Welcome everybody to the 2012 annual meeting of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
I am really excited that we’re here in Portland. There’s a vibrant green building and sustainable energy community here – a community that has built what they need in the form of the monthly Building Science Discussion Group, Maine Association of Building Energy Professionals, Passive House Maine, USGBC’s Maine Chapter, the Pretty Good House movement and many other formal and less formal organizations and collaborations.
The Portland area has traditionally not been as well served by NESEA as many other areas in our territory. And for as long as I’ve been at NESEA, we’ve been hoping to change that. So I was delighted when NESEA board member Phil Kaplan invited me to Portland and asked us to consider hosting our annual meeting here.
Since our first meeting with Phil and the Building Science Discussion Group in June, many of you Mainers have drunk the NESEA Kool Aid. Architect Rick Renner, a longtime NESEA member, is running for the NESEA board of directors. Sam Strickland is serving on a committee to help us create and launch online communities of practice so that geography ceases to be such a challenging barrier for NESEA members who want to learn and share year round. Steve Konstantino of Maine Green Building Supply has become a business member and opened his facility up last night for an annual meeting pre-game – a Building Science Discussion Group to welcome the whole NESEA community to town.
Profound gratitude. As I prepared my remarks for tonight, that was the mindset I started from. I feel profoundly grateful to this community and appreciative of all that we are accomplishing together.
Let me explain to whom I am grateful and why.
I am grateful to the more than 200 members who are really actively engaged with NESEA far above and beyond simply writing a check and receiving their monthly newsletter and their BuildingEnergy Magazine twice a year. It is surely unprecedented within NESEA that almost a third of our members are actively engaged in planning the conference, hosting sites in our Green Buildings Open House tour, submitting content for BuildingEnergy magazine, and serving on NESEA program and board committees.
I am grateful to Jamie Wolf for recently helping us to articulate something that we’ve known intuitively for a very long time: that the BuildingEnergy Conference is NESEA’s crown jewel, or the center of NESEA’s universe, but that it occurs only for 3 days/year in Boston. Jamie shared with me his vision for BE365, which makes the BuildingEnergy experience available to NESEA members every day of the year through various events, gatherings, online learning and other forums throughout the year.
I am grateful to lifetime NESEA member Bernice Radle, who at the ripe old age of 26 is rallying a group of NESEA member preservationists to plan a kick-ass Green Buildings Open House tour in Buffalo on October 13th, and who is trying to bring the rest of the NESEA community into the digital age with her incredible promotional savvy using twitter, facebook, blogging and Pinterest.
I am grateful to Marc Rosenbaum, one of our NESEA rock stars, who has partnered with us, and who has spent more than 100 hours to develop and help us launch a 10-week online course for the BuildingEnergy Masters Series, and who recently shared with me, “I could develop and market a course like this on my own. Yet what appeals to me about this arrangement is that I get to advance my personal mission of expanding our collective capabilities, while creating an income stream, and also give back to this organization that has been such a key factor in my success. However, it’s a business partnership, not a charity - NESEA has skin in the game just as I do.”
I am grateful to NESEA board member Kate Goldstein, who, although she is still a starving student, is digging deep for NESEA this year. Not only did she become a lifetime member – a great investment for somebody who’s still in her 20s – but she has also pledged a leadership gift in our annual fundraising appeal, because, in her words, “The diversity of NESEA’s membership is a gift for us who have not yet found our own path. NESEA is the shelter of our community.”
I am grateful to my staff – at least three of whom, despite being handed a salary freeze this year, have decided to invest some of their discretionary income into NESEA membership because they believe deeply in what we’re about here, and they consider themselves a part of this community.
I am grateful to Paul Eldrenkamp, who confided in me that one of the happiest days of his life was the day that he left his last NESEA board meeting in the mid-1990s. He went and sat in his car for a few minutes and let out a freedom cry that others may have heard even from inside the building. Paul shared that the board as a group (not its individual members) was so dysfunctional, and mired in the day to day operation of the organization, that he couldn’t wait to get out. Well, Paul is a testament to how things have changed for the better. This year, not only is he chairing the BuildingEnergy Conference, and bringing a ton of new talent into the organization through his vast network, but he’s also teaching a BuildingEnergy Masters Series class on Passive House online, and running for the NESEA board!
I am grateful to the 20 or so NESEA members – some long timers, some newbies – who are helping us experiment with and launch active online communities so that they can learn together how best to apply systems thinking in their practices and what are the elements of a generative economy. These communities will serve as a forum in which NESEA members can share with each other what’s working (and what’s not) in service of a more sustainable built environment. Based on what we learn from these communities of practice, we’ll launch others in the new year – including one on Deep Energy Retrofits, one on Zero Net Energy Buildings, and possibly even one on our topic tonight, the Pretty Good House.
These examples barely scratch the surface of all we’ve accomplished together over the past year. And all of this is happening in the worst building environment in 20 years.
In many ways, last year represented the “perfect storm.” Almost everything that could have gone wrong financially, did. NESEA’s membership numbers and Sustainable Green Pages listings continued their steady decline since the housing market crash in 2009. BuildingEnergy registration and exhibitor numbers declined, despite a whopping 97% of our attendees saying that they would recommend the conference to a colleague. We lost substantial donations from two longtime donors whose funding focus shifted and whose portfolios suffered at the hands of a lackluster economy.
We knew before the year even started that we were going to run a deficit in Fiscal Year 2012. We even budgeted for it. We invested heavily in staff, hiring a membership coordinator and a communications coordinator. We also invested in our infrastructure, launching a new website, supported by a new, more nimble database. We knew it would take time for these investments to pay off. Unfortunately, the deficit we ran was larger than anticipated.
NESEA’s reason for being is to advance the adoption of sustainable energy practices in the built environment. The rest of the industry is finally catching on as well.
Last year’s bottom line fails to tell the whole story. It doesn’t tell the story of the momentum we’re building, one practitioner at a time. It doesn’t tell the story of the quality of engagement within our membership, within the BuildingEnergy planning process, and at BE itself.
I truly believe that we’re planting the right seeds, and that if we continue to provide quality engagement experiences, the numbers will follow. I also know that we’ll continue to learn and adjust the plan as we go!
So I’m grateful. I’m invested in this organization and in this community, not just professionally, but also personally, as I complete my own deep energy retrofit and prepare to showcase my home on NESEA’s Green Building Open House tour, which will be held on October 13th throughout NESEA’s 10 states, from Maine all the way down to Delaware.
Now’s the time for you to invest as well. Invest in NESEA and in our future in a way that makes sense for you. If you’re not a member, join. If you are a member, consider donating or sponsoring above and beyond your membership contribution. Or give the gift of NESEA membership to a colleague to help grow our community.
If you’re a newcomer to our community, invest in your own professional development as you get to know us better. Enroll in one of our BuildingEnergy Masters Series courses and partake in high quality interactive educational content from the comfort of your home or office. Learn about zero net energy homes from Marc Rosenbaum, the man who’s probably engineered more of them than anybody else in the Northeast. Learn about Passive House from Mike Duclos and Paul Eldrenkamp, a member of the inaugural group of Passive House certified consultants in the U.S. Then connect with others in your class to share what you’re learning and create a community of practice that can meet in person at next year’s BuildingEnergy Conference.
Attend the Building Energy Conference, exhibit there, sponsor. Even better, help shape our content by joining the planning committee for the BuildingEnergy Conference. Register your most recent project for our Green Buildings Open House tour in October. Enter your best work in NESEA’s Zero Net Energy Building Award to compete for our annual $10,000 prize. Submit an article for publication in BuildingEnergy Magazine, our peer-reviewed journal by and for sustainable energy professionals in the Northeast.
Invest in the community that is building your knowledge base, your practice, your career, and a more sustainable built environment.
Before I close, I’d like to thank a few people without whom this meeting would not have happened. First, thank you to our committee of locals who advised us on all of the nuts and bolts decisions we needed to make – from the beautiful location we are in to the buildings we should include on the tours earlier today to the Pretty Good House speaking program tonight. Those committee members include Matt Holden, Steve Konstantino, Dan Kolbert, and Rick Renner, among many others.
Next, I’d like to thank our sponsors for tonight – Sparhawk Group, Maine Association of Building Energy Professionals, and Thorton Tomasetti Fore Solutions. And a special thanks to sponsors Kaplan Thompson Architects and Pinnacle Windows, who are hosting a party after tonight’s meeting at Grace, a beautifully restored church and restaurant with an awesome looking menu!
Huge thanks also to Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson Architects for advocating in favor of holding the meeting here in Portland and for connecting us with all the folks here who could help make it happen.
And finally, thank you to Kelsey Hobson, our summer intern from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Kelsey came in at the beginning of the summer and flat out handled all the logistics for this meeting, with almost no guidance. She herded a group of benevolent but busy cats to score us this great location, and planned all of the building tours. She did such a great job that we decided to hire her permanently – or at least as permanently as she’ll have us. This is one NESEA emerging professional with a very bright future.
And now, I’d like to welcome to the stage NESEA board chair, James Petersen. James has been a huge champion of our work to “expand the choir,” and has supported these efforts personally by being a NESEA evangelist within his own professional network. James will share with you an update on where the board would like to see NESEA head, and on what your role might be in helping to create our future success.