Home Performance Washington History
Member photos shown at June 2010 HPW Meeting
HPW was founded in early 2009 to bring people together around home performance in Washington state. It was the brainchild of David Bangs and Bruce Minturn of Energy Friendly Ventures. After working with existing auditors and contractors on a project to refit David's Issaquah home and visiting home performance contractors in California and Oregon, they concluded that a home performance company would be difficult to start in Seattle because of utility and government policies that promoted only single measures, lack of auditor training and certification, and lack of awareness by officials and homeowners alike.
The only way for home performance to succeed in Seattle would be for proponents to cooperate. We needed to bring BPI training and certification to the state, and bring auditors and contractors together to agree on standards so that the contractors could reliably implement the recommendations of the auditors. Only then could we promote the concept to utilities, government policy makers and eventually, the general public.
Members David Vollan, Scott Finley, Aaron Campbell and Fred Mitchell tabled together for the first time as Home Performance Washington at the Phinney Neighborhood Home Design & Remodel Fair on February 6th 2009.
Ammen Jordan visited the booth and soon became HPW's half-time executive director, working closely with David Bangs to form the organization leading up to the inaugural membership meeting at Seattle's Greenwood Library on March 28th. The meeting energized and well attended, and articulated a plan for success. After the meeting, a member wrote
David and Ammen,
Just wanted to send you both a personal thanks for putting this all together. Tuesday’s meeting was a watershed moment for HPW and possibly the whole country. No joke, if we here in Seattle can employ and improve upon the best practices of the NY, OR, and SF models for organizing and leveraging the home performance industry, we’ll have a national energy independence revolution on our hands. Huzzah to you both for setting out on this journey.
Our meetings were well attended, and HPW soon crossed the 100 member threshold. Presentations and brainstorming sessions at the meetings were engaging and kept members coming back to the Greenwood library month after month, followed by socializing at the 74th Street Ale House. Members from Bellingham and Vancouver, WA would frequently make the long I-5 drive to attend our events.
HPW's original logo was designed by Bruce Minturn.
Dan Wildenhaus began teaching BPI classes at South Seattle Community College and played an instrumental role at spreading the curriculum to other community colleges. Bruce Minturn started teaching at EOS Alliance, and became the area's first BPI proctor. HPW aggressively encouraged its members to get trained and certified.
Puget Sound Energy hired some of the grads and began offering HomePrint auditors to its customers for $95. While we appreciated their support for audits, it became increasingly difficult for the more experienced independent auditors to make a living. David and Ammen brought a stack of letters to PSE from certified energy auditors from throughout PSE's served territory showing that PSE could serve their market by rebating energy audits performed by independent BPI contractors. They met with PSE employees and anyone else who would listen, explaining that the public would be best served by an army of trained, independent auditors.
Near the end of 2009, Joel Smith of PSE called to announce that PSE was ready to make the move to independent auditors and a "Home Performance with Energy Star" program that would encourage deeper whole house retrofits. This led other programs, such as Seattle City Light and various new stimulus funded Community Energy Programs in Western Washington to make similar moves.
HPW members including Dan Wildenhaus, Bruce Minturn, Tom Balderston and Yves Vetter took to the road, meeting with emerging programs throughout Western Washington to explain the home performance approach and the benefit of working with independent BPI certified auditors. Members took a field trip to Portland to meet with contractors and software venders, ultimately recommending that City Light adopt Earth Advantage's EPS software and rating as an alternative to the Apogee software PSE was using at the time.
On the national front, David Bangs helped found Efficiency First, and helped design the organizations chapter network using Home Performance Washington as the prototype for local cooperation. David then started Efficiency First's Best Practices Committee, which included nationwide committees of contractors and auditors defining best practices for marketing, business models and home performance program design. Efficiency First's market-based Home Star legislation was endorse by President Obama in his 2010 State of the Union Address and passed the House only to get stalled in the Senate.
On the local front, members David Bangs, Dan Wildenhaus and Charlie Rogers served on a committee to define labor policies for Seattle's emerging Community Power Works program. It was extremely difficult to grapple with merging the goals of home performance professionals, organized labor, and community advocates interesting in promoting jobs for their constituents. The newly formed home performance contractors were small, unprofitable, and struggled to sell their more expensive services to homeowners. They struggled with the economics of dramatically increasing wages and hiring from a city-trained labor pool that might not share their passion for home performance. Ultimately, an agreement was reached, but it was not popular with the contractors.
Near the end of the year, it became apparent that keeping an executive director was no longer financially feasible. An initial Bangs Family grant had run out and membership dues of about $20,000 a year were not sufficient. HPW became an all volunteer organization.
David Bangs explains the national Home Star legislation at the Seattle Mayor's Office, May 2010
The failure of Home Star and the slow progress of local programs took a toll on HPW members. They became increasingly disenchanted with programs and decided to focus on a private market approach. The board decided not to sign a chapter revenue sharing agreement with Efficiency First so that the funds would be available to market home performance directly to homeowners.
To this end, Jason Lear spearheaded cooperation with Built Green and the Eco Building Guild to define the 20/20 Home Refit Challenge to encourage Puget Sound area re-modellers to include an energy retrofit with each remodel job.
As the Community PowerWorks program launched and other programs slowly improved, members became increasingly focused on their own businesses and less able to promote the industry as a whole.
As an all volunteer organization, HPW could not mobilize to create an effective marketing plan. The board spent much of the years grappling with concepts of responsibility and delegation. Monthly programs continued and were well attended, though attendance by energy auditors and contractors waned as their schedules become increasingly busy.
Seattle's Community PowerWorks program was redesigned, largely based on the input of HPW members. PSE's overhauled its whole house incentives. As both programs grew and prospered, HPW's members became increasingly busy and successful. Ironically, success also made HPW's ongoing role less clear.
Shannon Ellis-Brock (Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union), David Bangs and Tiernan Martin (Home Performance Collaborative) launched a new HPW web site which puts our group's best face forward while also greatly streamlining the process of membership management.
As David Bangs' term as president expired in August, Shannon Ellis-Brock took over as HPW's second president. The board was diversified with the addition of Lance Kling (Cascadia Green Building Council), Tara Anderson (Sustainable Works) and Luke Giustra (Puget Sound Energy). Community Power Works became a supporting member and offered close cooperation and funding in helping HPW become a BPI training center.
Since funding for many energy programs will expire in 2013, the board knows HPW still has a lot of work to do, including playing a role in defining the success of home performance post-stimulus. As training programs close, it is also necessary to take specific action to continue the availability of BPI training, certification and recertification in the Seattle area.
The board is busy making plans to better serve members, help home performance outlast the stimulus, and find new and better ways to promote building science and home house energy retrofits to the public.
David Bangs and Dan Wildenhaus present at an HPW General Meeting, March 2012.