From my position, having done this type of work for 25 years, I see this as a coming together of social and economic forces overlapping at one place – the energy auditor.  As we continue to teach Building Science in our colleges and universities, we will need to incorporate this training as well.

This is a perfect career path for young people or for construction professionals who might be looking for a new opportunity.  And it is just the beginning as we embrace the concepts of energy efficiency and require the upgrading of our building inventory.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.