The Hybrid Journal By Adam Bearup                                             Return to homepage.

10-03-08 Team Hybrid Hot lunch Program

I was sitting around the office one day thinking about how to make a massive group of carpenters and laborers even more efficient. I had just come back from a nice weekend away where I saw a hot lunch schedule on a refrigerator and it got me thinking. As part of our traveling schedule, I have made it point to make sure the crews are eating home cooked meals for dinner while out of town. Now that we have brought most of our crews back to the area, our food service person was wondering if she was going to still have work to do; because she is normally very busy preparing menus and food for the out of town crews. After thinking for awhile about a lunch program for the crews that work in the area, I talked to the person in charge of our food service here at Hybrid Homes about what she thought it would take to pull off something like a hot lunch program. Did I mention that my Mom is the leader of our food service crew? She is known as Mom to the crews incase you wondered. But, I digress.

Many things come to mind when you start thinking about feeding 10-12 hungry guys everyday, most importantly, cost. I contacted our V.P. of production and manpower, Jeff Sparks and talked to him about it. I asked him how much time it costs us in production by having the guys drive separate vehicles to a restaurant, Jeff noted that normally this results in a 30 minute lunch taking at least 45 minutes. I took that information and figured out how much money we could save by having those guys stay on the jobsite, eat, and then get back to work in 30 minutes. The cost was pretty high, so I figured that it was at least worth a try. Another thing to consider is the fuel they burn in their trucks that they drive to town in. Four vehicles driving 5 days a week adds up in fuel. This sealed it for me, this would be a great way to walk our talk a little more and try to lesson our load a little bit more on the planet.

Mom and I spent some time talking about the cost of such an endeavor and decided to give it a try for the first week that our framing crews worked on the Whitehall Project. She created a great menu and posted it in a place that the guys could see it. Our hope was that the menu would motivate them to work hard in the morning in anticipation of a hot lunch with all the 'fixins'. Mom created a great menu with things like Chili on the cold rainy day, hot sandwiches, bratwursts, hamburgers and everything in between! I wanted this first week to go more efficiently than any other project that any of us had ever been on! Perhaps I have you hanging on the edge of your seat to see if the hot lunch program was a hit or a flop...........

Check this picture out for the answer:

The work that these guys did this week was amazing! We had total participation with no one leaving at lunch time. The longest lunch we took this week was 33 minutes, a far cry from the 45 minutes the guys were taking before because of travel time. A question you might be asking yourself, is, how much does something like this cost? Before I answer that, consider this. If you look at the cost of this program, it will seem high. However, if you look at the money it saves by having a more efficient crew of that many people, at the very least, it is a wash....so why not do it?!

 Mom and I found out that a lunch program this well prepared costs a lot of money. Our decision is to keep the program going, but, we are dialing it down a notch to providing sandwich making 'stuff' and crock pots full of soups, chili, and assorted hot stuff on the cold days to keep our guys warm. Our hope is to have a well planned meal once a week, possibly on Fridays. All in all it has been a great rewarding experience.

In business school, we studied about time and efficiency studies with a work force in nearly every class. Since I am able to try new things from time to time, I wanted to conduct this research regardless of cost this first week to see if the idea of a lunch program was worth considering. I was so excited to see this many people eating and smiling and holding their stomachs at the end of lunch. My mom did a fantastic job, even though she had many hours into the preparation of the food and worked her tail off! It was very rewarding to her and I to hear the appreciation in their thank you (s) and the look of appreciation in their eyes. I would like to think that we did another first, and that is to provide the first free hot lunch program in the country for a residential construction crew of this size...

Do you want to see how much work the crew got done this week? I know you do! Click the link below to go to the Whitehall Project's Gallery. The picture dated 10/03/08 is the beginning of the newly updated photos. Here is the link: http://www.wmhybrid.com/whitehall_project.htm.

A little kindness can go a long way..............

AB

 

08-09-08 A quick thought.

This Summer is cruising by and I have to say, that it has been a Summer to remember. We have an awesome crew of craftsmen who are helping us have a record year. Our jobs in Pentwater and Paw Paw are moving along very efficiently. We are getting ready to start a project in Whitehall Michigan this upcoming week. We are excited about this project as we are all of them. I have made another major investment into Hybrid Homes in the form of a trailer, tools, man power and talent. I have recognized that the economy has let down a lot of great talent. Because of this, I have went out and interviewed some of the top talent around and have brought them on our team thanks to the help of my new VP of production and manpower Jeff Sparks. I am excited about this, because it has made Hybrid Homes more well rounded. With the exposure we get, our clients have high expectations. I will spare no expense to continue to exceed those expectations.

At the Energy Fair, Governor Granholm recognized me and Hybrid Homes as being a leader in using renewable energy in residential construction and also as a leader in Green Building. This recognition came after a lengthy battle to keep the wind generator we installed in Onekama, at the Energy Fair show house. Regardless of what people think about the Gov., I have to say that I have a renewed faith in our State Government because I went through the chain of command all the way to the Governor's Office and saw this incredibly tough issue through to the end. I came up against a lot of resistance at the State level, but through the help of my local Rep. Mary Valentine, I was able to get in front of the right people and say the right things. The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association was the key to getting Onekama Township recognized for approving the wind machine, which was what we all set out to do many months ago. Little did I know that their was an extra tribute for us!

  To see the tribute and read it, click here.

The picture on the left is from a lunch reception just before The Energy Fair. This picture is unique because you can see the moment that Governor Granholm realized who I was.. I was trying to explain why I called her out on Shelley Irwin's show on WGVU radio. In this picture is my good friend and fellow Team Hybrid member Mark Bauer. Mark and I were with the Governor for awhile along with a group of dynamic people. The GLREA hosted this event at the Blue Slipper. The picture on the right is one I am proud of, I had no idea that there was a tribute being handed to myself and our Team by the Governor. She never said anything to me about the tribute, even though I had spent about an hour with her. That was one of the best days of my life and it would not have happened without the help of the GLREA, Skip from the Governor's Office, John Sarver, Tom Stanton, and Mary Valentine (among many others). If you want to see and read the tribute, click on the link above. Photo credits: GLREA.

We have several projects on the drawing board and ready to start, so you can count on always seeing the most cutting edge photos of products and processes here at www.wmhybrid.com. One of the fun and awarding parts of being the Hybrid Home Guy is the education and speaking that I get to do. I will be speaking more over the next year as I seek to educate even more people. It is not too early to start thinking about putting one of our upcoming events on your calendar. I will continue to police the word 'green' and with the avenues we have now to educate and enlighten, you can bet, that I will be in a town near you soon.

Stay tuned and thank you for your support!

AB

It is amazing how quickly time flies!

From the last post, so much has happened. Hybrid Homes was recognized with a tribute from Governor Granholm at the Michigan Energy Fair. This was an amazing experience. I got to be around the Gov. for a while and talk to her about the issues I feel are hammering our State and economy. The biggest question I get now, is, "Do you think she listened to you?" My response, "At least she showed up to the Michigan Energy Fair." A number of us had been calling her out because of her open talk about renewable energy and the lack of action we were seeing at that level of government. I would like to think it is what I said on the radio that made her come to the Energy Fair, but it was definitely the hard work by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association that got her there. I just happened to be a tiny part of a bigger picture. I am working on my journal from that entire weekend, which was one of the best times in my life! I will post that here in the next week or so.

As far as work goes, we are moving forward at a record pace. With the help of my new team leader Jeff Sparks, we are pushing our guys to get this work done. The crews are doing great and attitudes are great. We have a number of projects to get through this year, and I am more confidant than ever that we can continue to meet and exceed the expectations of the customer and the environment.

I have started to chronicle my other life on MySpace. I have had a busy Summer emceeing events and playing with my band. To learn more about the wild side of the Hybrid Home Guy, click here: http://www.myspace.com/adambearup I love to support my favorite causes, you can check out what those are at the link above. If you are a MySpacer, then sign up as one of my friend so you can see where my next personal appearance or show will be!

I have to get back to work now, so I will write more later....stay tuned!

Greetings from my patio set! May 24, 2008

 Are you ready for the Michigan Energy Fair? The Energy Fair is the last weekend in June and our Onekama Platinum LEED for Homes project will once again headline the fair. Come on out and tour the future! You will see a 50-foot high wind generator and also solar hot water panels, among many other technologies. While others are talking about technology like this, you can touch and feel it in person at the Michigan Energy Fair on this very popular LEED for Homes project. I welcome you to come and talk to me directly in our booth at the Energy Fair. You cannot miss our booth. We will be right next to Bauer Power’s booth outside. I am excited to be outside and next to Bauer Power because he will be displaying renewable technology that we use on each and every one of our projects in one form or another. Mark and I wanted everyone to be able to talk to the leaders in this industry without having to look all over for us. We will be right outside in front of our trailers and displays. I can’t wait to talk to you at the Michigan Energy Fair. After we talk, you will see that the cost to build a Hybrid Home is affordable and less expensive than you may think!

I am giving two workshops the weekend of the Michigan Energy Fair that works well with the tour offered of our Hybrid Home. Here is a description of each workshop: 

Saturday June 28th, 2008  From 4pm to 4:50pm. Tent #3

Building Techniques and Considerations with Energy Efficiency Adam Bearup, Hybrid Homes.

Learn about techniques and real world applications of energy efficient technologies.

With this workshop, we will talk about new and existing homes and what we can do to them to make them more energy efficient. We will discuss tips on energy efficiency in your home that costs very little and saves you money. This workshop will be fun, educational, and will leave you feeling like you can, in-fact, make your home more energy efficient! Come and experience a speaking style that is creative and full of energy!

 Seating is limited and this workshop is very popular. Arrive promptly to ensure you can get a seat in this workshop!

 Sunday June 29th, 2008  From 10am to 10:50 am Tent #5

The Onekama Hybrid Home Adam Bearup, Hybrid Homes.

This session will focus on the success of the now LEED Platinum certified Hybrid Home.

Learn about the building process from beginning to completion.

You have seen this house in magazines, newspapers, and television, and heard us talk about it on the radio.. Now it is time for you to come and hear about the adventure we took to build the only LEED for Homes Platinum Level house in the Western Michigan in person. 

This workshop is the workshop that all of you have been waiting for. I will speak very candidly about several issues we encountered as we steered this home towards LEED for Homes’ most prestigious rating, Platinum. You will hear about the permit process, the wind generator controversy, and the step by step process we took that changed an entire industry! I recommend that you come to this workshop and then take the Hybrid Bus to the Hybrid Home to see first hand what a Platinum LEED H house looks and feels like. You will laugh and cry as I take you through the roller coaster ride that was the building of this house…..

 This is a very popular workshop and there is limited seating during the workshop. Show up promptly to ensure you get a seat for the workshop.

 Now on to my ramblings…….from the Patio Set I write:

There is no doubt that the gas prices have determined how this holiday weekend is going to play out for many people. Friday I reached a breaking point, I drove from projects by the South end of Michigan, down by the Indiana border back up to a project in Pentwater, and back to a project in Holland where I refilled the tank in the truck I was driving. This truck is as fuel conserving as a truck can be compared to what else is out there. It is a 5 speed manual transmission with a small V8. Regardless, take a look at this picture!

How crippling! Can you believe this? Well, actually you probably can if you are reading this journal entry. We have seen this coming now for a while. As I waited for each gallon to pump into my truck, I snapped the above picture. It is amazing what fuel prices help to direct. For instance, if you make minimum wage, you are probably going to find it hard to make any more money than that because you would have to drive further from home to get a higher paying job. But, with the cost of gas, it would be a wash! Consider this. At the beginning of the first Gulf War, my mom told me to fill up the family vehicle because gas was going to soar to $2.00 a gallon. I should have bought a lot more then and stored it!

I get emails constantly about fuel prices, steel prices, materials prices, and everything else under the Sun, skyrocketing in price. I have been asked what I am going to do to help curb some of these increases in cost. For me, my goal is to continue to provide the outstanding pricing that has helped make a good name for us as the leaders in green building in this state. I challenged those sending me the emails about increasing costs to look and see how they can save money, i.e. carpooling. After a long talk with my close friend Mark Bauer from Bauer Power (the states biggest and best renewable energy contractor), I decided that this company could no longer hope to stay profitable if I drove the truck everywhere. So, Hybrid Homes has bought a Toyota Corolla as my main commuter vehicle. Instead of driving the work truck everyday, we will now use the Corolla to get to and from work. If we have a day where we need to haul a trailer or pick up some lumber, then we will take the truck. The truck I drive runs about $160 a week for fuel, having the Corolla will actually help to save us money and lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It is like getting the car for free….kind of. Mark Bauer explained to me how important it was to lead by example. He now has a Toyota Prius to commute in. The Prius was a little too much for what I thought we could spend as a company right now, but the Corolla still can get over 40 miles per gallon! My wife and I now have two Toyota Corollas in our yard, along with the company trucks. The yard looks a little like a used car lot, but with the money we will be saving on fuel, we can deal with that! Check it out, I am not bragging, I just am just so happy that I can now stop burning so much fuel!

My point in all of this is for us to realize that we are in this gas price nightmare for the long haul. Regardless of our hopes, gas is something that took a long time to make and is in a supply that is limited. We must make decisions about our lifestyles to battle this epidemic. No matter how much you curse out the gas station attendant, or yell at the gas pump; the prices will not magically go down. I suggest you think about what you are spending on gas, and consider getting a smaller more efficient car, like a Corolla or at least think about it!. The dealerships are practically giving them away right now. From what I saw, you can lease a Corolla with very little down and be in a payment with tax for just over $200 a month……it would almost be free if you figured in how much gas you will save. With all this said, this is how I approached the question I mentioned above. I am going to counter the increase in fuel prices by using less fuel! Even though four of us big guys commuting in a Corolla may look like a circus act as we drive down the road, we will ensure that we will use less fuel and keep our business heading in the right direction.

As I mentioned above, I am out sitting on my patio set right now. I have my feet up typing away, and I am watching 2 sparrows make a nest in the ‘Hybrid Home Tweet Home’ that John and I made for Holiday gifts from scrap off of the Onekama Platinum LEED-H Home. The thought of us building birdhouses out of scrap wood for gifts came to us one evening as we were wondering what to do with ourselves in a blizzard up North. But, I digress. It is obvious that these birds are male and female and are racing against the clock to get the ‘Hybrid Home Tweet Home’ ready for their new arrivals, little birdies. I sit here and I watch them work. They fly back and forth with nesting materials in their mouths and go in and out of the hole time and time again without stopping. It appears that the male bird is getting a little tired and the female bird is reading him the riot act. Watching these birds is interesting.

I have a hard time sitting here and watching them work, but I am sure they appreciate me keeping my distance while they cozy up their new ‘Hybrid Home Tweet Home’ birdhouse. I could grab a handful of grass and cram it into the hole for them and save them a few days work, but I think they got it figured out ok. I have just tossed a potato chip over by the birdhouse as a treat so they won’t have to spend the rest of the night looking for a worm.

I think that we can learn a lot from birds. Birds work together to create a warm, efficient, and proper dwelling through hard work and planning. When I meet with homeowners, they normally have a pretty good idea of what they are looking for in their new dwelling. Like the 2 sparrows I am watching right now, homeowners normally have selected a warm safe location to build their new home. Proper planning can mean the difference between an efficient process and a process that goes badly. Birds do a pretty good job of planning, considering they do not have computers to work with. This couple could have made the nest first then started the egg making process, but then again, I am impressed with their actions just the same.

My dog Jagger just ate the potato chip I threw by the birdhouse. Darn.

If you don’t see a point in this story about the birds, then, just think of it as a short story, or better yet, think of it like you were out here with me sitting on the patio and watching the birds make their nest……have a nice and safe holiday weekend, and thank a Veteran for serving our country. With out their sacrifice and those that have given their lives for our freedom, I would not have the right to speak my mind like I do!

05/18/08 Testing the Soil.

Geotechnical Investigations are otherwise known as soils tests. Testing the soil is very important if you tend on building in an area that has a high water table. Most of Northern Michigan (parts of Traverse City area, Alpena, Mackinaw City) are located on large swamps which require special foundation and septic systems. As I travel the state spreading the good news of proper green building and building state of the art Hybrid Homes, our crews encounter issues that most builders never get a chance to deal with as they build in sub-divisions that are already engineered and figured to drain properly.

So who conducts these tests? A company out of my hometown of Norton Shores named Soils and Structures is by far, the leader in soil testing for all of Michigan. Team Hybrid member, Soils and Structures, has tested or will test four sites for us this year and provide very detailed reports on what they have or will find at each of those sites. At one site, we will be using auger cast concrete pilings that will extend into the Earth 48 feet! Why so long? The new Hybrid hideout is located 30 feet from a lake and would sit on about 38 feet of 'muck'. If the house is not built on a correct foundation system, we could expect the house to sink in that muck!

Here is a horror story for you that happened recently to another builder and architect in Saugatuck Michigan. The site was noticeably low with standing water in areas. For what ever reason, the house was built with out taking into account what type of soil was out there. A soil test can cost over $1,000 to complete, so often times, it is a test that is skipped, bad idea! This house ended up sinking 2 feet into the ground and it is still sinking! Part of the lawsuit against the builder and architect included a soil test, which confirmed the story of the sinking house. The house was built on 65 feet of muck! OUCH!

How can you tell if you need a soil test? I think the most important thing to consider is the proposed location of the house. Is it by a lake or stream? Is there standing water around? What does your excavator think?
 

If you are new to this type of construction, cover your bases! A reputable local excavator will often times tip you off if your site seems low. Soils and Structures will tell you if you need a test or not. They will not charge you to tell you that your site is ok and not in need of a soil test.

I picked this topic today, because of the amount of experience I have had in this lately. There are quite a few houses that are being built on lakes and in areas that use to contain water. Even though we can no longer see the water, does not mean there isn't water inches below the surface. This entry should not deter you from building on the water, just make sure you cover your bases and rely on engineers to guide you through the process.

You will see very detailed photos of the processes we will take to build each and everyone of these homes. In some cases, you will see the concrete pilings supporting a main floor that is actually a SIP panel. The SIP panel is treated to resist rot and is currently being used in the gulf area to rebuild the hurricane ravaged homes down there.

We have begun to set the insulating (SIPs) panels in Holland. As soon as I can figure out how to get the pictures off of my new phone, I will post them in the Project Gallery.....

 

05/10/08 Trying new things.

I have been involved with insulated concrete forms and green building, in one form or another since 1990. I have been around and have been a part of out-of-the-ordinary construction since the 1980's. In 1984, my parents hired a local builder in Montague to help us remodel this house we bought that dated back to the 1880's. This house was balloon framed and made of old growth wood. If you have never had the pleasure of working with wood from the old forests of Michigan (old growth) then you are missing out! The wood is incredibly dense, partly because of its age, but also, because the climate that the trees grew in was harsher back then. You have to know what you are doing and what you can get away with while 'tearing into' one of these old homes. If you want an example of balloon framing and 'old growth' lumber, check out the Cottage Project.

I mention my background to talk about complacency and trying new things. These 'things' can be anything; food, construction materials, tools, you name it. In an attempt to not be complacent and to always stay on the cutting edge, I chose to use a new product on one of our upcoming Hybrid Homes. Now, you must know, this is a great product that will work great, so, what I want to discuss is what happens when people try new things. Also, does the experience that one has trying something new dictate the re-use of that product?

Going into this situation, I decided that I was going to keep my expectations very high for the product itself, and my expectations very low for the process of getting the product to the jobsite. In all these years of being around this industry, I have seen some very interesting things. For instance, when my dad and uncle sold ICFs back in the early 1990s we would have to go pick the forms up in the weirdest places. We ended up buying an old mobile home trailer frame and made an ICF trailer out of it. I still laugh every time I drive by a friend's business and see the trailer sitting on the back of his lot! But, I digress. Through the years of leading this industry, we have come to expect certain issues to arise every time we get a load of certain building materials. I can not believe that after all these years, that there are still issues with the shipments of this particular product. Logistics should be considered not just leaving a factory, but arriving at its destination. I would hope that someday, companies would listen to those on the front lines and hope for repeat business.

To make a long story short, my expectations for a miserable experience were exceeded. However, we finally had a sales rep there to see why the manufacturer needs to think about end use. Everything worked out, and now I hope that everyone will finally learn about making the jobsite experience a bit more tolerable. It is a given, that if someone has a bad experience with 'something', they are most likely not going to buy that 'something' again. The reason is that they do not want to volunteer for a miserable experience, they want to take the path of least resistance. It would be like buying pills at the pharmacy that gives you the Flu. Who would buy something that makes a person miserable....ok, this is for another discussion.......let's move on.

This brings me to my point. Please keep an open mind if you are new to green building. If you are 'trying new things' as a builder, expect that things may go a little different than you are used to. We need you to build more than one green project, which may not happen if you have a bad experience on your first try. As a homeowner, applaud your builder for taking the extra steps to ensure that your house has less of an impact on our precious Earth. Once a builder has built a few green projects, he or she will notice that the over all process is tolerable and worth doing.

After the experience the other day with this delivery, I have to be honest, I asked myself why do I do what I do. Sometimes, it is just a real pain in the @#$, BUT, just then, a couple of guys stopped what they were doing, came over and helped me unload the truck. We all had a great time doing it and talked afterward how important it was for us to be building the way we do. I made new friends out of the ordeal and restored my faith in society (well, ok, maybe not totally restored!). I have an experience under my belt once again that someone just doesn't get by talking. Getting out there on the front lines and actually doing something gives a person a knowledge that could never be obtained by just reading about a process.

Think about your favorite place, for many, it is off a beaten path. I know in the mountains of Colorado, I have had to drive though some rough terrain to get to my favorite places. These places offer views and experiences unmatched by any other place that I know of on this Planet! Try something new, hang on tight, endure the 'bumps', and get ready for the experience of your life! 

One last thing. I always like to sing the praises of the people I get to work with. John and John have been doing an amazing job handling what I throw at them. Soon we will have multiple crews working on several projects and I certainly will be singing the praises of all of those trades people. But, today, I must throw a shout out to the one thing that has always been by my side, handles the majority of my communications, and politely asks people how they want to leave a message....I am talking about my cell phone! After almost a year of constant abuse, dropping off the roof, falling into mud puddles, being shot with the nail gun, poured into concrete, and yes, even being dropped into a porta-potty, I must announce the retirement of the cell phone I commonly refer to as......'my phone'. I have noticed lately how 'banged' up it has become. The numbers do not work anymore, the lens to the camera is cracked in three places, and caulk has filled the speaker holes. Many of you wonder if I even carry my cell phone or better yet, if I ever answer it. I do answer the phone, unless it is laying down by the footings 20 feet below me or I am fishing it out of the concrete. Retirement comes at a good time for 'my phone'. While it is still in one piece, it plans on taking a much needed breather. I will put this phone with my collection of others that I have destroyed and someday show my grandkids what a cell phone used to look like. Would you please take a moment and thank your cell phone for its service to you. Although it may ring off the hook constantly, it still deserves a big round of applause.......

AB

5/02/08 A Rainy Day Entry From The Hybrid Home Guy.

As I look out the window and see my tulips getting a nice soaking in the Spring rain, I thought I would catch you all up to speed on what we have been up to.

I received several emails from people wondering if the Cottage Project fell down or not when the Earthquakes happened a few weeks ago. To answer that question, thankfully it did not! Dietz House Movers are a member of Team Hybrid, and they have done an excellent job helping us lift the cottage that was originally built by Henry Door in 1922 to put a basement under it. The elder Dietz and I had a nice long talk about green building. We discussed how much less we send to a landfill if we restore a structure verses tearing it down and building a new house. The Cottage Project weighs approximately 60 tons and only a fraction of that weight will end up in the land fill. I can not recommend Dietz enough, they have been in business since 1945, and as the Elder Dietz says, "......In all these years, we haven't lost a house yet, and we are not going to ruin that record today....we never say the word 'DROP' on our jobsites..."

As we move forward on this restoration project, we are incorporating products and processes that would make Henry Door, the craftsman that he was, smile for sure. We are putting an inch of foam on all the exterior walls (over the sheathing) and spraying the 2x6 walls with Agri-Balance Spray Foam. This is just one of the many things that we are doing to make this 1920's ERA cottage more energy efficient. You will have to keep your eyes peeled on the project gallery to see the other great things that we are doing to this cottage.

If you notice in the pictures of the Cottage Project the basement walls are a normal poured wall and are not insulated concrete forms (ICFs). Why is this? Well, it is not for lack of trying, I can assure you of that. When it came down to the budget, we all had to make a decision based on our overall goal, which was to restore this cottage that has been in the family since it was built in 1922. By going with a normal poured wall and tweaking the pricing in other areas, we were able to determine that restoring this family heirloom was feasible. What you will see with this project, is that we made an allowance for making this cottage "Super-Green". When it comes time to finish the basement, we will insulate the walls in the basement then. At that point, we will have a great opportunity to show other builders what they can do with conventional walls to make them more energy efficient. If you want to discuss this more, email me and we can discuss it.

You will notice 2 new projects in the project galleries. Those being The Sawyer Project and The Watercress Project. The Sawyer Project is a "green-up" project. We are reworking the insulation, making more room on the main floor, and eventually adding on to this house. This project is set up in phases, and we are currently under way on Phase 1. Sawyer is about 10 miles south of Saint Joseph Michigan.

The Watercress Project is going to be a project to watch. This house is in Pentwater Michigan, and we will be using ICFs and SIPs on this project. We are working to have a wind generator, as it is right on the water and the wind is always blowing. You will be able to see, once again, step by step, how to build a home like this. I have worked out the LEED-H checklist, and the house is projected to score Platinum! I have asked everyone to not get their hopes up yet, as it takes a lot to get a platinum score, as we found out in Onekama on our LEED-H Platinum home there. Our Team will be working to get a web cam set up of the project. The web cam will be one of those ones that you can control from your computer. We are working hard to get that to be available. This project will start later this month.

The Vineyard Project in Paw Paw Michigan is going to be a great project. I am finishing the initial paperwork for the LEED-H certification this weekend. I expect it to score Gold. This project will be made of ICFs and have all concrete main floors as the thermal mass for the passive solar design. I am excited to get this project going in a few weeks and to be able to show you all step by step how to build a home like this. The Vineyard Project will have a Solar Hot Water System and eventually a wind generator and solar voltaic system. With these renewable energy technologies, this home would also score Platinum LEED for Homes!!

As you can see, we are keeping busy. This is good because our crews are capable of handling a massive amount of work. I want to thank the media for the positive coverage they have given us. I would also like to thank Northern Home and Cottage Magazine who featured our Herkelrath Project in their latest issue. Click here to read an excerpt of the article. You can get a copy of the magazine by going to their homepage and following the steps. This article was written very well. If you want a list of what we used and who we used on that Platinum Level House, it is all in the article! So, race to their home page and sign up for your copy of the magazine today!

Green Business Quarterly has approached me about featuring Hybrid Homes and Team Hybrid in an up-coming issue of their publication. I am currently working with a writer to develop the story that will highlight our Platinum LEED-H level home in Onekama and also our Team approach to building. We are currently discussing a column that would be written by me, and geared towards the business of Green Building. My title would be 'The Hybrid Home Guy-The Wyatt Erp of Green Building". We will have to see if that title survives the editors chopping block.  We'll see where that goes, but it would be a great way to get the word out around the world about green building and representing it properly.

Eric Hughes from Image Design and I are working with photo scouts from several major magazines to make sure that we can showcase the Vineyard Project and the Watercress Project. A film crew is being assembled to keep monthly tabs on what we are up to. Again thank you to the media!!

That is it for now, the sun is out, it is time to get back to work.................

 AB

4/12/08 The birth date of the "Hybrid Philosophy for Team Excellence." (TM)

After much thought about how to grow this company properly, the culmination of months of thinking occurred today. I sought council today from one of my treasured mentors and friends Jim. Jim's house really is what made this business move in a positive direction from the get go.

We talked about the power of a positive attitude and the effect it has on people. We talked about having a backbone and providing un-imagine-able customer service no matter what. We also talked about positive leadership and taking Hybrid Homes to even higher heights through it. Somewhere in this lengthy conversation, the words just flowed out....."The Hybrid Philosophy for Team Excellence. (TM)".

To lead a Team this size through the amount of work that we have lined up requires a certain level of consistency in leadership and application that can only be obtained if everyone is on the same page. The goal here is for all of Team Hybrid to adopt this new set of 'rules' or better yet this new road map to achieving our ultimate goal.. which is, "To Exceed the Expectations of the Customer and the Environment". Through the last few years, I have learned what works and does not work so well with building these types of homes and cottages. Through this experience and direction from Team Members, Professors and others, I have developed a set of guidelines that will help to keep us moving in a forward direction with emphasis on "Kaizen", otherwise known as continued improvement. I will police these guidelines, as will the leaders of their respective divisions and I will take the Philosophy's abuse very seriously. 

I am confident that this set of guidelines is the key to our continued success. It has taken me nearly a year to develop this idea and now it is becoming real. Within the next month, this will be applied across the board, from top to bottom and will be our guiding light. As soon as I have everything assembled, I will post the Hybrid Philosophy for Team Excellence under the Team Hybrid section of this website for all to see. That way, no Team member has an excuse for not being able to have access to this new constitution for Hybrid Homes, LLC and Team Hybrid.......Stay tuned, more later.....................

AB.

 

The Music House Starts! 3/27/08

What is the Music House? For the official explanation of the Music House, click here.

The Music House is the brain child of a friend of ours, Dave Palmer. He is the founder of The Spread The Music Foundation (STMF). STMF was founded to provide kids up and down the lakeshore with the opportunity to participate in music programs even if they do not have the money to do so..i.e band, choir, etc.  The link above can explain this better, but it is just an awesome cause and one that a number of the areas' business owners believe in. Dave wanted to create a $1 million dollar endowment fund for these kids and has been charging towards that goal by building custom homes by volunteers (both materials and labor) for the last few years. I have always went out to help the other carpenters frame and set trusses, because most of those people are my friends and past workmates.

Well, Dave approached me a few months back and asked me how he could make the Music House green without alienating all the helpers he had. So, we devised a plan that includes recycling, making the home more air tight and educating everyone who works on the music House about why we need to follow this route. You may have seen the headline in your local paper that read "Music House Goes Green." If not, I will try to post a link to it.

The Music House is a great cause, but, it is even a greater time to reconnect with our peers and have a blast! Every nail that we drive reminds us that we are helping the area's kids! STMF's website will start to post pictures of the Music House going up. If you want more information on the Music House or donating to this great cause, click the link above and follow the links to contact Dave or Alicia. Make sure you tell them that Hybrid Homes sent you.

I will post a few pictures of our crews building the basement walls and setting the first floor system in the next day or two.....

Green Building. 3/18/08

The project in Holland is really taking shape! We took 3 inches of sag out of the living room ceiling/ upstairs floor. Even though this cottage was built in the Fall of 1922 by Henry Door (found his signature on the wall!), the structure is quite sound. Henry would have been proud to see how we have complimented his work of art with new insulation, new wiring, and a whole host of other features including finger jointed studs! I along with John, Shawn, and John have really had fun inventing ways of doing things, as is normally the case in remodels like this. After seeing the beam work in the living room (see the photo gallery), the homeowners wondered why they had not had this work done many years before. It was challenging, educational and just plain fun to do it.

We are working on getting started on a green remodel down by St. Joe Michigan. This is the home that we had an energy audit on. The details for this project will be coming soon, but the issue we are going to touch on real quick here is a water filled basement. This Saturday, we are meeting with an expert at the home to determine how the water is coming in and what can be done about it. I am looking forward to sharing my experience with that in this journal, so stay tuned for that!

Our Vineyard Project in Paw Paw is getting ready to start in Late April or Early May. The crews are geared up for another LEED for Homes project! I was in Paw Paw this past weekend, and I am thinking that we are really going to enjoy the town and the locals company! I am looking forward to stopping by the homeowners restaurant and getting everything on the menu. This project will progress very efficiently, I am excited to get it started. Will the Vineyard Project be another Platinum LEED for Homes project? .................you will have to stay tuned to find out!

We have other projects slated to start this year also. Our crews are ready for this work load and I am sure we will have no problem handling this volume of work. Team Hybrid is a dynamic group of companies and people who are actually capable of handling more work than we currently have lined up. This doesn't mean that they won't be working their tails off! I will keep this journal updated so you can all have fun with us. Thank you!

Assorted Ramblings. 3/10/08

After the passing of Jeff Healey, I decided that I was going to devote more time to my gift of guitar playing. The band I am in, The Wall Walkers, and I are preparing for a big 'gig' this upcoming July 12th at a musical festival in Grand Haven, Michigan. For this 'gig' our lead singer and founder of "The Spread The Music Foundation" wanted to play a Peter Frampton tune. Naturally, I was excited to learn a new tune. 'Do You Feel Like We Do' is that song! I will handle most of the guitar leads in that tune, but Dave will be doing that 'mouth thing' when the time comes around. What does this have to do with Hybrid Homes and green building? Well, if you bare with me, I will explain how learning a tune can relate to restoring vintage homes. Sound interesting? Here's a neat thing for you to do. Click the link above for "Do You Feel Like We Do" to listen to that Frampton tune and then read the rest of this journal entry after you hit play. (*note: make sure your speakers are turned down to begin with. Once you get to Frampton's site and it loads, click on the audio square. Next, look to the right side of that web page and you will see "Do You Feel Like We Do". Click on that and then come back here to read this Journal Entry. The song will play while you read this entry. This version is long, so if you get done reading this entry, look over the entries below to refresh your memory on what I stand for.)

Ready? Click that link.

Notice how you recognize that sound? Much the same way as you recognize this sound to be Framptons, you will also notice on vintage homes, a special craftsmanship that seems to have been created by masters of their time. Much like learning how to play other people's music, we must, as builders, learn to emulate the craftsmanship of our building forefathers. Even with the highest tech tools, it can be tough to do. All you have to do is drive around any town and you will see signs of the different nationalities that built those homes. Un-paralleled craftsmanship with an un-dieing style!

For me, I try very hard to make the remodel projects that we work on look like the era they came from. I wonder what is going to happen when future generations come behind us to give the homes we built a little 'freshening up?' I know for us, (Team Hybrid), we really want those future craftspeople to recognize that we not only had talent, but that we were thinking about them when we built these environmentally friendly, energy efficient homes. Can you imagine what those folks from the future would say if they found a poorly insulated house that was made of low grade products? How about an ultra-energy efficient Hybrid Home? I know that I am amazed at what some of the builders and architects from the past were capable of doing. Look at what Frank Lloyd Wright was designing a 100 years ago for example.

How cool will it be for the future generations to see a wind generator or solar panels on a home that they are working on? I hope by then, that better than 60% of every home in America will have renewable energy of some form, so maybe it won't be as amazing as it seems to be now. But, one thing is for sure, by then, our un-renewable resources could be at critical levels! I know for the homeowners that we work for, they care about the future generations and what is left on this planet for their children, grand children, and great grand children. For me, them, and hopefully you, it is a about legacy. If you have not given this much thought and are new to this journal, think about what you want to leave your future generations. It is no longer a strange thing in this country to be proactive. After years of torture, our Earth is showing signs of abuse. Together we can make a difference!

If you wish to see if I was able to learn my parts of this Frampton tune in time for the big event on July 12th, come out and root us on. Click the Spread The Music Foundation link above and the info for this big show will be posted there soon. I am also the guest M C of this event, so it will really be fun, I guarantee it! Thank you for having fun with me and listening to a great tune!

A B

 

A moment of silence for a guitar legend. 3/03/08

Many of you do not know this, but I have been playing the guitar since I was 11 years old. For me, music is my release and something I truly enjoy and need to thrive.

Yesterday, one of my all time guitar playing favorites passed away at the age of 41. His name was Jeff Healey. Jeff was a blind guitar player best known for his song Angel Eyes. What many do not know, is that he was an absolutely phenomenal blues and jazz guitarist. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform a few years ago at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. It was amazing! He died of retinal cancer which he had since the age of 1.

The news of Jeff Healey's passing hit me hard because he was an amazing musician and one of the best guitarists who ever lived. I would place him in the leagues of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. You had to see him to believe it.

I know this has nothing to do with building a Hybrid Home, but it meant a lot to me to write this down.

http://www.jeffhealey.com/home.htm

Thank you to all who came to visit us at West Michigan Home and Garden Show! 3/03/08

I want to thank all those who stopped by our booth at the West Michigan Home and Garden Show this past weekend. I got to meet so many great people! Whether it was a vendor presenting me with a product or service that is considered green, a family wondering what they can do to make their current home more energy efficient, someone wanting to learn about LEED for Homes, or those that wanted to start moving forward with their new green home, the weekend was a success!

There was great traffic all weekend long, and we barely had time to take a drink of water between people. I have to send a special thanks out to Andersen Windows for providing a sample of their 400 series casement window, CertainTeed WeatherBoards Fiber Cement Siding for providing samples to show, and Porter SIPs for their great display. We had a number of products and information that no one else had at the Home Show. Here's just a few examples of what we had: WarmBoard sub-floor system, PlyBoo, Palm, Blue jean insulation, Panasonic Whisper green exhaust fans, and literature on the full line of TOTO products.

For me, I have been involved with insulated concrete forms since the early 1990's and it amazes me to still hear some of the same concerns now as people had back then. Rising heating costs, no other builders wanting to talk to them about building green, and great ideas that others call them crazy for. I had a great time listening to homeowners talk about their new home plans and also giving out Team Hybrid Members business cards as referrals. Thank you to everyone that stopped by our booth!!

As an update, we are starting today in Holland. It is 'full speed ahead' on this project to get it completed as we prepare to start our other projects in Paw Paw and Grand Rapids. Stay tuned to the photo gallery as it will show you cutting edge techniques and products on all of our projects. I will try hard to keep all of our galleries up to date for your enjoyment and education.

Have a great day and stay tuned to Hybrid Homes for the most extensive collection of green building project photos on the Web!

 

No more Blogs, just The Hybrid Journal. Posted 2/28/08

I was blogging on Active Rain for the last 6 months and found it a great way to connect with other people, but also a great way to really let the creative juices flow. It is my intention to only use the Hybrid Journal now for my writing. I will seek to return it to what it was, my personal journal on my way to the top of the green building field. My schedule does not allow me to update the Active Rain blogs enough to keep it 'fresh'. Also, as a leader, I experience a lot of 'things' that the general public does not hear about, and the Active Rain blog was becoming a way to vent about those frustrations. I have handed some of those 'things' over to professionals who can deal better with what is going on, so I can stay positive and focused on doing what I do.

It is my hope, that you will continue to find these Hybrid Journals informative and a bit edgy. I will always hold my hard line and call those out who are misrepresenting the over-all goal, which is to protect our Planet, not our wallets. Thank you for your continued interest in what we do!

We are revving our Hybrid Engines and getting ready to experience an unprecedented workload, so stay tuned, its going to be a great ride!!!!!!!

Hybrid Homes Takes A Big Step. Posted 2/28/08

Thankfully, I have The Hybrid Council (that is what I call them) which is my group of mentors and advisors. They want Hybrid Homes to be more than just another green builder, as do I, we want to shake things up and help to change the way things are done. So, after much thought, I have decided to add some serious talent to Hybrid Homes. First, as many of you know, I have been hand training one of my replacements now for over 2 years. His name is John and he has been by my side through everything I have been through; learning how I think and what I demand during the construction process. I am very excited to say that John is ready to step it up and start taking on some of my workload (thank goodness!) I can not find the words to describe how I feel about John's loyalty and trust in my ideas. He came to Hybrid Homes with minimal building experience and I have molded him into thinking the way I think. I am very proud of him and his skill set now! He is a quick learner, takes no BS from anyone, and will be a great leader for Hybrid Homes.

Wait a minute you say! OK, Let's talk about the new hire! So, how could I ever find someone that I could trust as much as John? Well, I started by looking at just names. The new person coming aboard is named John also! What am I going to do?!! I figured that if I yelled at John, both would listen and I could save some air.......OK, you got me. John the second is a person I have known for a while. I actually worked with him for a number of years at a custom home builder here on the lakeshore. He shares my passion for quality and he is well versed in every aspect of building. My guys need to be able to do everything from excavations to custom trim work and everything in between, and he can do this. John is a Marine and understands the same management philosophy as I use, which was inspired by the Marine Corps management system. I was never a Marine, but I respect their management system and studied it in great detail.

John and John the second (or Dude as he was called in the service) will work with me personally on every job this year to learn more about what needs to happen with Hybrid Homes. Together with me included, we will form a management team to handle specific areas of the State of Michigan. I will have them handle most of the jobs as I get new jobs, make personal appearances and handle all of the paperwork (piles and piles). I have in place a dynamic group of sub-contractors that John and Dude will over see. We have the ability to handle work in any part of the State of Michigan. We will venture outside the state lines if we need to, but Michigan has been a great place for us to stay put in. In several instances, we have direct ship capabilities for our materials, and we have connections in several townships throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan.

As you can see, it was time to add another person to my personal entourage as we grow as a business. We will rely on our sub-contractors to go back and train the other builders they work with on how to be more green in their building practices. This has worked very well throughout the last two years, and in another two years, you should see more qualified green builders who carry my Hybrid Stamp of approval!

Stay tuned to learn more about the other talent coming aboard.............................

OK, time to go make the donuts......................

 

STATE OF THE STATE OF HYBRID HOMES

Updated 2/02/08

We have heard the State of the Union address and certain State of the State addresses, so I felt it important to share the state of Hybrid Homes and discuss what is happening with us. The following is that:

Wow, a month has passed into the new year already! I think it is always important to reflect on the successes and failures of the past year and try to make adjustments to improve the way we operate as a business. The beginning of 2007 started out a little slow as we prepared to start the construction of the Onekama Hybrid Home. The plan for this house was to make a major impact in the residential building market. I wanted this to be a 'shock and awe' campaign. As it stands, it was! We will be in or were featured in magazines, 11 newspaper front page articles, been on the radio a number of times, television,  and have even started working with the Governor's Office as we fight township by township in favor or residential wind generators. But, I digress. To pull this shock and awe campaign off,  I took some major risks that probably could have put the company under, and thankfully things worked out better than I had hoped they would. The end result is a noticeable change in the green building arena here in Michigan. As expected, companies were started to capitalize on the resulting success. I still feel, although there are companies building green, that there are only two other companies in this State that even compare to what we do, and neither of them want to venture outside of their markets or areas of expertise.

The Michigan Energy Fair was a great avenue to show the Onekama Hybrid Home. We had a big Hybrid bus from Traverse City bringing Fair Goers to the Hybrid House all weekend long. I purposefully made all subcontractors stop production so the tour-ees could see a house like this without drywall. I wanted builders, homeowners, and anyone else to see the 'guts'. This worked great for everyone. The Fair Tour did slow our momentum as far as the production of the home goes, but we feel that the impact that the house had on the the State's Green Building enthusiasts was well worth it. I was very excited to see so many people at our VIP party the night before the Energy Fair. At this time, the Onekama Hybrid Home will be part of a Tour, but the details are still being worked out to see if we want to show the Hybrid Home in the same fashion this time around at the Michigan Energy Fair. With the large amount of emails we receive about this house and tour, I would imagine we will show the house again with all access allowed. This time around, fair goers will see a finished product that includes outstanding craftsmanship on an ultra-high energy efficient projected Platinum LEED for Homes project. This is the ultimate showcase of Team Hybrid's talents! Stay tuned, as I work towards a more solid plan regarding the Michigan Energy Fair.

Team Hybrid has a number of awesome members! I have hand selected this bunch of craftspeople, suppliers, and trades people. I have decided after much thought to remove a major player from Team Hybrid for a number of reasons. Most often times when I remove a player, it is because of misrepresentation. In the eyes of our valued customers, the actions of a Team Hybrid member is a direct reflection of how Hybrid Homes, LLC is run. This is how the customer sees it, and because of that, I have to watch very closely who we have as part of our Award Winning Team. I have replaced that company with another company that I have worked with for years. I am very excited with their passion for going green and am working very closely with them to bring them up to our speed. I have added an electrical company to our Team to handle everything from Ludington South to the State line and we will still have Galaxy Electric to handle our Northern Michigan projects. Both of these companies are top notch and very close to being more excited about green building than I am. They understand that I am very passionate about LEED for Homes and they are very excited to work to our high standards!

Hybrid Homes is increasing the number of homes it is capable of completing in a year to meet the demand that we are currently experiencing. To do this, we will be relying on Team Hybrid even more than we have in the past. I am confident that our completion time for a Hybrid Home will drop and that our capability will be to start one new hybrid home or remodel each month. I have had to be selective with the work we have to complete this year, as we definitely do not want to make anyone upset. We have very high expectations placed on our Team and we will live up to those expectations no matter what the cost!

I am still on the front lines taking shots like the rest of the Team. This is invaluable to me! I am able to learn everyday about how to make our process more efficient. I have seen our Team members grow in knowledge and understanding to the point that I am ready to let the 'squad leaders' manage their respective disciplines. Increased critical thinking skills and a grasp of the specific management philosophy that I follow is a sure sign that our 'recruits' are ready to lead the charge! I will become more of a floater as John and John lead jobs in their territories. You will see how spread out we really are if you look at our project map. Now, before you say wow too loud, the work we have this year is set up in a semi circle from Whitehall down thru Holland, over to Paw Paw and then back up to Grand Rapids. Logistically, we could not ask for a better layout of projects. Being in Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Holland at the same time is a terribly tough task, and thankfully, we are not set up that way this year.

So, what do we have on our plate? Great question! I am excited this year to be reunited with products we have not used in a while. We are using Structural Insulated Panels , or SIPs a lot more this year for roofs and walls. These are not taking the place of our Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), but, rather, being used where we can't use ICFs. You will be able to view very detailed project galleries again this year. I have decided to keep the photo format instead of adding video of our projects. Mostly, because I feel that a video is shot through the eyes of someone that may be looking at things differently than someone else would. A picture is worth a thousand words, or dollars, if you are a builder looking to learn how to use these cutting edge products! We have over 1,000 pictures available for viewing now (much to the dismay of my web hosting guy). This year with the number of projects we have lined up to complete, it is safe to say that we will once again lead this State in informative, educational postings in our project galleries.

As a business, we did grow about 400% again in fiscal year 2007. If we have a 2008 like it is laying out right now, we can expect at least that kind of growth, if not a little more during this year. Hybrid Homes, LLC is working to add employees that will fill key roles for us in the organization. The problem I have is the overhead it creates. The flip side, is that it will free me up, and if we can still keep our outstanding pricing structure, than I am all for a little alone time with the family! There was a question about adding partners to Hybrid Homes this past year, and I am happy to say, that I decided to not take on any of those partners. Not because they are not great people, but more importantly, is that we are not at that point in our business life cycle yet. I feel that we have not had our "breaking out" phase yet, but are rapidly approaching that stage. We will not add partners, but rather reinvest in our employees with profit sharing and cutting edge training. We have just signed up for an awesome healthcare plan and are working towards a retirement plan that will help to secure the future or our employees, much in the same way that we try to take care of the planet in what we do. My hopes are to create a fun, safe, productive work force that stays with our company a long time. The benefits of that happening are worth any effort needed to achieve that goal. 

If you have made it this far in the journal, then I applaud you. You may be a competitor or an interested homeowner, either way, congratulations for being interested in something that is very important and special to me. I did not have to release this State of the State because we are not made to by the government. I just hope that someone sees a little hope in this dim economy. I am excited about the future and will continue to hold the hard line I have held all along. We are coming into an election year that could bring unprecedented growth or devastating decline. It is a scary year for many, but please do not lose sight of the low interest rates we have right now. Those that have waited for this time to come (like I have personally), can now feel some comfort in the fact that we did not want to keep up with the Jones and get a new house before we felt it was our time. Hybrid Homes, LLC can help you to make an educated choice between building new and remodeling. I am happy to tell you that our pricing structure is designed to compliment the low interest rates, so that you can have a lower house payment and lower utility bills while living in your dream home or upgraded existing home. Thank you all for your interest and support throughout 2007. We could not have had the success we had in 2007 without a number of you who are reading this, and for that I will be forever grateful!

Email me directly if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.

2008 IS GOING TO BE GREAT!!

A B

From my Blog:

Actual Wind Generator Statistics!

Having a working wind generator on one of our new custom Hybrid Homes gives me an opportunity to do research and take energy producing statistics (which is what I love to do!)

This wind generator is a Skystream model on a 32 foot pole. This wind generator is located in Onekama Michigan where the sustained wind speeds are in the area of 14 mph. To create electricity, Skystream needs anywhere between 8 and 11 mph depending on a range of variables. This unit actually has to be moved from its present location because of the neighbors and the township (big story, too big for this post), but we anticipate that the new location will provide similar results....thus my research.

Before we talk about vertical shaft wind generators, let's see how this pole mounted horizontal shaft wind machine is doing. Now, I have had the machine running off and on within the guidelines I am under before the moving of this unit, so the information I am offering right now are averages. Because we will have several houses with wind generators being built in 2008, I am confident that Hybrid Homes will be hands down, the Midwest's leading green builder that uses alternative and renewable energy. In fact, the State of Michigan is asking us to give them the results of the research I am doing on energy production at these homes. I will most likely connect with Michigan State University to have their research department take over this research because Skystream models can be monitored online! (and I already have too much on my plate) It is my goal to have all the homes with wind generators be viewable on my website so that everyone can see the benefit of wind generators by monitoring the energy production at each home with the click of a mouse button!

OK, let's begin this project. I am viewing my electric bill that shows me my home's energy use over the last year. My home is in a windy location not far from Lake Michigan in Norton Shores, Michigan. My house is about 1,200 square feet (not so big house) and is not the average size house in the country. I will compare the numbers of average sized homes in future posts. My average daily use for electricity is 13.6 KWH or 479 KWH per month. I have a large computer running constantly to host a my websites and for multi media video production equipment. We have basic utilities including washer and dryer and a 46" LCD Television with surround sound. We have compact flourescent lights in every light location and we are very aware of our energy use. It is an above average household as far as appliances go.

The wind machine in Onekama has been hit constantly with 20 mph+ winds for the last week and a half. In the evenings, the wind speed dropped down to 8 mph. On average, the wind machine is creating about 17.5 KWH per 24 hour period or 'day' as I mentioned above. This equates to 525 KWH per month. As you can see, this wind machine (based on averages) would handle my homes entire monthly electricity needs and still be able to spin my meter backwards. That would be a credit each month to my account if it were a perfect world.

Our sensor inside the home is not reading as accurate as it would be if it were outside the concrete walls. This weekend, I put the sensor in a window openning to see the difference in numbers recorded.

The house where the wind machine is located will most likely use around 800 KWH per month on a high month. It is around 4,000 square feet and the homeowners will have some control over the monthly use of electricity. Currently, we can expect that the wind generator will cover 66% of the homes electricity during a high electricity usage month.

The other options available in wind generation are vertical shaft wind machines. Currently, they are large, can be ugly, and regardless of what others say, violate most neighborhood deed restrictions. Read closely here, not township zoning ordinances, but deed restrictions that are governed by developers and neighborhood associations (and angry neighbors)! But, do not fret! There is a vertical shaft wind machine coming out soon (as soon as it passes all the tests) that they are using in Japan right now. They are very price effective and will be manufactured here in Michigan. The Onekama Hybrid House was supposed to be the national and Canadian launch for this model, but it was still being tested at the time. Should we see this unit come out, it will be a leader! It will work with most deed restrictions and is actually a compact unit that starts producing electricity at very low wind speeds. Here is a little hint for my competitors. We are pre-wiring every house for this unit because I have dibs on the first units that become availible! Stay tuned to this blog to see where you can get them. My gut tells me, that it will still be a few years before we see them.

So, do I recommend getting a wind machine? Absolutely. The Skystream model in Onekama can be upgraded over the next few years and will be capable of producing 3 times the electricity it does now. That means, that the house in Onekama will be producing more electricity than it needs in the not too distant future!

I can pass along contact information to anyone who is interested in alternative and renewable energy technologies and how to market homes that have them. For most builders, using renewable and alternative energy technologies is just talk, for us, it's our life and livelihood! 

 

What did the Dukes of Hazard do to teach us about Energy Consumption?

The one thing about our Projected Platinum LEED-H home in Onekama Michigan that is tough to handle sometimes is the lonely nights trying to stay warm in the cottage that we rent up there. Normal excitement for me is to go into the small town and sit on a rock outside of the library so I can check my email. Now that it snows everyday up there, it makes it tough to do that. Because of this, we have turned to our small DVD collection to hold us over until our eye lids become heavy and we drift into sleep.

Even if you are not a Dukes of Hazard fan, you should read this. It is another example of how little our country has done over the years to lower our nation's dependence on foreign oil.

With that said, the other night after dinner, I was trying to decide if I was going to study, play NCAA Football on the playstation with John or if we were going to watch our favorite movie Tombstone again for the millionth time. That is when I picked up the Dukes of Hazard's first season DVD and started to read through the titles. The fifth episode of the first season caught my eye, it was called 'High Octane'.

This episode originally aired on Feburary 23rd, 1979. During the trailor for the episode, we heard the words 'fossil fuels'. The Dukes, headed up by Uncle Jessie used to make the most powerful moonshine in all of Hazard County until they struck a deal with the US government to stop making it. As part of that deal, they have to report in to the 'revenuer' every quarter to make sure they keep on the straight and narrow. As the Dukes are leaving the building, they notice a contest put on by the US Energy Office. The contest awards $20,000 to the person who can come up with an alternative fuel to gasoline, and after Luke clicks his fingers, they all agree that they should look into this....Especially since the Dukes have a still in the woods just waiting to be cranked up!

As the Duke Boys roared back to the local bar owned by Boss Hogg in their suped up Dodge Charger to get gas, I had to laugh because the episode was about our dependence on foreign oil and they were driving a race car from town. Can you imagine a Toyota Cressida painted orange with a confederate flag on it? The name would fit, General Lee! At any rate, Boss Hogg is waiting for them with the same poster they saw in town on the wall. To make a long story short, Boss wants Jessie to submit his moonshine to the US Government to win the $20,000 prize. After a few racial slurs, they all agree that Jessie's shine is powerful stuff!

You will have to track down the episode to see how it all plays out, in fact, you can click on this link to read more about the episode: http://www.hazzardnet.com/index.php/76

Now, to tie this all together. When I sold Toyotas, I studied very hard to learn everything I could about the history of Toyota. Toyotas were trickling into the country in the 60's and started to become more mainstream in the 1970's because of their superior gas mileage. Those of you who were old enough then to remember the gigantic cars and the horrible gas mileage will recognize why Toyota became so popluar and are continueing to be popular today as are other foreign vehicles. My uncle, who owned a car dealership starting in the late 1970's in Marquette Michigan, started selling Hondas, Nissans, Isuzus, and even Yugos because the demand was so high for fuel efficient cars. He took me under his wing when I was in my teenage years and taught me a lot about business and energy efficiency then. I would live with him and his family and work as a handyman during the Summers so that I could sit at the dinner table at night to learn all I could from him.

I gained respect for the Dukes of Hazard for taking on such a tough issue and presenting it in a way that kept the viewer's attention and also offered a few laughs along the way. What I am concerned about, is that we have not gotten anywhere with the nation's fuel consumption. The only direction we have taken is backward. In 1979, gasoline was about $1.00 a gallon (it actually went from .80 to 1.30) and the prices have continued to climb since then. Inflation causes prices to rise and I understand that, but prices have risen over 300% in just under 30 years. If you do the math, $9.00 a gallon is not that far away. In Europe right now, prices equivilants are about $8.00 a gallon!

What does this all mean? It means that we need to press our governments to take action on using alternative energy. I have experienced first hand through 6 monthes of deliberations that State and Federal governments do not have our backs in this fight! But, we have to (for our future's sake) stand out from the rest and fight for wind power and solar energy because there is so much talk going on and no action. Why should we? For the very least, it is a gut check. Either you are all talk, or you actually do have a spine and will stand up for what you believe in.

 

History's Lessons

Since I am a big fan and student of Economics, I thought that today would be most fitting to talk about what History has taught us about trends. This is a topic that I could write a book on, so I will try to keep it just long enough for you to finish your coffee and perhaps get another cup.

Let's get started, our Planet has been through a number of trends and life changing events. The invention of the printing press stills stands today as one of the inventions that changed the entire world. Societies all over the world would now be able to read and interpret things for themselves. Religion is a great example, look at the Reformation and when that occured......interesting huh? The printing press also made it possible to get the word out about products and events and do it in such a way that caught the general publics' eye. Ben Franklin created something that is called 'white space' which is actually still used today in advertising. This 'white space' has been around for 300 years and is basically exactly what the name implies 'white' or open spaces in advertising.

For sake of space, I want to fast forward to the invention of the television. We have seen a number of events through the screen of a television set. In 1936, the Olympics were held in Germany under the watchful eye a ruthless dictator. This event was broadcast to the 'air waves' as was the moon landing, shuttle disaster, and the horrible events of September 11th. I am not trying to be morbid, only, to help you understand how history can help direct us in what we do. The television and the printing press are still around today and they do not seem to be going anywhere. The two forms of media has given us valuble information on where the world is heading, it is up to us to recognize when the information if passing through our skulls.

My point so far is in the form of a question: How have these things lasted so long and overcome a short life cycle? This is an answer for economists and one that I am working on.

Do I still have everyone? Good, need more coffee?

Let's speed things up a bit to Super Bowl XXXIV. Do you remember this event? It was advertised in newspapers and broadcast on television but more importantly, it introduced the average person to the Internet: more specifically, 'dot com' companies. More than a dozen 'dot com' companies paid, on average, $2.2 million dollars to get a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl that year. In some cases, the companies spent more on that 30-second spot than they did to start-up their companies. Pets.com, E Trade, Computer.com, (shut down 10 monthes after the Super Bowl), LifeMinders.com, and many others spent large sums of money to be seen during the Super Bowl in the hopes that they would find their fame and fortune. Many 21 year old CEOs made a quick buck before they lost their parent's life savings.

History has taught us that ideas can make us rich if we have the right combinations of goods and services at the right times. Alot of people got rich during that 'dot com' boom and a lot of good people lost a lot of money. My point is, how are we to recognize if a trend is occuring or if an idea of ours will actually fly? Well, we can look at History for all the answers. For example, the dot com companies that lasted out of the original group had solid business plans and had a track record of success prior to their ads being run during the Super Bowl. When anyone can get a website, that stops the natural selection process of business where only the strong survive. It creates an environment for anyone to start a business, and do it over and over again regardless of how many times one fails at it....for hardly any money at all!. The big lesson here, is that there is a difference between starting a business successfully and having a sucessful business.

The amount of money people are willing to spend in the hopes of having great success is enormous! Some people actually make money just attracting these investors and then moving on to a new idea. Companies are formed in the hopes of attracting a big investor to buy them out. I have been approached by a few people that wanted to take control of Hybrid Homes, LLC in the hopes that they could build the company to a level that it would be bought out for 100's of millions of dollars. I am sorry, but I didn't bite on that idea. Michigan's economy doesn't support that type of 'pipe dream'. Pulte Homes proved that and they were building cheaply priced homes, and now they are closed.  Also, with employees at stake here, I can not risk their livelihood on an idea that History tells us is tough to make real. So, I choose to continue to plug away and add homes each year. In 2008, we will most likely complete 4-6 projects which is a large increase from four years ago when we completed just 1 project. To me, that is a steady increase without having to stick my neck out so far and risk my employees financial lifes on building 'spec houses'. Although that sounds conservative, if I thought our economy would support that, I would do it in a heartbeat!

I sound very conservative, and I really am not. But, I am a realist and do understand that the economy dictates certain decisions for businesses and citizens. This economy in Michigan is tough to work with. With such a huge reliance on manufacturing, the economy here is on thin ice. Healthcare jobs are picking up the slack, but the insurance industry if wrapping its greedy paws around them. When it comes down to it, everything is a risk. My personal financial beliefs differ very much from the direction that the economy has taken my business financially, and that scares me. Buying everything with cash only lasts so long in business. If you want great examples of businesses trying to make ends meet during their life cycle, check out Inc. Magazine!

What do I think about this current Green building trend? Well, I think I see a lot of simularities between certain start up companies and those 'dot com' companies that went belly up. This economy dictates our startup procedures. As I see it, there are two options, take it slowly and build up a clientel, or spend everything you have and don't have hoping that you get noticed. The risk of the latter option may well be worth it, but in this economy, taking the road less traveled by is where you will see my foot prints. 

Thank you for reading this long post. I hope you got something out of it other than that I am a risk taking conservative thinking mumbler. I do welcome any comments for or against what I say. We could have a great discussion on this topic!

 

 

 

Date: November 11, 2007

The following is my over-view of Green Build 2007 in Chicago:

I must first let everyone know that we did not attend any of the training sessions, because we felt that the majority of the training sessions pertained to commercial LEED projects and not residential. Also, the price was incredibly high to attend even just one session. We were given V.I.P. passes to get into the exhibitors area and also to attend a few free tours and information sessions.

We rode the AmTrak train from Holland Michigan to Union Station in Chicago. This was definitely a better way to handle the traffic of the big city and save some fuel. Once we were in Chicago, we made a short pit stop at my brother-in-laws office to drop off our luggage. I was extremely impressed with the atmosphere of his workplace. They had a place to take a nap, sat on exercise balls, and even had a few treats in the refrigerator for those after work moments.

We hailed a cab in front of the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue and took it to the McCormick Place West Building where Green Build 2007 was being held. As we pulled into the unloading lanes, we immediately felt out of place. We noticed that everyone had two and three piece suits on! I was blown away, and said "I thought this was a building show.." Green Build 2007 was all about the money. As we walked around to get in the massive entry line, we were thankful to get glares of "wow, real builders" instead of "what are they doing here?"

Because of a train delay, we missed the end of Former President Clinton's speech. I heard he gave a great presentation and that his new library was awarded a LEED Platinum Certification. Great Job Bill!

Once we got into the exhibitor area, my thoughts were confirmed, this show was geared towards commercial construction. I was in awe at how much money was spent by everybody that day. This kind of money is not being spent in the residential building exhibitor circuit. I did see companies like Tembec (floor trusses, etc.), Marvin Windows' Integrity line, the CertainTeed Company (siding, shingles, etc.), and our friends at the Alliance For Environmental Sustainability. Every booth that I went to had great information, but I kept asking, "what do you make for residential building?" With over 800 exhibitors, my voice got quite horse asking that same question over and over again and getting the same response..."nothing yet".

I did get a kick out of seeing the company I used to work for right after high school, Haworth, competing with their competitors, Steel Case and Herman Miller. Why did I get a kick out of that? Well, because they were no longer competing on who had the most ergonomically correct chairs or office solutions, but rather, who had a higher commercial LEED rating for their showrooms. As always, Steel Case is winning. At this point, I realized that LEED is big business. It is the prescription drug/healthcare furniture market of commercial building...BIG MONEY!

As we stopped to eat lunch in a food court overlooking the exhibitor's area, we could not help but be in awe of how many exhibitors there were. A nice lady from an architecture association let us sit with her because of the lack of seating. She was so excited to be part of this great day and this new direction that commercial building is taking. She sounded like I did a few years ago. I commented on her energy and how everyone needed her enthusiasm and drive to help better our society, then we went back to the exhibiter floor.

With the lack of residential products or companies, we started to get bored. Because of this, I started to wander around and look for something new. I saw about 7 different green roof systems, each one proclaiming its "better-ness" over the others. I really liked what I saw in all the companies and can't wait to put a green roof on a residential project. To amuse myself, I just had to chime in on a conversation about insulated concrete forms at the BASF booth. They don't make the ICFs, they just make them better (I just had to say that). The brand in question was Poly Steel, which is the brand ICF my Dad and uncle had the distributorship with in the nineties. It is safe to say, that I know a great deal about that product because I used their product in my architecture projects while I was in school, and also I have installed numerous homes worth of them. So, here I am, dressed like no one else, sounding more professional then the majority of the three-piece suit wearing attendees and exhibitors that were gathering around. I guess it was my openness about my likes and dislikes of ICFs in general and more specifically, the brand they had there that caught everyone's attention. I took probably 10 minutes to explain how good ICFs are for construction and even related the installation process to something they were more familiar with, commercial construction. I as fielding quesitons like: What about blowouts? How do you brace them? Do you have to brace them?

(This was my favorite one) I had to stop the marketing manager from BASF on this one. He stated that you can pour ICFs without bracing them. It is true, you can, BUT, this takes a great bit of skill and should never be attempted unless a large number of variables are in your favor. Pouring a couple of courses high is ok and we do that all the time if we find ourselves needing to. Pouring an entire basement or 10' wall un-braced is the scariest thing you can ever do and the most insane. I have helped do it as a laborer, and I vowed that when I ran things, that it would never be done again. So, you can see how this presentation was going. I made sure to say that this was an exhibit with the intention of selling a product. I also made sure to toss the word sustainability into their sales and business practice. To continue to get sales in ICFs from the same companies, I told them they need to focus on the first time users and make sure the first time users have such a great experience with them, that they would be like me and would never want to use anything else to build the outer shell of a home. This is just not happening now. ICF companies are marketing themselves to homeowners who build just one home. I do not blame them, it is the only way to make a buck in the ICF business. However, once the sale is made, the ICF companies should be by their side in the hopes that the homeowners tell all of their friends about how great ICFs can be. This is what we do. It is awesome to see the look on the skeptics face when a wall does not blow out. After all, that is the number one question asked with ICFs, "Don't these blow out a lot?"

As I continued, more and more people walked up and stood by us listening to the comments from everyone. After I was done, people were handing me their cards and I was handing them mine.

My overall rating of Green Build 2007 from an overly educated green residential construction stand point was a D+. From a commercial standpoint, I would rate it an A!

There is definitely a 'keeping up with the Jones' happening in commercial green building. This event was probably great for a person just getting their feet wet in green building, or a company to send potential clients to, but for a residential green builder who is already well versed in what we do, it would not be worth the $75 admission to get into the exhibitor's area or the $11.95 for a burger.

After sharing a cab ride with a new friend we met on the escalators, we went to my brother-in-laws office to have one of those after work treats I talked about earlier. We then went back and stayed with him because every room in town was booked, and I enjoy hanging out with him. We had fun that night in a place North of downtown and enjoyed ourselves until almost dawn! We decided that having a nice breakfast and playing video games until our 5:20 pm departure on the train would be more enjoyable then going all the way across town to see who dressed the nicest......

Date: October 20th, 2007

We have been moving right along on the house in Onekama as we get ready to start our next Hybrid Project in Paw Paw. We have managed to keep the price in check on the Onekama house by working closely with the homeowner and doing the majority of the work ourselves. With experience in everything from excavating and building footings, to trim work, exterior stone, interior tile, etc. we can and have done it all. I love this interaction with the homeowners and it also gives us a chance to do something different. Wait until you see the pictures I post next week!

I want to take this opportunity and talk about experience. Experience is always a good thing to have in whatever you do, but gaining experience can be an exciting thing too. I know that on every project we do, I learn more about what we can do better. I do not think that there is one person out there that has built a house for themselves or others that hasn't said, "I would do some things a little different next time." (Or something along those lines).

I am a big fan of economics and have studied the topic in great detail. Although my degrees are in marketing and management, I have felt very strongly about educating myself in economics to compliment what I learned in college. If it is feasible, I plan on minoring in economics when I go for my Master's Degree. I say these things because of what I am about to write. When I noticed that Hybrid Homes was beginning to press forward I knew that it would catch the eyes of others in the building business. I have learned through study and business experience, that success brings competitors out of the wood work. With this in mind, I continued to market this business in un-orthodox-ed ways so that I could create a successful business more quickly that could, in-turn, be copied by competitors. My thought, was that these other "copy-cats" would have to be extremely environmentally friendly with their building styles to even compete and that has to be a good thing. Well, now that I see the competitors surfacing and trying to get their businesses going, I feel that I should give them a heads up on what they are getting themselves into. I will do that over the next few weeks, but, I should throw this tid-bit out right now. Be careful getting your feet wet! You have a lot at stake! I have learned through the years that it takes a rigid back bone and a strong gut to get through what we need to get through as innovators and risk takers. I am blessed to have had a number of homeowners work hand in hand with me and my crew to work through difficult designs, townships problems, and unfriendly neighbors. The houses we build are one of a kind and we do it within specific budgets. Getting your feet wet on a customer's home who you really don't know that well can spell disaster. But, if you are like me, you take risks and I am glad you do. I must just ask you this question (which someone close to me once asked) "If you do this, are you ready for what is going to happen?"

I want to give everyone an idea of what it takes to try to do something different. First off, if you are a homeowner with an idea that you have been called crazy for thinking up, then you are at step one of what we go through as innovators. I have been called lots of things because of the extra care we take to finely tune a house. Sometimes it means not making any money because we have to spend our time when not on the jobsite researching and developing a productive game plan. Other times, we get caught up in battles with townships or neighbors who seem to live in the dark ages. Every time we go into a new township, we have to educate the township and the inspectors on what we are doing and why. There is value in it for all the parties involved even-though there is no monetary value that we can put in the books. I truly understand why other builders are stuck in their ways and still building sub-par homes. We can continue this talk later, I am leading into this next thought.

As I mentioned towards the top of this journal entry, experience is important in our ability to keep the price on track for a Hybrid Home. I want to discuss the difference in what I learned in College and what I learned "on the streets". In college, we are taught to successfully earn our way to the top of the field in which we participate. We take large amounts of time learning proven techniques that others have used for years. We are taught lots of wonderful, useful knowledge that helps prepare us for the working world. Then, we get tossed into the real world and find out very quickly that we weren't taught everything!

Let me digress for a moment, I went to Barnes and Noble Bookstore the other day to look for a new book to read on economics. While I was there, I needed to satisfy something that was on my mind. So, I started to dig through the piles of self-help and "how to succeed" books. There were tons of books that were written by dynamic people explaining how I could be just like them if only I followed their easy steps. I could look like them, earn as much as them, or succeed like them if only I bought their book. I did not buy any of those books. What I was looking for, was a book on direction. Not on how to get somewhere, but on what to do once I was there. There were no such books. Basically, there were a lot of 'maps' on how to get somewhere, but nothing on what to do once you got to where you wanted to go. Now, I am a big believer in paving my own way, when I go on trips, I just find all the 'cool stuff' myself and then go home. The problem is, when you are on a time schedule and a budget, having an idea of where you should go makes us use our time more wisely. Do I still have you so far? Great! To sum this up, I was out to satisfy an urge that I had, I tried to find a book on direction, I did not find one.

Time to get back on track. With experience comes proficiency and efficiency. When I first went to Colorado, I did not know where anything was. Now, after having been there countless times for extended periods of time, I could take you on a journey to places you never knew existed. I feel the same is true with experience in this 'green building thing' that is going on. I feel that college gave me the ability to get a ticket on the train of life. It was through real life experience and being exposed to this form of building for most of my life, that I found a way to survive. I would not be where I am right now without college, but equally so, I wouldn't be where I am at without having the experience to know right from wrong. When you ask someone if they have experience in what they do, to me, that can be asking for an answer that is going to take some time to answer. Or better yet, it should take the person you ask quite a while to answer that question. Building a house is basically a series of steps that most people can follow and pull off. A girl scout troop with the right direction can build a normal house, and have. But, once you start doing things differently, it really adds a twist to the normal process. Doing things differently is where the experience has got to come into play. Stepping outside a box has its consequences, and sometimes those consequences can be very costly both emotionally and financially. Those that use experience as a guide when stepping outside a box usually fare better than those that fly around by the seat of their pants. If you want a great example of this, watch college football on any given Saturday during the Fall months. Experience often times seals the win for the top teams when they find themselves in difficult situations.

If you have stuck with me this long, then I feel you should be rewarded for your efforts! I want to give you a real life lesson that we are currently having to deal with in Onekama. An issue that has cost us a lot of time and has made me out to be either a hero or a trouble maker depending on what side of the battle the locals up there are on.  Back in late January of this year, we knew that we earned the opportunity to build the ultimate Hybrid Home in Onekama. We also knew that we would open the house up to the general public during the Michigan Energy Fair that is held in Onekama each year. I went to the township in early February and told the zoning administrator everything that we were going to do with the house and everything that the house would have on or in it; including a wind generator. She told me that there was an ordinance for wind machines but that it only pertained to the 'big commercial' units. Upon hearing that, I said "can you please find me a copy of that ordinance as soon as you can?" Well, months passed and with a very well documented trail of requests for the wind generator ordinances we put up the wind generator in time for the Energy Fair. The day after the Energy Fair left town, I got a call from the township that states that the wind generator was in violation of their wind ordinance. This notice came from the same person who told us it was alright to put it up! I have been before the zoning board several times and have been called incompetent and a number of other horrible things. The fact is, that we put that wind machine up only after relying on the zoning administrator, whose main job is to know the zoning backwards and forwards, telling us we could put it up. I have been on the front page of newspapers, on the radio, and television defending myself and watching very closely how quickly a small issue can turn into a very time consuming and costly one. Even if we take this issue to court, think of the time and money lost dealing with this township and assumptions! The battle rages on, and we are working to complete the project. The house will be completed before this issue is resolved. I plan on heading up this fight no matter where we are next. I want to thank the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association for standing by my side in this fight. Without them, I definitely would have been a lamb lead to the slaughter.

There is more to this story, and I have been asked by a number of people to go public with the records I kept leading up to this fiasco, but this is an issue that I have to see through and I will go public with my experiences as soon as we get things resolved.

My point in all of this, is that you as the homeowner should never assume that your township is 'OK' with alternative or renewable energy options. As you have read hear, I didn't assume anything, I went to the township before we broke ground and we still had a problem. Don't let your builder tell you that you can have anything you like. In fact, if you hear this from them it should be a big red flag. Ask your builder to get everything in writing before your even proceed with your plans being drawn. If you are a builder, I wish you the best of luck! It is only 'cool' to be on the front page of newspapers for so long. Your reputation is at stake, and don't think that you can just figure it out as you go. If that is your business plan, than you might want to rethink a few things.

Thank you for reading this, I guess I want everyone to know that doing things different comes with its challenges. Expectations in this field are so high that getting your feet wet on an ultra high efficiency home can be a bad thing for both the homeowner and the builder. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't give it a try, just be as proactive as you can be and have some money saved up for the time you spend not getting paid while you educate everyone about what you are doing.

Even though the process of building an ultra high efficiency house seems difficult, the more I have done, the better at it we got. Now, I actually can keep a smile on my face while building one of these houses. My reward is the time I get to spend working hand in hand with homeowners as we build their dream home!

Thank you for your support

Adam "The Hybrid Home Guy"

 

 

 

Date: September 7th, 2007

This week I encourage you to interact with me on the new Hybrid Homes Message Boards! You can click on the link on the home page to get to the message boards.

Check the message boards out for topics on ICFs, Recycling, and so much more!

Date: August 17th, 2007

The house in Onekama is coming along nicely. The outside, now that it is almost all sided is looking amazing! What a great looking house!

In a few months, this most exciting house will have been finished and we will come back home for six or seven months and build another Hybrid house. While we are gone during this time frame working on our projects, there are sights and sounds that help us remember all the fun that we get to have on these projects. I will be sad when we leave Onekama, because we have made new friends there, laughed and cried there and became part of local legend. We will always be known as the guys who 'built that green house on Herkelrath". Even though I am anxious to work around home for a while, I will miss this project more than any other project because of what it stands for and because of the great people who worked on it with us including the homeowner! I will cry about this later, but this is what's on my mind.

The homeowner and I are currently working with the Township of Onekama with regards to our wind generator. Stay tuned to this Journal for updates. This type of interaction with the locals are what makes it tough for me to leave a place. I find myself interacting with the locals in one way or another wherever we have a project. I like to employ as many as I can and get to know where all the good fishing spots are. I believe that this experience gives Hybrid Homes an edge because of the knowledge I have gained in small and large communities. It is true, not everyone is alike. Each community is like its own little country and I have learned quite a bit about myself after getting to know lots of people all over the country. My point in all this is for people to recognize that in order to create an ultra high efficiency home, sometimes your builder has to step outside of there comfort level, get their feet wet, and learn what small town cultures can do for the building business.

 

Date: August 10, 2007

I was taking a cruise on the information highway trying to find out what people are thinking about green building. I came across a site that was talking about LEED-H and green building and that person was mentioning how he was pushing more for the energy efficiency on projects than he was the recycling, indoor air quality, and everything else that LEED-H stands for. My conclusion: people just don't get it. LEED-H is not only a frame of mind, it is a specific set of guidelines to build a home by. Green is supposed to mean the environment or environmentally friendly. What good is an energy efficient home if you destroyed the planet while you built it. LEED-H involves so many areas of the construction process because of people's wasteful ways. Take a close look at a job-site dumpster when you are out cruising around and you will see what I mean. It grinds my gears to have people associate themselves with something and only do the very minimum to carry a title. I do feel that it is a good step in the right direction, but stop using green for marketing.

I now plan to be labeled, "The Wyatt Erp of Green Building". Somebody has to, it might as well be me. I will get in the face of anyone misrepresenting green building or the term Hybrid. I will also call out those developers who claim to be green but will bend their rules to just "get a house in the ground". I will personally seek out the developers that are sticking to their guns, holding a hard line, and producing true green developments. I will walk up to them, shake their hand, and thank them.

Today I am irritated, that's unusual for me. It seems that green washing is occurring even more every day. Without the help of Team Hybrid member Standale Lumber, it would be tough to weed out the imposters and find true green products. I have, in my own way, empowered Standale Lumber to become the leading green supplier in the State. Their dedication to finding only the greenest products and then offering them in such a way that it is easy for builders to use them is awesome. Standale Lumber is so far ahead of its competition, that it would take 2 years for the others to catch up. All this is the result of my challenge to them to step it up and do the right thing.

So, back to my irritation. As you can see, there are companies staking their livelihood on green building and doing a great job, why should others be able to mention a certification process to be associated with those of us who are sticking their necks out so far? Its like taking credit for putting out a forest fire without ever suiting up and grabbing a shovel.

On a brighter note, John and I have been invited to Michigan International Speedway as a guest of CertainTeed which produces the FiberCement siding that we are using. They want us to view their new products and then give us VIP privileges at this NASCAR event. We will tour the pits, meet drivers, watch the race and get into any trouble that we are allowed to get into. I mention this event, because, CertainTeed recognizes that Team Hybrid is a driving force in green building and are doing their part to get us in front of the right people at the right times. I am looking forward to meeting some corporate folks there and telling them what I think about their products. Thank you CertainTeed for believing in Hybrid Homes and following my strict rules, you are a valued member of team Hybrid!

Stay tuned, I will post pictures when I get them.

Signed: Wyatt Erp, I mean Adam....................

Date: August 04, 2007

I was re-reading Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach, looking for more clues on how to make a Hybrid Home have even a higher return on investment for the homeowner. A suggestion that David makes in his book is to pay more on the principle of the mortgage to shorten the term and pay less interest. I searched this section out because I have read it in other books too. What I am getting at is applying your energy savings to the principle of your home loan. I wrote about this earlier in this Journal, but there are homes that my dad and uncle built in the early nineties that are now almost paid off. These people applied their energy savings on the principle of their mortgages and reduced their interest enough to shorten the length of their mortgage. Basically take the amount you pay now for energy verses what you will pay after you have a Hybrid home built and apply that to the principle.

Why am I spending time on this? I had a conversation today with a homeowner who told me that he was spending over $500 a month on electric and probably close to that on natural gas. We will use $1,000 a month for this example. If they were to get into a house that was built the way we do things, they could apply that $1,000 to the principle of their new loan each month. A 30 year mortgage would be reduced closer to 20 years in length! This takes discipline. To take the extra money you have each month from the energy savings and spend it on your mortgage instead of at AppleBees is tough, but according to David Bach, it is one of the 9 steps to smart couples finishing rich.

I am excited as we get ready to film parts of our TV show. Hopefully we can get a link on the website soon for all to view!

Date: July 28th, 2007

Has anyone ever wondered why people do what they do? Is it for recognition, gratification, or any other words that end in "ion"? I bring this question  up because of the conversations I have with the members of Team Hybrid. As each team member goes about their business throughout the State and Country, they are constantly reminded of what a challenge it is to do things differently. It seems that we get a chance to educate people wherever we go regardless of if they want to be educated on the latest trends and the most cutting products or not. We work in a number of small towns, and instead of recognizing that we are bringing a wealth of information to their town, they approach us about taking their local jobs. I follow the 5th Habit of Stephen R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and I suggest these small towns do the same, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". For instance, in Onekama, we have over 85% of the sub-contractors from the local area. We have pumped thousands of dollars into their local economy from food, Monster energy drinks, and lumber purchases. Not to mention, we were able to help the Energy Fair be a success which brought 5,000 people to their town, people who never knew where Onekama was before they showed up to see the most cutting edge products and process in renewable and alternative energy solutions.

OK, enough. The point is, I finally understand why other builders are stuck in their ways. I made sure to follow the 5th Habit of Stephen Covey and it has paid off. I am noticing first hand why it is 'just easier' to build homes the way they have always been built. I have kept this business growing at a speed that allows me to work on the jobsites so that I can learn and understand how communities work and to stay sharp on the products and processes that make our homes ultra-high efficiency homes. I feel that my studies of International business have helped Hybrid homes, LLC grow, because each new community we work in is like another country. These communities have their own cultures, sub-cultures, and sometimes currency (for lack of a better word). Members of Team Hybrid work closely with inspectors, planners, and other officials to make sure they understand that we are not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, but rather are offering them a great opportunity to be a community of cutting edge people. What I have found out, is that trouble brews the way it does in movies from the 40's and 50's. It ultimately comes down to one or a handful of landowners that poke and prod the elected decision makers to keep their communities small and I understand that. My point is, small communities all over the country are struggling to survive and can not attract industry or service jobs to their community because of how those communities are perceived by the corporate decision makers. The towns that are attracting the jobs are progressive thinking communities that investigate and allow cutting edge technologies in their communities. If you think I am wrong, I will send you the reports that back up what I say.

So, why am I on this soap box? I think it's because I want people to understand that the members of Team Hybrid go through a lot of hassle on each and every job as they try to direct the building industry into a better direction. It seems like I could set my watch to a time each week when the phone rings with a member of Team Hybrid telling me that a city council won't allow this or an ordinance prevents that. To better understand this, I have been getting to know a number of State officials and keeping in contact with them. These fine elected folks are taking a stance on the State level and are trying hard to change the way that our old archaic government thinks about renewable/alternative energy and green building certifications. Much like our houses, one by one they are showing up in communities all over the state. I personally feel that this creates an awesome opportunity for small communities to step forward and be challenged to create model ordinances for other communities in the State. As a result, those communities will get noticed quicker than other slow to change areas by companies looking for locations to house facilities; health care, service jobs, etc.

As a business owner, I am attracted to areas that think progressively, that is why I love Colorado so much. Even though I love the Rocky Mountain State, I am going to stick around in Michigan and educate as many people as I can. As a member of the population that is leaving this state in 'droves', I feel a few of us should stay here and try to rub off on people. If it doesn't work out, I can think of a dozen communities in Colorado that would and have welcomed this type of building and technology with opened arms. These same communities are constantly listed in publications such as Inc. Magazine, Money Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal (all of which I read regularly and recommend you do also) as being favorite places to live, raise families, and host industry. If you have never been to Fort Collins Colorado, I recommend you at least look it up on the Internet and see why I hail that town so much. Regardless of what my wife says, it is not just because Fat Tire Amber Ale is made there. *FUN FACT: The New Belgium Brewery located in Fort Collins Colorado is wind powered!!* I think part of me wants our small towns in Michigan to have the same success as Fort Collins has over the years. It is now growing because everyone wants to live there, but it still has a small town atmosphere. Fort Collins started out small and attracted people by the way the community thought about the future. They decided to make the tough decisions while sticking to their main goal of protecting its citizens both financially and physically.

Thank you for reading this, I want everyone to know that I understand why other builders aren't building homes like we do. It is tough, a pain in the neck, and sometimes doesn't seem worth it, but it is. We are using up our resources to quickly and it is time that we start building more energy efficient houses!

Some Great News:

The Onekama show house was visited by an editor of a magazine out of Traverse City. The magazine wants to feature this home in one of its upcoming issues! I will fill you in more as things materialize. More exposure for the town of Onekama!

I am working hard to get a pilot television show put together. If you know any decision makers that might be interested in sponsoring part of this project, please email me for more details. I can not let the cat out of the bag yet, but if you have enjoyed this website and what we do, you are going to really enjoy this television show!

We are continuing to meet new people and line up speaking dates all over the State. Stay tuned here for the details!

Date: July 5th, 2007

Hello everyone, yes, I am still alive after the last few weeks of touring around and helping Team Hybrid get ready for the Michigan Energy Fair. The biggest question I have to answer right now, is :"How did it go?" My answer to that is "GREAT!!" Having a show house as part of the Michigan Energy Fair gained us more exposure than I could have ever thought it would. I will be honest, I knew that we would make an impact with this exposure, but after today, it has really started to sink in. This morning, Mike Holcomb (The Home Inspector General), Eric Hughes (Image Design), and myself (Hybrid Maniac #1) went onto a talk show at Grand Valley State University's radio station with Shelly Irwin. We were allowed to talk about a number of issues including what we thought of the other green building certifications. Everyone knows by now about the hard line that I hold about building homes to LEED for Homes standards. From the feed back that I received, it sounds like our time on the air was well spent and that people enjoyed our enthusiasm for what we do.

My wife and I just got back from the House of Representatives building in Lansing where I was on a television show that was taped to air sometime in the near future. State Rep. Mary Valentine asked me to come to Lansing today and film this show with her. I met her at the Michigan Energy Fair and she recognized that our passion and efforts are for real, and now, my ideas of taking Hybrid Homes to the next level are unfolding nicely! Stay tuned!

The Show House was manned by a number of people, all of whom I thank! Special thanks goes out to the homeowner Steve, Kyle from R-Value, John-My right hand man, my mom, both dads, and everyone else that I threw into the positions they had. I figured having people who weren't experts to answer a few of the questions would challenge not only the volunteers, but the fair goers to. As it stands, we had very positive feedback, and I was amazed at the interest that people had in what we were building there. A person from East Lansing won the big cash prize we gave away!!

Because of the Energy Fair Exposure, we have been asked to speak in a number of locations throughout the State of Michigan. However, we still are building houses, so do not worry, I will get back to updating the photos in the galleries ASAP! Also, our schedule is filling fast and we will be adding workers soon to accommodate the jobs we have coming up. If you are not looking to build for a year or two, then that is great! But, if you are certain that you want a house built in that time frame, we need to talk soon, so we don't miss the opportunity to build your Hybrid Home because we are working on other projects. Email me ASAP if you would like to talk further about the possibilities of Hybrid Homes being your builder.

Stay tuned, our faces will be popping up all over the place spreading the great news about LEED-for Homes and our approach to building! We will have updated project galleries by the end of the weekend!

Date: June 03, 2007

Greetings! The hot sun has not stopped our progress! We continue to press forward in an efficient manner.

This week, I have to speak about marketing and building a new home or remodeling. I won't be talking about a builder marketing his or her business, but rather a builder marketing your next Project. Do you realize that there are millions of dollars in companies' budgets that are spent each year in the attempts of standing out from their competition? That is where a marketing savvy builder/contractor can go to work for their customer. It is not my intention to give away any secrets here of how I go to bat for the customers, but rather, I want to present a few examples of what one can get if they just ask. Building Hybrid homes attracts a lot of attention. We had 92,000 hits on our website for just the month of May! Can you imagine the amount of marketing pull we have gained from our exposure?

I want to lay out for you a small picture of how I approach a project. Before I begin, I must tell you that I am a student of Greg Stielstra who wrote the book, PyroMarketing. I worked for Greg and learned from him, not only how to market my idea of Hybrid Homes, but how to get the most for our customers. I highly recommend getting this book as part of your researching your next project.

Let's have a look at a few examples of what we have done. First off, we build houses that are different than any others out there. That warrants attention! As soon as the ICFs come out of the ground, people stop to ask questions. Where else does this happen? This is an indicator that you have something special. This type of attention where people stop to view what you are doing without advertising is one of the things that attracts savvy businesses to your project. By now, we have our vendors asking me what else is in the works so they can get stellar exposure from one of our projects. So, use the attention your idea has, especially when it becomes a reality!

Secondly, understand that telling people about your Hybrid Project is a great idea. It's like fishing with vendors, if they are interested in what you are casting out, they will bite. If they do not bite, they are not worth the time and will most likely not be used on any projects we do. Those that show genuine interest in your project will be the perfect people to go to bat for you.

Can you think of a time in your life when you had a great idea that you wanted to share? Now, can you remember that time when you told the first person you talked to about it and they shot the idea down and nothing ever became of your dream? It probably has happened a lot in your life as it has mine, but let's apply that to your Hybrid Project. Because it is your project, you are in a different position. Especially once you start it. My advice here is to not let other builders or people tell you that your idea is crazy, I love those ideas, let's just fine tune them and use those ideas to save you money.

Enough with the advice (you are probably saying), how about seeing how it works (or if it works). Here is my first example. I have been searching for a lumber company to see things my way and be prepared to service our needs. I visited a number of places where the sales people were very depressed and hoping for something to happen. There I was, and I was happening! They didn't bite at what I was casting out so I trolled on over to the place that did, Standale Lumber. You talk about enthusiasm! At first, they didn't quite get everything that I was trying to talk about, but they showed a willingness to learn. And they did! Buzz from Standale and I have work hand in hand nearly everyday to catch them up to speed on what products to offer, and because of this I was able to be put in front of major decision makers from a number of companies. I asked for meetings with window companies, flooring companies, and you name it. In exchange for my enthusiasm and knowledge, we received a great price on the materials we buy from them, but also the connection to get in front of major decision makers to go to bat for our customers.

Most vendors have a Parade of Homes discount or show house discount. I always ask for them right up front. We get a ton of traffic on our website, and what better way to show off those products than to be featured in a weekly update that gets passed on to thousands of people. The trick here for the builder, is not to pocket the savings, but rather encourage the homeowners to use those savings for items such as wind generators or solar hot water systems. That way everyone wins including the most important player, the environment! If a home is not quite right for these options, then at least the homeowner is getting a house that is so much more than any others out there and for a price that makes cents! (sorry about that, that's me trying to use my marketing degree)    :)

This post is getting long now, so I hope you are getting the idea of what I am trying to lay down. Let your passion, research, and builder work to get you great deals on your Hybrid Project. For those attending the Energy Fair and touring the show house, you will learn the next pieces of this puzzle. Find me in the Hybrid Row of booths and talk to me, I will be glad to share with you some information on making sure you get more for your money on your next project.

Date: May 26th, 2007

This is Memorial Day Weekend and we must remember those who gave their time and lives to protect our freedom. Without the men and women of the Armed Forces, we would not be able to live the way we live and do the things we do. Thank a veteran any chance you can!

My good friend Mark Bauer from Bauer Power called me a few minutes before he went on the air for a green building show on WGVU. He was a guest on this show and called me prior to it to let me know that he was going to be on the air. How cool! I called my dad, who we call "Uncle Rog" when he is on the jobsite, just in time for him to hold his phone to the TV. I heard Mark talking about our show house in Onekama. Wow! His products are all over this show house and he did a great job of letting people know it. Then, a caller called in and gave out our website, twice! How is that for creating a buzz!!! Thank you Mark, you are a valued member of Team Hybrid! And thank you mystery caller...:)

You will notice in the project gallery, that I posted a few pictures showing how the overhangs on this show house shade the living areas. Eric Hughes from Image Design calculated the overhang distance versus the angle of the sun and he got it perfect! Look at the shadow lines right at the bottom of the windows! Great job. This design is important for passive solar houses and is a reason passive solar houses are not extremely hot in the summer months. Great work Eric, I love those pictures, it proves the point very well.

Jeff and Larry from Jeff Sparks Builders, LLC along with Bill and Ben came up this past week to help us frame the roof system on this show house. I worked with Jeff and Larry quite a bit in the past and I knew that they needed to help us on this roof system. Jeff dropped everything and brought his crew and sky-track up to help us, not only because we are friends, but because he and his guys are very excited about this approach to building. Thank you guys for keeping the faith, sharing my vision, and working your tails off from dawn 'til dark everyday!

My right hand man, John doesn't get a lot of press, but that doesn't mean that he isn't doing his part. John is working even harder than he normally does through some very tough conditions. He is the person who absorbs a large amount of the stress that goes with my position. Some days are tougher than others, but he sticks it out and keeps pushing forward. Thank you John for being who you are, putting up with me, and sticking by my side no matter what!

Finally, like I mentioned above, Mark Bauer was able to use an opportunity to further himself and Team Hybrid. I feel that two things are vitally important to building properly and using less energy with the products we provide. We must first do what we do correctly. For us, that would be following the Hybrid Philosophies and the criteria of LEED-H when we are building Hybrid Homes. Secondly, it is equally important to be able to broadcast what is being done to show others that it is possible to do. Another series of events occurs when a cutting edge process is taking place and it is broadcasted, it sets an example to others in the same industry and raises awareness to customers so that they can get the most for their money by not being misled with this whole 'green washing' stuff that is going on.

By forwarding the emails that I send out, 'The Hybrid Home Update", you are helping us broadcast proper techniques and are creating that awareness I spoke of earlier. Thank you! You are the reason the traffic to the website has tripled in the last three months. Protecting yourself as the consumer will save you headaches and money, For instance, there is a class every week that is put on by people from all walks of life. There are classes put on by the Green Built Michigan people, LEED-H people, and Energy Star people and the classes are starting to confuse people and pit companies against each other. My stance on all this, is that LEED-H is where I invest my future, money and time. The debate raging now is the cost of LEED-H, and I have to shout really loud the word "STOP"! Why? because 'they' are doing it again. The small cost of LEED-H certification is worth it! It gives builders a guideline to follow that isn't easy to obtain. In fact, David Bahle, the developer of Thorntree Commons in Suttons Bay will reimburse the price of the LEED-H certifications of any homes rated Silver or above. How is that for setting an example? I fully intend on taking advantage of that deal. I will write in the future about my feelings on each certification, but unless something miraculously happens with the other so-called green certifications, I am holding strong to my respect and feelings about LEED-H. I welcome any comments, especially if you are a critic of mine, and encourage you to come to our show house at the Energy Fair in June and see how and why we build the way that we do.

Now go enjoy the weekend and we will continue this debate after we have all had a great, long, fun filled weekend!

Date: May 20th, 2007

It has been a few weeks since my last journal entry here. I have learned and experienced a number of things since the last entry. One of the most exciting pieces of information that I learned was that Consumers Energy accepted the inter-connect agreement for the wind generator on the Hybrid Show House in Onekama. A big thanks goes out to Mark Bauer, owner of Bauer Power, for making this a smooth process. His connections and expertise in solar and wind generation makes him a key player in Team Hybrid. Thanks Mark!

Mary Bigelow is a name that you will see popping up whenever you enter my name, the Michigan Energy Fair, and Hybrid Homes into Google. Who is she? Well, she is a newly found friend and advocate for our type of building. Mary works in mortgages and her and I began working on Hybrid Home specific construction loans a while ago. Mary has become even more excited about building homes correctly and the processes we use to get it all done. She has several posts about us on her blog. Thank you for the exposure Mary and there are many exciting things to come for all of Team Hybrid! Here is a link to her blog, you might have to scroll down a little, and look at all the comments!!! http://activerain.com/blogs/mabigelow

I keep hearing this phrase and it is beginning to bother me, "How can you get any greener than building with trees?" Well, trees are not the point, the environment is. Sure, properly forested trees that are governed by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) are what most lumber yards carry now and we use those products to do what framing we have in our houses, but, it is more than that. Are other builders out there building green? Using the right green products is only one piece of the puzzle.

If you are looking at a group of builders to build a green home for you, here are a few great question to ask each and every builder you are interviewing:

1) What can you tell me about LEED-H certification and how many LEED-H projects have you completed or are you currently working on?

2) Tell me about your recycling efforts. Do you have documentation of those efforts?

3) What do you do to make sure your sub-contractors follow your recycling efforts?

Now, I am not trying to cause any trouble, I am simply trying to help you weave your way through the non-green builders who are calling themselves green builders to get your job. I want the following idea to come out of the journal entry, "What makes you friendly to the environment includes more than the few products you put into a home that are environmentally friendly. It is processes, procedures, products, and piece of mind, among other things that should guide a green builder. If a builder who calls themselves green has a full dumpster at one of their homes, my point is proved. A Hybrid Home is all these things listed and more, it's a total team effort."-Adam Bearup

Make sure you keep your eyes glued to the GLREA, our Show House, Hybrid Row of exhibitors, and our workshop date is posted and people are really getting excited to come view the future of home construction! Good Day!!

Date: May 6, 2007

This week I have to spend a little time bringing to light members of Team Hybrid. Without these key people and their companies Hybrid Homes, LLC would not be where we are at today. You will notice on the home page, that I added a link to Team Hybrid. The placement of these companies on Team Hybrid is by their own merits and is not a position that is given, it is earned.

First, I have to thank Eric and Christy Hughes from Image Design. Without Image Design, Hybrid Homes would not be able to provide the cutting edge attractive design that makes part of the Hybrid Philosophy (TM) click. Eric and Christy have been supportive of my ideas and direction and have offered valuable insight in the direction to take with this business. We both stuck through the tough times and I can't thank them enough for all they have done for Hybrid Homes. I wish them the best and hope that their courage to stick with me through the tough times pays off to them in a big way. If you want a great home designer, look no farther than Image Design. They are by far THE top green and Hybrid designers in the State.

The following companies believed in my idea and didn't bat an eye when I asked them to trust me and my direction. I basically called these companies up and ordered large quantities of items and they trusted me to pay them, which I have, before the due dates. Without their trust and belief in the Hybrid Philosophy (TM) we would not be able to do what we do. These companies are: Standale Lumber, Consumers Concrete, Wall Tech Products, Team Elmers, Bauer Power, Forbes Excavating of Manistee, The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, Onekama Building Supply, and R-Value Concrete Structures. There are a number of others taking part in this home who will undoubtedly earn a spot on Team Hybrid; who will be mentioned later. I encourage everyone to check out these companies and see how they can assist you and maybe drop them a line encouraging their continued support and participation in Team Hybrid. If you do contact them, please tell them Hybrid Homes sent you.

The members of R-Value Concrete Structures have exceeded my expectations. Jake, Kyle, and Jim along with myself and my right hand man John have gelled into a well oiled machine. The workload that we complete is tremendous and they never complain at the long hours or the tasks that I throw at them. Jake is a great leader and I am amazed at his crew. Plus, we have so much fun together that it is kind of sad when they leave for the weekend. Thanks guys for believing in me, being so passionate about LEED-H certifications, and working so dang hard!!

I have to thank the homeowners on this Onekama project, because without them, there would be no Energy Fair Show House. Wait until you meet them, they share the same passion for the environment that I do and are nice enough to open their home up to thousands of people for the purpose of education and to show fair goers that, well, quite frankly, their house is very cool! Come and see the wind generator and all the other great features on this home.

Now that this home is cranking along, there are companies stepping forward to provide products that fall in line with our LEED-H certification. They are now recognizing that our projects are not just talk. My enthusiasm is always very high, and perhaps that makes people a little leery. This doesn't concern me, but it should concern those who passed on this great opportunity for marketing. We are for real, Team Hybrid is for real, and if you are looking for a Team to build your next home or commercial building, look no further than the leaders in Hybrid Construction. Email me today if you are as fired up as we are about the future of building!

Date: April 29, 2007

The first item on the list to talk about this week is Thorntree Commons at Suttons Bay. This green development and its developer, David Bahle, are prime examples of what can happen if you put your mind to something and stand your ground. I had the pleasure of getting the VIP tour of this development by David Bahle this past Saturday. This land is pristine and full of beautiful flowers, amazing rolling hills, and tall trees. One of the things that caught my eye was how he had the road pick its way through the natural setting instead of cutting a bunch of trees down. This is where it starts, right from the very beginning with the planning of a development like this.

For quite a while now, David Bahle and I have talked about the direction he should take with Thorntree Commons, and I have to admit, once I walked this land and talked to David about his desires for this project, it made me want to play an even bigger role in this project. David has invested not only his money in his dream, but his entire self as well and it shows. I was very impressed and can not say enough about him and the direction he is taking with this development.

If you have ever been to Suttons Bay, you know it as this quaint town in a beautiful setting nestled on the shores of Suttons Bay. Thorntree Commons is a stones throw from this town. Seriously, when my wife and I followed David to Thorntree Commons, we both said, wow, we are here already?! It is amazing how close we were to town and how natural the setting was. I have never experienced that before. Eric Hughes and I are going to work on a Hybrid Home specific to that area that will capture the ambience of its setting and the charm of that town. I am excited!! Stay tuned and make sure you check Thorntree Commons' website out today, here's the link:

http://www.thorntreecommons.com/index.php

Now onto the show house in Onekama. Talk about exciting! Click the following link to view a perspective of this house. It is really cool: http://imagedesignllc.blogspot.com/ Thank you to Eric Hughes from Image Design for this! If you click on the picture there, you can see an enlarged version of it!

We are making good progress on this house and will have it to a perfect place in the schedule for people to tour it at the Energy Fair June 22nd-24th. Those who tour this house will be able to 'kick the tires' on a home like this and get an in-depth, insiders' look at how this home was built. As an added treat, we will be giving a workshop on Sunday June 24th at 11:00 am in Tent #3. This workshop will be called "Building a Hybrid Home from Start to Finish." What a great compliment to the exclusive home tour! That weekend, you will be able to tour the Hybrid House, meet and view the companies' booths that took part in the Hybrid Show House, and then come to the workshop and hear us talk about what it takes to build a house like this on time and on budget. I have received a number of emails from people who are excited about this great opportunity. This will be like nothing you have experienced before. This is not like a Parade of Homes, but rather, a place for like minded folks to gather and discover where ideas go when people come up with them!!!

Enjoy the week, I look forward to checking back in with you soon! Until then, email me if you have any questions or comments and definitely stay tuned, we will be installing the solar hot water panels and wind generator soon!

Date: April 20, 2007

Spring is finally here! We still fired up the crock pot even without a blizzard warning. If you are new here, scroll down and read the Journal Entry entitled 'The Crock Pot and the Snow Storm".

It has been a very productive and educational week. Eric Hughes from Image Design worked with us the last two weeks to see how his designs work with ICF construction. I firmly believe this type of interaction with a builder will put Image Design at the forefront of sustainable building and designing. So how did he do? Great question! We worked Eric like a dog from sun up to sun down and he hung in there with some of the most extreme working people that there is. We work and will not stop until we complete what we set out to accomplish even if it means not eating or coming home after dark. Eric had the same look on his face that we did at the end of our long days, so he did a great job and his presence was not only appreciated, but enjoyed by everyone on the crew.

This past week, we completed or started a number of tasks. First of all, we completed framing the floor system for the first floor and laid the sub-floor down. We got the drain tile and water proofing put up so that the excavators could backfill next week. While a few of us went to Traverse City to get supplies and take a field trip, the other guys stayed back and graded the basement so we could get ready to lay foam and the pex tubing for the in-floor heating. Jake, Kyle, and Jim from R-Value Concrete constructed and poured the Lite-Deck on the front porch and the garage. We laid pex tubing for in-floor heat in the garage and the front porch. Then, we went up on the sub-floor and laid 4 courses of ICFs and got them braced. The plumbers completed their rough plumbing for under the basement floor. Also, we cleaned up a bit and ran a few loads of waste to the recycle center. Whew, what a week!

While in Traverse City, we took a tour of Architectural Elements. This company offers a number of green building products, including custom built green cabinets, countertops, and doors. I liked the tour a lot but am not sure exactly how many products they offer. I am sure they will get me that information so that I can pass along to everyone their offerings. I will post a link to their website when it is available.

Next week, we will make even further progress on this Show House....stay tuned.

 

Date: April 14, 2007

Thank you to everyone that emailed me about the Hybrid Journal entry from April 6th. I was told by those that were working out there, that it is a good description of what we worked through.

I have to first talk about the town where we are staying, Onekama. The locals are very particular on how to say the name of their town. It is pronounced "Oh-neck-ka-ma" just incase you wondered. This town is so laid back, but yet, it has high-speed Internet, natural gas, and a whole host of other amenities that helps us keep in touch with the rest of the world. This town is a true hidden treasure of the North.

Here is an update. As you can tell from the Project Gallery, we are moving right along on the Hybrid Home in Onekama. We are able to recycle all of our cardboard and plastic at the local school. Onekama Consolidated Schools has a full recycling center that we have been using. Pictures of this location are located in the Herkelrath Project Gallery.

We poured the ICFs with concrete this week. We had Elmers Concrete add fly ash to the mix and air entrainment. Both of these additives reduce the overall amount of concrete in the mix. Fly ash is a by-product of coal fueled electrical plants. It is the ash left over after coal is burned. It was amazing, we could smell the smell of burned wood when we poured the concrete with fly ash in it. That was cool!

We are cranking along in Onekama and are looking forward to the nice weather that's coming our way. Stay tuned to the Hybrid Journal for further updates on this exciting project.

Date: April 06, 2007

"The Crock Pot and the Snow Storm" (from the pages of Adam's personal journal)

"Old man Winter came back with a vengeance this week. The five of us were blown around for three days in the North Country as a blizzard tightened its grip on the area. We worked from Dawn to Dusk to keep on schedule in weather that closed schools and slowed commuting to a screeching halt. Our only salvation was a mile away in a little two bedroom cottage; the crock pot. In the crock pot was a major contrast to what was happening outside. Inside its captive walls was a bubbling, hot concoction of the very thing that hard working people need to make the long days worth it.

I have not worked with a harder working bunch of guys in a long time. Although the weather was bad, we made the best of it and pressed on. Jake is to thank for pushing us and helping us realize our potential on days that were more like being on the summit of Mt. Everest than on a building site in Michigan.........."

To learn more, visit the project gallery and check out the Herkelrath project.

Let's talk about the term hybrid home. These two words together should present a picture of what an energy efficient home should be. Well, the term is popping up enough that I trademarked the terms listed on the home page. My hope is that by doing this I can stop our society from using the term Hybrid like they do the word green. A true Hybrid Home (TM) will have the 6 Criteria laid out in the Hybrid Philosophy (TM). Ask anyone that is using the term hybrid along with the word house or homes to tell you what the 6 design criteria are to make a true Hybrid Home (TM). You can learn these 6 criteria by visiting one of our workshops that Image Design and Hybrid Homes (TM) is putting on all weekend long at the Michigan Energy Fair.

I learned some very exciting news today about the alternative energy solutions that this house will have. Stay tuned for a write up on what we are getting and why it is so important.

Date: March 17 , 2007

I must admit, I have seen the number of phone calls that I receive increase to a very large volume. Of course, some of those calls are from the awesome sub-contractors that we use, but a number of the phone calls come from product reps who want to describe what makes their products green. I know that this is the result of my home show visits.

Because it is Saint Patrick's Day, lets look at the word "Green" in building for just one moment before we move one. As a builder or a homeowner, we need to be able to see through the red tape when it comes to product offerings for new homes and re-modeled ones as well. Green washing is occurring, and if you have read the previous posts in this journal, you will see how I feel about using the word green for marketing and not for the benefit of the environment and the consumer. Turning the river green in Chicago doesn't make it any less polluted, it just makes it more attractive. Green washing is the same way.

Let's talk about a few meetings that I have had lately. I was in sales for quite a while and I prided myself on being well prepared and well voiced in product knowledge and application. I expect that those who show me new products to consider at least meet the preparedness that I used to have. Yesterday, I was floored! I have been talking with a local company's general manager about what green products they have. He asked me to come to a meeting and mentioned that there may be a few people there with him. When I walked into the restaurant to meet them, I saw tables pulled together with five people sitting there. I couldn't believe it! Now that is exceeding my expectations. As we progressed, I was amazed at who was sitting at the table. He had arranged for the president of their company to be there, with another member of their team along, and two reps from a major international manufacturing company. This impressed me. As we ordered our selection of greasy spoon treats, I was presented with specific information to answer what makes their offerings green and showed us products that we could touch and feel!  After I research a little more about this large company, I will post a write up on them and the local companies that exceeded my expectations. If they run their businesses the way they handled me, they will continue to lead the industry in their respective areas. I was very impressed with the direction that these companies are taking. Stay tuned for a big right up on these companies!

For me, I have enjoyed this path that I have taken. I respect most of the sub-contractors that have submitted bids to our projects. It is very apparent as to which sub-contractors keep up on their research and which ones do not. Hybrid Houses (TM) and green built houses contain products and processes that I have found take time to do right. Builders who are getting their 'feet wet' with green building will soon find out that they have to think a bit more progressively to catch up to the times. Scary issues like mold and air quality come up with these tight houses unless you have the right people on your team who provide the right products for these types of homes. After a lot of hard work, I have found a select team of professionals all over the state to help us with our various projects.

If you haven't had a chance to check out Thorntree Commons, do so, the link is under the Developments section on the home page. David Bahle is the developer up there and he and I have had very direct conversations about how each of us feels about green building. Although there are a few issues that he is ironing out up there as to who is involved in his project, I must say that it is a step in the right direction. He has started with proper site selections and made his bylaws strict but adapting. I am looking forward to being a part of the future of Thorntree Commons in Suttons Bay. You can meet David Bahle and talk to him about his passions in the Hybrid Homes (TM) Section at the Michigan Energy Fair June 22nd-24th 2007. David has a vision that I wish more people shared and is becoming more fluent in green building and the Hybrid Philosophy (TM) by the minute!

Look for an entry on the companies I met with yesterday. I have not mentioned any names this time through because I will be doing what I do, and researching them in greater detail. The information they shared and the visions they have for the future are awesome and I look forward to them being part of this team.

Date: March 02 , 2007

I write today to remind everyone to keep the faith because Spring is coming!

Actually, I am writing to let everyone know how the progress is going with regards to our strict guidelines and green building. As each day goes by, the phenomenon known as green building is picking up major steam. Everywhere you look, there is a mention of green building. What gets me, is that the majority of builders are still not making any moves to prepare themselves for it. I am really looking forward to going to the Home Show this weekend and seeing how many 'green displays' there are. Of course, I will be asking each booth "What makes your products green?"

Green Developments and ideas for green developments are beginning to pop up around America. This is great actually, but as we have found out, the deed restrictions can really change your happy green plans. Seeking variances can be extremely difficult, especially when all the land is sold and you can't locate all the owners to sign off on the variance. That is when a vaguely worded set of deed restrictions can be extremely difficult to adjust. While one can't guess what the future holds, our fore-fathers gave us a great example in Article V of The Constitution of the United States. Article V makes it possible to propose and pass amendments as long as a certain chain of events occur successfully. They then listed those chain of events for future generations to follow because they knew society was advancing. I suggest that developers be careful not to limit advancing sustainable practices by wording their restrictions wrong. I also hope that they input some sort of process that landowners can follow to seek variances in those documents to aid in the advancement of materials and processes. If you want to learn more or try to figure out what I am talking about, just email me and I will bring you up to speed.

Moving on, things are beginning to be busy again. Spring is coming, and so are a number of jobs. I am very excited to get out and get started on a house near Holland and then the Hybrid House in Onekama. We will plug a house in the mix called the Pines Project which is listed in the project gallery. You can keep track of our progresses by viewing the project gallery on a regular basis and reading these journal entries.

Your homework for the next journal entry will be to research Thorntree Commons. This is a green development in Suttons Bay, north of Traverse City. I would like you to tour this site and determine if this development is setting a positive example for green developments everywhere. I will also be reviewing this website again, because I am expecting that we will play a role in this development by building a Hybrid House in there. This house would be a model home and set a benchmark for that development. If we all review this website, it will represent the scrutiny that green developments should and will have. I encourage you to tour their website and then notice that we are listed on that site. After weeks of talking with the founder and scrutinizing the development, I sent in my info to be on that website. I think Thorntree Commons is heading in the right direction and I look forward to being part of their future!

Keep warm!

Adam

Date: February 22 , 2007

Today I want to talk about a few things. The first items on the docket are green communities and green developments. I recently received some information on a community that is a mixed use community and is being marketed as a green, energy efficient development. The following picture was taken today at the development.

Click here to view the photo.

For me, this is not a good start for a green community. If you have made it this far on the website, then you need no explanation as to what is wrong with this picture. I was excited to go to this development and see what was going on. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm left as quickly as the snow in this warm weather. I just ask for people and businesses to walk their talk, or at least install the house wrap correctly.

The next item to discuss is home shows. I love home shows! The last one I went to, I stopped at every booth that had the word 'green' in their marketing material or banners. I asked them a simple question, "what makes your product green" The majority didn't know, a number of the others gave it a good try, and only a handful could explain their answer in a believable manner. This is just a great example of the word "green". Its fabulous for marketing, but I encourage you to ask your sales rep "What makes your product green?" and see how they respond.

As I walked around the home show, I came around a corner and heard a discussion that was loud enough for many to hear. It was the head of a local HBA's Green Built Council telling a potential customer that he was thinking wrong because he had some great ideas on how to save energy. The conversation was not a good one and I was a little embarrassed for this guy from the green council. It is not my intention to show fault or pass judgment here, but here is another prime example of misrepresentation. There are great ideas out there for saving energy, many that don't cost that much money. All I ask is that if someone is in a position of authority, that they act like it and encourage any type of construction that helps to reduce energy consumption. I don't think that this is too much to ask or a subject that is taboo.

The Home and Garden Expo is next weekend at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. Our friend Mark Bauer from Bauer Power will be there set up and ready to show off solar and wind generation technologies. This is without a doubt the biggest home show of its kind in West Michigan and I encourage everyone to go there and see who knows the most about their products. I guarantee Mark Bauer does! Also, check out our good friends in the Quality Hardwood Floor Booth for the latest green product offerings in hardwood flooring. They will have cork there, bamboo, and a variety of other products that will help steer you towards a few LEED-H points. I will be in the Quality Hardwood Floor booth at times throughout the weekend to help answer questions on green flooring options.

The last thing I need to bring up is this truly awesome wind farm northwest of Sault Saint Marie. This amazing place is in the process of installing (66) 1,500 kilowatt wind turbines in their first phase, that will create an estimate 99 megawatts. In case you are like me and wonder how much that is, put it this way. Canada is rapidly approaching having the capacity to run the entire country on alternative energy. The project is called Prince Wind Energy Project. Phase 2 will include another 60 or so wind turbines. This entire area is over 22,000 acres in size. For a look at this project check this link out!

http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/Page.asp?PageID=1179&SiteNodeID=224&BL_ExpandID=

The following is a picture sent to us by our friends Steve and Faye. They were skiing by this project recently and reminded me how awesome a complex it really is. I want to take a tour of the area, if you have been there, email me so I can get directions there. Have a great day!

Click here for the photo.

Spring has almost sprung, have a great day!

Date: January 23rd, 2007

LEED-H Seminar.

Eric Hughes from Image Design and I went to this exciting seminar on Monday the 22nd. We learned how LEED for Homes certification works and were excited to see that out of the 22 attendees from all over the United States, we along with one other person were the only ones in the class from the immediate area. We saw this as a huge advantage and that we have taken another step towards being the leaders in LEED certified home construction.

A big question that keeps getting asked is how much more is it to build a LEED certified home? Cost is a term that you can look at in many ways. For instance, how much does it cost the environment to not build a LEED certified home. The answer is, it cost the environment a lot. If you want to learn specifics about the LEED for Homes Pilot Program, email me and I can give you an idea of how your new home would stack up. Price wise, the spec house is priced at what other custom homes are priced at and it is certifiable the way it is drawn right now.

So why is it important? For us, it is a benchmark. We want the bar set high so that we strive to achieve the loftiest of goals while keeping projects on track and within the budget. LEED is the ultimate certification as it far exceeds any HBA's green certifications and is back by the national government. LEED Certification is our goal in building new homes. It sounds like a lofty achievement, but you will see upon review of the process, that LEED certification doesn't cost that much more to achieve than just building a house like most companies build them. There are more processes involved and a closer attention to detail that needs to be paid along with upgrades that do not cost that much more. The benefit to the homeowner is that they have a piece of mind that their builders are trained in the most up to date construction process and materials and this equates to getting more for the homeowner's money.

As far as lending goes, Fannie Mae is adding value above and beyond appraisal values for LEED Certified Homes. This is great! If you look around, you can find reduced rates for energy efficient homes. To qualify for these deals, you must supply them with exact processes or materials that make the homes energy efficient, and LEED paperwork can help you get these lending deals.

We are definitely excited about the future of building because major laws will require homes to be built the way that we are building them now. To the majority of builders who just build homes, this could mean playing a costly game of catch-up.

Date: January 3rd, 2007

Happy New Year Everyone!

This post will take us all back a number of years to see how things have changed with regards to green building.

The reason I am writing this today, is that I have been working to update the piles of information, articles, and photos that I found from my Dad and Uncle's original attempts to make ICFs a household name in West Michigan. I recently came across another 'pile' of information that my dad kept (thankfully) that shows projected energy savings out until 2010. This is amazing considering this information is from a time period between 1989 and 1994. Seventeen years ago, a number of builders were using ICFs in the majority of their construction of new homes. This process was happening in states like Nebraska, New Mexico, and Colorado. It amazes me that it has taken this long to get the ICFs rolling in the Midwest. Information that has taken me a year or more to obtain were written about in the various news articles that I found while going through a huge bag of information that my dad handed me one day.

I was putting the finishing touches on my high school career and the four years of drafting and architecture classes that I excelled in at the same time that West Shore Building Forms was started. It was great to be able to design my senior architecture project house as an ICF house. This, along with lots of experience has helped in the integrating of ICFs into the design of a home right from the start. This is a reason why I recommend Eric Hughes from Image Design, LLC to anyone interested in building with ICFs. Eric and I have spent countless hours developing an effective guideline for an architect/designer to follow when working with ICF home designs. These guidelines relate into great cost and time savings during the building process. It is funny, I didn't even remember my senior project was an ICF house until I came across these archives.

Looking at these archives is bizarre, the reason being, is that the information that is produced from a type writer back then is the same information (very close anyway :) ) that is offered in this day and age from computers. How can technology advance in some areas but not be used in others? I will have this information available at the Michigan Energy Fair in Onekama for everyone to see what I am talking about. The original business card is another eye opener, the name of their business was West Shore Building Forms. But, look at the tag line they used, "Environmentally correct building products." Talk about being way ahead of their time. Now, everyone uses those words in one way or another. 17 years, and all that has changed is that builders are using the talk more than the walk. This is great stuff.

Seventeen years ago, there were only a couple of Insulated Concrete Forms that looked or worked like what is vastly available today. Mostly because of the original patents. We will fast forward for a moment to the present day. Presently, there are about 80 different versions of an ICF, with a fair number of those made in the same facilities but sold under different names. A question I get, is this, "Why, if there are so many forms don't we see more houses built out of ICFs?" That is a great question! All one needs to do is to venture outside of the State and they will see more of these houses and also, SIP houses, sod house, and number of other great innovations in new home construction.

There is so much to write, so I will save some for another day. However, I want to post something that I wrote on November 9th, 1992. I was 18 years old, graduated from high school and working on ICF houses and the marketing of the ICFs for the business. This is a press release that I hand wrote and later got typed. It was then sent out to every media source in the West Michigan area, thus starting the official introduction of the ICF to West Michigan. Here we go, I am going to type it the way I hand wrote it, so there may be a typo here and there....I get a pass from my English teacher because I was eighteen then:

" FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               NOVEMBER 9, 92

     New product sold in the West Michigan Area is building a new foundation for home and commercial construction. Polysteel Foam Forms are replacing concrete blocks as a more economical, stronger, and energy saving building material.

     A Grand Haven home is the area's first structure to integrate this futuristic technology.

     Pouring has already begun, but it's not to late for your news-team to investigate this new concept in building design.

     I will be happy to show you more about this unique product and how people can cut fuel costs in half and reduce noise with our fire resistance forms.

     Calkins Construction will be pouring most of this week at our job site on _____________________________ street in Grand Haven.

     I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

                                   Sincerely,

                                   Roger D. Bearup, Sales Rep

                                   West Shore Building Forms"

      I wrote that when I was 18. Wow. FYI-We did have contact information on the form we mailed to the different papers and television stations. Many people ask why the business was closed and truthfully, it was just ahead of its time. There were somewhere between 10 and 15 houses and basements that used the Polysteel ICF and those helped lead West Michigan towards the wider spread usage of ICFs today. I must salute my Dad and Uncle for 'building a new foundation for home and commercial construction.' It is a line I came up with 17 years ago that is still my focus today, now that is a large foundation....

     The retail cost of the ICF back then was only about 30 cents less than it is today, if bought in the quantity that we buy them in currently. The top three choices that I would consider the leaders in the ICF industry are presently all within 50 cents of each other. Overall, the cost stability of using ICFs is great. In fact, it appears that when factoring in inflation, a 30 cent increase over seventeen years means that a home owner can get a better deal on the ICFs now than they ever could before.

     If you are interested in seeing this information, I encourage you to visit the Michigan Energy Fair in June. Visit the GLREA's website for more information. We will be a major sponsor of this three day event and also will have a booth there and will be giving a number of workshops. 

Thank you for reading this big post. I have tons of information that I feel keeps Hybrid Homes years ahead of the competition. Email me if you want any information, even if you are a compliment-or, I mean competitor.

Date: December 15th, 2006

Hello everyone!

If you are new here, first of all, welcome! Secondly, I invite you to read through these journals and relive the journey i I have been on as I try to help the consumer see through the red tape of green building.

I am excited that so many avenues exist for certifying builders and homes as energy efficient. I am excited that when I ask subcontractors if they have worked with ICFs  they are now saying yes. These are all great signs that people are caring more about the environment.

The house in Ionia is coming along, we are about to begin building it, just as soon as we get a few loose ends tied up. I hope to be doing site work before the first of the year. I have meetings again this week to discuss the specific research that is to be done on this home. The local subs in Ionia have exceeded my expectations with pricing and customer service. While I haven't selected everyone yet, those that have submitted bids were very competitively priced and professional acting. With an ICF house, special care is needed in selecting the right heating and cooling system. An air exchanger is a must, and aside from one of the companies that submitted a bid, all have offered viable solutions to complement this home's superior energy efficiency.

If all falls in line, we should have the house done sometime in April.

Stay tuned for our upcoming project in Leelanau.

Date: December 7th, 2006

I have a number of things on my mind. First off, I have to thank Eric Hughes from Image Design for coming to the GLREA membership meeting in Ann Arbor this past weekend. He signed up as a business member. I encourage anyone who is taking this track with their business to sign up with the GLREA. Visit their website to learn why this is so www.glrea.org.

While at this meeting, we heard a number of people speak about alternative energy and what is happening with the push to get more of it in our great state of Michigan. That is when it hit me! Consider this: We are in an energy crisis because we waste energy through a number of ways including the homes and apartments that we live in. What got me, is that there is a push to create new means of energy (Don't get me wrong, we need this! And I am a huge supporter of alternative and renewable energy!!) but very little concern for housing standards that will not only save energy, but that will compliment the alternative and renewable energy inventions that are created everyday.

How do we get people to focus more on energy efficiency and less on alternative energy creation? Great question! We need it both and its time for people to step up and lead both charges. Together with Image Design, we are creating the standard for hybrid houses. We will work with organizations like the GLREA and others to be involved with the new residential LEED certification program called LEED H. We will let the scientists and graduate students handle the creation of energy, and we will help to educate others on how not to waste the energy that is existing and that gets created. Stay tuned for how to do that....

Let's talk about Green Building for a moment. Marketing wise, using the word Green is great! Ethically, its another story. Local HBAs around the country have created green councils that offer green certification, based off of what the builders who are members of those organizations feel should be the guidelines. I researched this point a little and found that the members of these councils are also listed as the green builders. Interesting, huh? Also, if you want to be green certified, it is as easy as paying the $50 fee to get the certificate. This is not good folks! Just because someone uses bamboo flooring and paid a fee, they shouldn't be green certified. That is why I am so fired up about the LEED-H program. Finally we will have tougher guidelines, set nationally and not by a group of 'good ole boys'. This is my opinion, and the local HBAs around the country are great organizations, but I challenge them to up their standards and use the philosophy of Green for society's benefit and not their own.

Here's the last bit on information to look at. I have directed everyone involved with this spec house in Ionia to follow four criteria, those being: affordable, attractive, energy efficient, and built with lifetime design. After further review and the input of quite a few people, Eric Hughes and I agreed that adding a fifth criteria was vitally important. That fifth criteria is healthy. These house are so air tight, that there is a need to keep fresh air circulating through the house. Many first time ICF builders are not spending the extra money for this technology, and that is bad news. Circulating air helps prevent things like mold from growing and also keeping humidity in check is very important also.

If anyone has comments on what I write, please email me  so we can discuss these topics. If you are interested in an energy efficient home, get a hold of me, I can save you thousands of dollars by just looking at your prints. If you are going to build an ICF home by using prints for a 2x4 house, beware. You could be setting yourself up to spend more money than you need to. Contact Eric Hughes from Image Design to help you design a home properly. The cost is worth the upgrade, you could spend several times more money if the prints are not ICF specific.

Enjoy the snow, and remember, we can pour ICFs down to -20 degrees F, so let's get your project rolling!

Date: November 29th, 2006

Hi everyone!

I am excited about the Ionia spec house! We are getting so close to starting this house, we should be breaking ground in a week or two. All the players are getting lined up and the prices are coming in.

I want to talk about two items this week: 1) 2x4 construction vs. ICF construction and 2) why the Ionia house is so important to me.

1) I was told a concept (which I have already heard before) in such a way that I was amazed, that is all I can say. I ran right home and made diagrams of this concept, which is actually proven to be true. As soon as I can improve the quality of the diagrams I made, I will post them. Basically, it was told to me like this: In a stick built house, with exterior wall studs spaced at 16" on center, every 14 1/2"s there is a breach in the insulation. Consider this, A 2x4 wall with the sheathing, siding and drywall has an R value of roughly R-13. Now, consider this, a 2x4 stud has a R-value of 6.07 with the same wall coverings. On an average house that is 25x40 feet, 16 feet of that exterior wall has no insulation if you were to slide all the studs to touch each other. That is alarming! The diagram will show what I am talking about. Just under 10% of every 2x4 'stick built' house on this planet lacks insulation. Can you understand how much energy we throw away every day on this planet just through our houses? That is why I am upset with builders who call themselves green builders but yet still build homes out of 2x4s. What about 2x6's? Great question. The R-value of a 2x6 with the same coverings listed above is just over R-8. Need I say more?

 2) The Ionia house is so important to me because of what we are attempting to achieve out there. First of all, I can't give away our secrets just yet, but let me say that when we complete this house, you will be hard pressed to find another home that will come with so much proven data and energy guarantees. The price tag will be very competitive but the house will have so much more in the way of energy efficiency than any other house in its market. Top that with the view it has on the golf course, and that is just the tip of the iceberg! I will write very soon as to what else this house means and will prove. This is a spec house, and is for sale, so if you know anyone who wants an extremely energy efficient hybrid home, they should consider this one, wait until you see it! The elevation drawings will be posted in a day or two.

Keep an eye on this hybrid journal, I have a lot of exciting news for everyone!!

Date: November 12th, 2006

I have learned a lot lately about environmentally friendly home construction and alternative/ renewable energy. One of the things that I learned was that if we as a state put wind generators on the surface of Lake Michigan, with the right number, we could provide enough electricity for every home in the state. The number was below 100 units. There are so many more facts, it is overwhelming. I have sought the advice of a few people who I feel will help me to better sift through all the information and create an understandable easy-to-follow summary of the facts.

I had a thought recently that I have been pondering for a few days now. Consider this if you will:

In my mind, I have this thought. Would someone make a bigger impact on the environment by selling their car and moving to a city like Chicago (where most people use public transportation), or would that person have a greater impact on the environment if they stayed where they were and helped educate people on how to be more energy efficient and why? My wife will be upset because I used a run-on sentence there, but her and I had this conversation again today. Not about grammar, but about people's impact on the environment. Our conclusion: 'most people don't care anyway.' That is sad, and a topic for another discussion.

I came up with something that actually pertained to my house this weekend, I called it the energy rapture. The concept is this: one day you wake up and the energy is just gone. That seems simply put, but think about it. I was awoken by a cold house because our pilot light went out on the furnace. As I laid under our house on my back holding the pilot light button at 3 a.m. I thought about how horrible it would be to finally use up the last drop of crude oil (I put that into elementary terms). Because our society is reactive and not proactive, we will all continue to use up our un-renewable resources so quickly, that someday, it will just run out. This is a problem folks, you can not just run to the store with your credit card and get more fossil fuels, it will be gone! So how can we try to avoid the energy rapture? Read below and get started today on the suggestions!!

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are a number of things that a person can do to their homes or apartments to save energy, these energy saving suggestions include: lowering the thermostat on the hot water heater to 120 degrees F, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and taking shorter length showers. For more information on how you can save money and have a reduced impact on the environment, visit the Department of Energy's website at www.energysavers.gov.

We are almost ready to begin building the Ionia house. We are working on the budget and putting together the paper work for the bank to approve the project. Each day that goes by means that we are one day closer to making this project a reality. Stay tuned, and email me if you have any thoughts or concerns about what I asked you to consider above.

Date: November 6th, 2006

I just got back from a rally for Gov. Granholm. I went there with the intention of talking to her about what we do. I got in front of her three times and on the third time, we were able to talk long enough for me to hand her some info and tell her to keep her eye on Ionia. I am excited to show her what we will have done in the Spring by inviting her to the house warming.

Eric Hughes from Image Design and I met with Mark Baur from Baur Power to discuss the real possibility of hooking the Ionia spec house up with an alternative power source, more specifically, solar panels. We have decided that this is what we need to do in order to continue being the driving force in environmentally friendly homes. We have to stick closely to our four guidelines: Affordable, Attractive, Environmentally Friendly, with Lifetime Design when making these decisions. Remember that our ultimate goal is to provide an energy efficient home to those who would benefit most from the energy savings. As long as we can still keep this house under 200k, I am all for adding these hybrid elements to this Ionia Project.

Vote tomorrow! If we are to save this environment, keep Granholm in office. If not, we will lose the precious ground that we have gained in the renewable energy push.

Date: November 1st, 2006

First off, I hope the effects of the sugar have worn off your kids by now from all the Halloween candy that they ate.

Now that we have three Hybrid Houses going at once, let me fill you in with what I have learned. Some of this valuable information is learned only by working directly with the products and processes. These little hints and tips we learn along the way is what puts us ahead of any builder that just builds with ICFs to keep their workers from being unemployed.

The Indian Hill project is nearly complete with its exterior work. We have added brick and field stone to the exterior and even used a product named Dryvit. This is a product that is used primarily in commercial work, but one that works well for the dormers and gable ends. It is basically Styrofoam with a stucco coating on it. It looks nice and provides even greater insulating factors.

The North Muskegon Project is being sided currently by a local company. We have tried a number of fasteners to hang the vinyl siding with. We tried several styles of screws and nails and found out what works the best. Regardless of what fastener you use, we found through a few experiments that any of the fasteners pulls out of OSB easier than the plastic flanges in the ICFs. If you want to know what the appropriate fastener is to hang vinyl siding to the ICFs, email me and I will tell you. We have found that not all vinyl corners work with the ICFs, but we found a few nice looking ones that do work. I don't have any name brands at this moment to mention, but I have them written down. Another tid bit of info that we learned is about siding J-channel and how to make sure that there is adequate room to nail the J-channel to. What am I talking about? Stay tuned and I will show you pictures from the Sable Project that shows you the proper way to set ICFs around windows. John and I got to apply a stucco product to this house when it was 60 degrees the other day and it looks great. I feel that anyone can apply this stuff and make it look good with minimal experience.

The Sable Project is our newest project and one that will help put ICFs on the remodel scene. We are adding on to this nice cottage, on three sides of it to be exact. This is not done very often, but we will seek to prove that not only can it be done, but done efficiently as well. We just got our footing inspection today and passed it, so we will go up to Irons on Friday and pour those footings and maybe even start setting the ICFs if the footings set up quick enough. Stay tuned to that project for updates because it will be quite entertaining and extremely educational.

I was asked about the Ionia Project, and I will tell you everything I know so far. I submitted a gigantic pack of financial papers to the lender who got it on Monday and did what he needed to do. The next step will be to collect bids from the sub-contractors and submit that information to the lender for 'project approval'. From the sounds of it, Eric Hughes from Image Design is getting a number of dynamic sub-contractors lined up to help us build this next Hybrid House in Ionia. The guidelines for this Ionia Project will be: Affordable, Attractive, Environmentally Friendly, with Lifetime Design. Eric and I have approached a number of businesses and schools to offer the home for experimentation. This will be a spec house that is for sale, with the goal to take the proceeds and build another so we can all learn together and increase our knowledge base in our quest to be the cutting edge leaders in ICF and environmentally friendly home construction.

Keep in touch and watch the project gallery, because we have a lot of exciting things coming up.

Date: October 22nd, 2006

This past week, I met with a number of dynamic people who share similar views about the environment. Some wondered why I feel the way that I do about the environment and others want more information so that they too can help out in this time of unacceptably enormous energy consumption.

For me, this 'cause', if you want to call it that, has been brewing in me for a long time. Ever since my dad and uncle had the first ICF business in West Michigan about 15 years ago or so. I was taking architecture classes then and got to work on the projects both in sales and construction. Unfortunately, times were good then and because society is not known for being proactive, the ICF business took second place to providing for their families and they closed the doors on it. The next step in this long 'budding process' happened when I sold new cars at a local Toyota dealership. I was picked, for a number of reasons, to be the dealership's 'hybrid specialist'. I liked that, because I was sent to a training session and received certification on hybrid technologies. The first Toyota hybrid car in West Michigan was sold by me to an environmentally friendly 'saint', namely Peter M. Wege. This guy has provided millions of dollars through his Wege Foundation for environmentally friendly projects, and I am working on getting a meeting with him again to thank him for his efforts.

I spent several years helping to build big custom homes and remodeling current homes and I would see these houses going up that were insulated but, the owners could have cared less that their energy bills would equal the budget of a small country. Last year, I got the opportunity to build and ICF house and I took it. I came to the conclusion that if we are going to be able to produce a home that heats for next to nothing to a group of people who can't afford to heat their current homes, that I needed to start with paying customers who would work with me to help create what I dreamt about at night. Babbling aside, the hybrid house on the hill was a way to get the ball rolling so to speak.

In-order to further my hopes that people are more impressed with how energy efficient a house is instead of how much thier neighbors will be impressed at its size, I have made the steps forward to start our first research house. Some would call it a spec house, and technically it is. I am currently in the process of securing financing to build a home in Ionia. Eric at Image Design, a number of businessmen and women, and myself feel that this location will have the highest impact and provide the most coverage for our cause. I would love to start this research on December 1st because we have other paying jobs lining up and that is the only window of opportunity. When this house sells, we will build another and another as finances allow. All in the hopes of streamlining the process and ultimately creating an affordable environmentally superior home.

I will leave you with a thought that got me so upset, that I wrote this. Barrack Obama, who is a dynamic, extremely passionate senator from Illinois recently gave this statistic: (first, let me just say that regardless of what party you are, the facts are the same) America spends $800 million A DAY!!!!! on fuel from countries like Iran and Venezuela who then mock our country on our own soil. $800 million A DAY! It is time to get this under control and devise ways of saving some of the cost through taking a close look at everyday energy consumption such as heating and cooling costs. Stay tuned, the rebounding of this state will be impart due to renewable energy technologies and the enormous amount of money that the state and federal government are setting aside for such technologies.

Thanks for reading this entry, feel free to email me with any thoughts or links about this topic. Have a great day, and turn off the lights when you leave the room, please.

Date: October 17th, 2006

Wow, where has the time gone? Here it is October 17th and the colors are so vibrant! It even snowed on us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been cruising right along on the current hybrid house. Since the last update, we have set the trusses, sheathed the roof, shingled the roof, set the windows, built the interiors walls, and even started the electrical. The homeowners will be moving before they know it. We are shooting to be ready for all of our rough-in inspections by the end of next week, and there shouldn't be a problem with that scenario playing out.

You can view our progress in the gallery at www.wmhybrid.com. We learned how to build 'eye brows' on the ICF walls after the walls are set up. The ones we built look great and are as tough as can be. How did we do it? That is a great question, stay tuned to www.wmhybrid.com for detailed instructions, or email me if you can't sleep because you are so excited about this information.

What's new with MAREC? Well, as with the many. many irons that I keep in the fire at all times, it is one that is ready to be investigated further. As soon as we have the spray in foam insulation applied next week, I am going to reconnect with our friends over there and get the ball rolling. If a small investment is needed to get started, I am willing to make that sacrifice to get the results of their energy audits on our hybrid homes.

I am excited beyond words about the future, I am currently trying to make possible two endeavors that would mean hiring more employees and putting us even clearer onto the ICF map. These projects are out of town a ways in opposite directions, but both would help us to further develop energy efficiency in the home building spectrum. I have met with a developer and a designer and have several other meetings set up to get these balls rolling. If these new endeavors transpire, I will be able to hire a few out of work craftspeople who are extremely good at what they do. My goal is to make ICF construction a mainstream building option for residential construction. These new houses would give us a model home in several locations through out the great State of Michigan.

Did you watch the debates for the Governor's Race? I am not asking you to pick sides, only to remember a topic they discussed, renewable energy. According to the question, there is going to be $2 billion made available for all aspects of renewable energy, hybrid homes being one of those aspects. What is my point? I have plans to continue writing for grants to build hybrid homes for the less fortunate. The benefit for us is the experience we gain each time we use ICFs. If you have not checked out the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association www.glrea.org, I encourage you to do so. You will learn more of renewable energy solutions there. Our business is a member of that great organization, and I am hoping to get a board position if not at this December's member meeting, than next year. I haven't yet found out the ins-and-outs of that process, but I am working on it. I want to help out as much as possible, because I feel strongly about our environment.

Time for rest, may your days be bright and your future even brighter!

Date: September 29th, 2006

I remember last year at this time when we were just getting rolling on the Hybrid home on the hill. That was such a great place to work, as is this current Hybrid house. We have been running into some wet weather lately, but we have managed to deal with it's on and off again nature.

The pour went extremely well last Tuesday and sure enough, that night and the next day it rained like crazy. We couldn't have picked a better day to pour the walls. The following day, early in the morning, the roof trusses showed up just in time for us to start setting them, I love it when a plan comes together. So, we proceeded to start setting the trusses and we got them set without too much difficulty. I am impressed with the crew we have out there, they are quick witted, hard working, motivated, and very dedicated. (No I am not trying to get any lunch money from them) I just know that its tough work especially when the rain makes it miserable. Kudos goes out to the crew for sure!

We have some great pictures from our last pour which I will get on the website as soon as I can.

Now, here is something exciting. A group of professionals from The Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) (http://www.gvsu.edu/marec/) caught wind of what we are trying to achieve with our Hybrid houses and wanted to take a tour of the current house. The group of four toured our house and Shawn and I were excited at how much interest they had in our work and passion for the environment. It is too soon to tell exactly what this all means, but we did discuss some in-depth testing and research of these ICF homes verses conventional 'stick built' houses. I am excited to see how we can help MAREC further their research into energy efficiency in residential construction and encourage anyone who has even a little interest in the environment to visit their website listed above.

Date: September 24th, 2006

Wow, Fall is approaching fast. Each of the last few weeks, the rain has pushed us off the house and into dryer locations. The home page of this website has a picture of a rainbow or two on it and there is significance to the pictures. Just a few feet off shore on the lake, we saw the beginning of the rainbow, and I could not help but wonder where the gold was. At that same moment, a boat started moving towards the origin of the rainbow probably in search of our 'loot'. Anyway, it was an amazing sight because I have never seen the beginning or end of a rainbow before, it was very cool.

OK, on to what we have learned in the last week. First off, we are planning on pouring the upstairs walls this Tuesday at noon. I must admit that this time, with out a doubt, we will be ready. They are calling for rain from Wednesday through the end of the week, so Tuesday gets the nod. We have learned that if we secure each layer of foam as we go, that we have less headaches. By this, I mean that we are taking extra time to foam any gaps, and brace what needs to be braced. An important variable, is that we are onto a section that is completely a rectangle. There are no 't-walls', or chopped up sections. This has been the deciding factor for us in our current efficiency.

We have had some great thinkers working with us lately. Even-though I know from experience that an abundance of ideas can lead to going way over budget, I dropped my guard a little bit in the hopes of learning something, and I have. The next house we do will go even more efficiently. What do I mean? Well, you'll have to wait and read in The Hybrid Journal for 'tid bits' of our new found knowledge. By the end of this week, weather permitting, we should have the roof trusses set and most of the roof sheeted. This is what I love to do, so I expect that we will get it done in record time.

Enjoy the Fall weather, stay dry, and email me if you have an questions, comments or concerns. Have a great week!

 

Date: September 17th, 2006

So, there has been a lot of interest in this latest hybrid home. I would say that the number one comment that people have made is how they had seen a program on Cable TV about insulated concrete forms. This sparked my interest, so I did a little research on this program. Apparently, HGTV has run several small clips of people using ICFs for new home construction. These programs have sparked an enormous amount of interest among homeowners and do-it-yourselfers around the country.

Originally, PolySteel had the market cornered in the late 80's to early 90's. In fact, while my dad and uncle ran the first ICF business in this area, This Old House devoted an entire episode to the use of ICFs on one of their projects. You can find this show by surfing the web. I will try to find some time to find that link again and post it. What is interesting to me, is that what the program suggested about the increasing cost of fuel came true. They talked about what it would be like in a decade and how important it was to be proactive to save big money on heating and cooling costs.

For me, I still learn from each house we build. Sometimes, we have to cut a hole here or there or chip away some cement to run duct work through and this helps me to understand exactly how strong and durable these house are. This current house is no exception. It is extremely tough and will offer more than a lifetime of efficiency to the current owners and for generations to come.

Stay tuned for updates, this week we will be focusing on building and supporting the upstairs walls. Our goal is to pour these walls sometime the following week. As usual, this time of year means weather plays a key role in our schedule, so we are hoping to not get rained out this upcoming week.

 

Date: September 11th, 2006

Today I wish to start what I refer to as The Hybrid Journal. The purpose of this journal is to chronicle our achievements and what we learned from the previous weeks work with these insulated concrete forms (ICFs).

So far, we are staying ahead of schedule, thanks in part to a great group of hard workers and also a bit of luck. It is a known fact that whenever you have cement trucks involved, its going to be a lot of work. Our latest pour was this past Friday, September 8th and it ended up being quite a bit of work. We pushed the pour date ahead because of weather and manpower availability. I made the call to pour at 8am because the alternative was Wednesday of the following week. I felt confident that we could have a successful pour even though we could have used an extra day for the final preparations. I have learned throughout the years that a construction schedule can change every fifteen minutes and sometimes you have to make a decision based in part on experience and a bit of instinct. As it stands, our pour was successful and the rain showed up like we thought it would today. It was a good call to pour when we did. It was an executive decision that ended up paying off, even though it seemed like a lot of work at the time.

We learned once again that time is very valuable. I can think back to a factory job I had a long time ago where time seemed to just stand still. Each minute would pass like an hour. On this and many other construction jobs, its the exact opposite. Hours pass like minutes and time goes by at lightening speed. A task that seems like it will only take a little amount of time to complete, often eats up an entire afternoon. Our next pour we will try to complete the final preparations by 3pm on the day before the pour.

I am and have been for a while now a firm believer that anyone can work with these ICFs. (Here comes the but) BUT, if you are thinking of using these forms and having a builder without experience in ICFs help you or complete the work for you, beware. I say this because there is a learning curve with this process, and it takes time for those with little to no experience to build a house or basement with these forms. This time means money to the homeowner.

If you need someone to help you get started, email me today!  We shall talk again soon..............