Others prefer quiet money, believing the old dictum that "if you've got it, don't flaunt it." For example, real slate roofs are about the most expensive you can buy, but they last almost forever and they are really beautiful. The last thing you are going to want to do is cover them up with photoelectric or solar thermal panels. Solar energy is one thing, but an elegant roof is another thing altogether.
That's why the Thermoslate system from Spanish slate company Cupa Pizarras is so interesting. Being dark, a slate roof absorbs a lot of heat; being stone, it has good thermal mass and holds it for a while.
In the Thermoslate system, slate roof tiles are integrated with thermal cells that are ganged into solar thermal "batteries". These then supply hot water that can be used for domestic purposes or the inevitable swimming pool. It also might keep the interior of the space a bit cooler, taking heat away from the roof and moving it to the pool.
As demonstrated in this lovely french farmhouse renovation by Atome Architectes, the panels are invisible, integrated right into the roof. This system could be particularly useful for historic renovations where you just don't want to see the panels.
One issue that we have talked about often is open building, where designers recognize that different components of a house age at different rates. Slate roofs last a lot longer than plumbing connections, and I wonder how hard it is to maintain a system like this. I suspect that with slate installed with hooks rather than nails (one of the two options shown on the website) that one can slide them out.
I have no idea what a system like this would cost, but it is probably one of those things that if you have to ask, you can't afford it. I suspect that it might pay for itself in energy savings in about a thousand years. On the other hand, it will reduce the carbon footprint in a year by the same amount as if you rode a bike for ten weeks instead of driving. (the average American car emits 4.7 tons of CO2 per year). So in terms of value it might not give the best bang for the buck, but in terms of elegance, it can't be beat. More at Thermoslate
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — The number smart homes in North America and Europe reached a total of 17.9 million in 2015, according to a new research report from Berg Insight. North America is the world’s most advanced smart home market and the region had an installed base of 12.7 million smart homes at the end of the year, a 56 percent year-on-year growth. The strong market growth is expected to last for years to come, driving the number of smart homes in North America to 46.2 million by 2020, which corresponds to 35 percent of all households.
The European market is two to three years behind North America in terms of penetration and market maturity. At the end of 2015, there were 5.3 million smart homes in Europe and the market is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54 percent in the next five years to reach 44.9 million smart homes by 2020, which corresponds to 20 percent of all European households.
The most successful products in the smart home market include smart thermostats, security systems, smart lighting, network cameras, and multi-room audio systems.
“There is no doubt that regular consumers in the future will own and operate a wide range of connected objects in their homes, from connected home appliances and luminaires to thermostats and security devices” said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight. The smart home market is still in its infancy though and many smart home ecosystems are underdeveloped and products are often complicated to use. “Attractive use cases, interoperable devices, and well-implemented user interfaces are needed in order to accelerate the market,” added Svanberg.
Several major companies are now betting on voice-driven user interfaces to make it easier to control smart home solutions. The Alexa service from Amazon has quickly become popular and shows the value of smart home solutions to a broader audience. Furthermore, Apple’s HomeKit platform supports the company’s voice-driven digital assistant Siri. Microsoft is likely to push its Cortana service as a foundation for controlling connected devices and services, and Google announced its conversational digital assistant named Google Assistant in May 2016.
Homeowners who are interested in saving energy usually start with simple measures, such as installing a programmable thermostat, adding insulation to the attic, or sealing air leaks. For those looking to take energy conservation to the next level, many contractors are encouraging the installation of a combination geothermal heat pump and solar energy system.
“Other than the high upfront cost, it’s difficult to find any disadvantages to installing a geothermal/solar system,” said Rob Derksen, co-owner of Michigan Energy Services in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. “Since geothermal systems run on electricity, the solar array offsets the need to draw from grid power. In addition, by installing a solar array, homeowners can essentially pre-purchase their future electrical needs at today’s cost.”
SIZE IT RIGHT
Derksen is a Hydron Module dealer and has been installing geothermal systems since 1994. He’s been involved with about eight to 10 geothermal/solar installations, although he is certain that many more clients have added solar panels after living with their geothermal system for awhile. “Since a combination system is a significant investment, many clients may choose to add the geothermal system first in order to immediately reduce their heating and cooling costs. Once they have a little more history on their actual electrical usage, they may then choose to invest in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.”
That is actually a smart idea, noted John Love, president of Love’s Heating And Air Inc. in Severn, Maryland. Love, who is a WaterFurnace Intl. Inc. dealer, believes if a customer is not going to install both systems at once, it is preferable to install the geothermal system before the solar PV system. “Too often, people make the mistake of covering their homes with solar panels before they call us. We regularly see homes that have a 10-kW PV system when they need much less energy after we install geothermal. Then they have a ton of excess power they don’t get reimbursed for, which is a waste of money.”
Love started installing geothermal systems about 15 years ago and added solar energy systems seven years ago. “Our main goal is to help people obtain net-zero-energy status. When we install a geothermal system, on average, it saves 50-55 percent of the customer’s energy costs. Then, we size the solar PV system to cover the remaining 50 percent of the utility bill. If we install a 4-ton geothermal system, most people in this area can get by with a 5- to 6-kW PV system and become net-zero.”
Of course, becoming net-zero has a high price tag — sometimes into the high five figures — but, often, these customers are concerned about the environment and just want to be green. “The typical cost of a geothermal/solar system is just under $100,000, and the payback isn’t great in our area,” said Alan Givens, CEO of Parrish Services Inc. in Manassas, Virginia. “Unless you are in a co-op, the utilities here do not buy back the extra power. Any extra power you generate, you are giving to the utility company for free.”
It’s often true that geothermal/solar customers care less about payback and are more interested in being self-sufficient and on the cutting-edge of energy efficiency, said Colin Wunder, president of Howard Heating & Plumbing Inc. in Howard, South Dakota. “But that’s starting to change as more contractors understand the concept and the system design.”
To that end, a geothermal/solar system starts as all HVAC projects should, with the calculation of the building’s design loss/gain and the selection of the geothermal heat pump to cover those loads, said Wunder. “Then you have to figure out the amount of geo-exchange loops needed as well as the solar fraction availability at the project’s location. Then there are associated considerations, such as fluid coolers or other intermediary heat source/sink elements, and the intermediary, latent-fusion-capable thermal battery.”
Designing a geothermal system is almost always more complicated than designing a traditional air-source system, because there are so many additional factors to think about, said Givens. “You need to consider how to make the connection between the loop and earth; what type of grout or backfill is going to be used; how problems can be isolated decades later, if needed; how the system can be designed to reduce service costs; how to protect the site when drilling for wells, etc.”
Designing the solar PV system is relatively straightforward, said Derksen, because the amount of solar panels needed to produce a specific amount of electricity is easy to calculate. “First, customers need to decide if they want to offset all their electrical usage with solar or only a portion of it; this decision is usually made based on their budget. Second, does the local utility offer a net metering program, and are there any additional benefits or incentives available to customers? And third, how much roof space is available for the solar array, and does the orientation capture the maximum amount of sun appropriate for the application?”
Other issues to consider with a PV installation are making sure the roof and/or panels are not going to be damaged due to wind or ice, that there is proper service access to the panels, and that the system is installed correctly so as not to be an electrical safety hazard, noted Givens. “It is also important to make sure the roof is in good shape, and, if it’s not, it should be replaced before installing the solar panels.”
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
While combination geothermal/solar systems still comprise a small number of installations, there are fears that when the tax credits for geothermal expire at the end of the year, interest will dry up completely. “I think that will all but kill these installations in Virginia and any other state that does not offer incentives,” said Givens. “We will keep offering them, but I expect sales to drop by as much as 90 percent.”
Derksen also expects sales to soften after the tax credits expire, but he does not think that will last for long. “We are seeing a shift in our society, albeit slow, in a turn away from dependency on delivered energy and a desire to harness the energy that is below our feet and above us. Geothermal and solar energy will eventually be adopted into the mainstream of home construction and renovation due to policies that favor the environment and the concern over climate change as well as the cost of fossil fuels. Right now, the cost for fossil fuels is relatively low, but it is only a matter of time until we see these prices rising again.”
Love agrees with that assessment, noting that sales of geothermal/solar systems will probably slow for a little while after the tax credit expires. “People will need to get over the pain of losing the tax credit, but I don’t think it’s going to be much of an issue after six months. With the cost of energy going up, it will make more and more sense to install these systems, especially in new homes.”
Still, given that the solar tax credit was recently extended, Love would like to see the geothermal tax credit extended, as well. “What would really help is if we could get Maryland to treat the installation of the geothermal well field as a tax assessment, and homeowners could pay toward that cost for 20 or 30 years. But, short of that, I would encourage everyone reading this article to contact their congressperson to see if we can get the geothermal tax credit extended. That would help us all out a lot.”
Across the country, members of Associated Builders and Contractors embody the meaning of philanthropy by helping charitable organizations succeed and encouraging others to give back.
In the Midwest, Willmar Electric Service employees exemplify the company’s philosophy of making a difference in Minnesota, North Dakota and Oklahoma by volunteering at the charity of their choice throughout the year. In return, the company offers additional paid time off for employees who volunteer more than 100 hours during their time off. Willmar Electric also thanks the employees who volunteer the most hours by giving a cash donation to the charity of their choice.
“Willmar invests in the lives of coworkers and this bleeds over into coworkers investing into the lives of others,” says Willmar Electric Director of Human Resources Trista Selander. “Yes, we help build buildings, but we also desire to help employees build a community that respects, honors and blesses those around them.”
On the East Coast, two companies are finding their own way to give back, specifically to fight cancer and raise funds for research. In Rockville, Md., Shapiro & Duncan, Inc. raised more than $2,000 to donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Throughout the month of October, about half of the company’s employees purchased t-shirts for $10 each, with all sales benefiting the foundation. Plus, for every shirt purchased, Shapiro & Duncan contributed another $5—resulting in a total donation exceeding $3,000.
“We want our employees to be part of something beyond the great work we do in the mechanical trade,” says Shapiro & Duncan Business Development Specialist Stacey Ehring. “We find that participating in community service helps increase employee morale by giving our employees a greater purpose than just work, and each charity improves company morale in its own way. For example, with the breast cancer awareness campaign, wearing those t-shirts brought on stories we shared about our loved ones. Some wore them in honor of someone close to them, and our team felt proud to wear them.”
Down in Orlando, Fla., Comprehensive Energy Services, Inc., (CES) raised $20,000 to benefit the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute with its annual charity golf tournament. Thirty CES employees and their families were involved in the event, either during the planning process or by golfing in or volunteering during the tournament.
CES is involved in countless other philanthropic events, with management leading by example. Co-founder Shelly Morgan and HR Director Judy Ellis participated in the Fourth Annual Doing Business in Your Bathrobe event, in which a local organization, Pearls for Women, partnered with the Women’s Resource Center and encouraged attendees to bring gently used or new robes and flip flops to help give comfort to a woman in need. More than 1,000 robes were collected and donated to domestic violence shelters in Central Florida. In addition, Morgan received Central Florida’s “Outstanding Philanthropist” Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“Even though the economy has taken its toll on all of us, the men and women of CES still have much to be thankful for, and one of those is the military personnel and their families who sacrifice so much for us,” says CES Co-Founder and President Todd Morgan.
Creating a culture that helps a company retain employees, win work and leave a positive impression on the community can be a difficult challenge. For The Beck Group, based in Dallas, success has come from a culture of caring that permeates all areas of the business.
“One of our four core values is caring—defined as showing concern, empathy and compassion for others, ourselves and our environment,” says Shannah Haley, Beck’s director of marketing and communications. “This is foundational to who we are and who we’ve been as a company for our 103-year history.”
In Tampa, Fla., Beck has had a profound effect on the area’s educational institutions—raising more than $1.3 million for the University of Tampa Scholarship Program and Athletic Department in the last 15 years. Most recently, the company’s 2015 golf fundraiser raised $120,000 to go toward scholarship funds for students looking to further their education.
With nearly 300 golfers and 50 volunteers, the tournament has become a staple event for the company that has allowed it to bring together employees, clients, competitors and members of the community to simultaneously network and give back.
Beck believes it is important to funnel outreach efforts to education, another core focus of the company, because of its role as an economic driver in the community. But, being able to support the university and its students is just one way the company gives back. The Tampa office offers employees a variety of volunteer opportunities, including renovating and painting the new Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters, participating in philanthropic walks and providing supplies to local schools.
“There’s a lot of longevity with employees at Beck. People stay here instead of hopping fr om job to job,” says Caroline Vostrejs, Beck’s manager of client services. “Our employees want to help and support these causes, so developing a culture of caring helps keep people around.” In the Austin, Texas, office, Beck raised more than $86,000 through its second annual golf scramble for the Medical Endowment Fund of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, which allows children with serious illnesses to attend specialty summer camps.In Dallas, Beck is the largest single supporter of the Tyler Street Christian Academy and has been hosting a golf tournament for 21 years that raises money for the academy’s scholarship fund, which provides an educational opportunity to families who could not otherwise afford to attend the school.
“We don’t give back because we expect it to help our company; we give back because it’s who we are fundamentally,” Haley says. “Has that helped us as a company? I would say yes, because at the end of the day people want to work for and with people they know, trust and like. Generosity and caring are winsome qualities.” From ABC
NRCA's Career Center offers a workforce solution for the roofing industry
To support your recruitment efforts, NRCA has launched an online Career Center that offers roofing industry employers a way to connect with job seekers.
The Career Center provides job posting platforms; resources to help you find qualified workers; recruiting videos to help you communicate the benefits of a career in the roofing industry; tools to onboard and train new employees; and organizations to connect you with potential employees, among other resources.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers resources through its Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.
OSHA's campaign aims to raise awareness and educate workers and employers about the dangers of working in hot weather and provide resources and guidance to address these hazards. Workers in outdoor industries—such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and transportation—are at particular risk.
Thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that typically can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps but quickly can escalate to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if simple preventative measures are not followed.
Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat (acclimatization), and it especially is dangerous for new and temporary workers.
OSHA offers heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a curriculum to be used for workplace training, also available in English and Spanish. Additionally, OSHA offers a Web page that provides information and resources regarding heat illness—including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency—for workers and employers. To view the page, click here.
OSHA also offers a free app for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. The app is available for Android-based platforms and iPhones and can be downloaded in English and Spanish by clicking here. From NRCA
Forbes' second annual roundup of the richest self-made women in America (read: did not inherit their cash) is out, and the lineup is star-studded with entertainers. Taylor Swift is the youngest earner and comes in 60th on the list, with a staggering net worth of $250 million. Beyoncé, surely celebrating with a glass of lemonade, was four spots ahead, at $265 million. Rounding out some of the top positions were Oprah Winfrey (No. 2), Madonna (No. 25), Celine Dion (No. 37), Barbra Streisand (No. 38), author Nora Roberts (No. 42), actress Jessica Alba (also No. 42), and Nasty Gal founder and #Girlboss author Sophia Amoruso (No. 52). So who's No. 1? That'd be Diane Hendricks, who owns ABC Supply, the largest wholesale distributor of roofing and siding in the country — she's worth a cool $4.9 billion. Get it, Di.
The Orlando and Tampa areas also reported significant job growth rates at 14 percent and 11 percent respectively, while conditions were not so good in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, which reported a 2 percent decline and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, which had a 3 percent drop.
Nation-wide, construction employment increased in 244 out of 358 metro areas, was unchanged in 44 and declined in 70 between March 2015 and March 2016, the AGC reported. Association officials said the new figures show that the construction sector, in most parts of the country, continues to recover from its years-long downturn.
“With more than two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas adding construction jobs it is clear that the demand for construction is broad-based geographically and by project type,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, adding that construction employment hit new peak levels in 31 metro areas. “The main soft patch for the construction industry remains the parts of the country most likely to be affected by declining energy prices.”
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. added the most construction jobs during the past year (11,900 jobs, 14 percent). Other metro areas adding a large number of construction jobs include New York City (9,000 jobs, 7 percent); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (8,500 jobs, 8 percent). The largest percentage gains occurred in El Centro, Calif. (45 percent, 1,000 jobs); Monroe, Mich. (36 percent, 800 jobs) and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury Town, Mass.-N.H. (28 percent, 1,000 jobs).
The largest job losses from March 2015 to March 2016 were in Odessa, Texas (-2,700 jobs, -14 percent), followed by Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (-2,600 jobs, -4 percent); Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio (-2,500 jobs, -8 percent) and Midland, Texas (-2,200 jobs, -8 percent). The largest percentage declines for the past year were in Bloomington, Ill. (-15 percent, -400 jobs); Odessa; Grants Pass, Ore. (-13 percent, -100 jobs); Decatur, Ill. (-13 percent, -400 jobs) and Laredo, Texas (-13 percent, -600 jobs).
Association officials said the new employment figures are encouraging, but cautioned that workforce shortages are likely to grow as the industry continues to expand. They noted that 70 percent of firms, according to the association’s annual Outlook survey, report they are already having a hard time finding qualified workers. Those shortages will only get more severe considering the lack of secondary-level programs to recruit and prepare future construction workers, they added.
“As firms add to their backlog of pending projects, the backlog of available workers continues to shrink,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is time to start sending signals to students that there are multiple paths to success in life, and while college and office jobs are one path, high-paying careers in construction offer another, equally viable option.”
North American Roofing is unlikely to relocate its headquarters office to Sarasota unless the County Commission reverses its decision this week to deny a $1.6 million economic development incentive package, the company's chairman wrote to commissioners Thursday afternoon.
The national commercial and industrial roofing company is the previously undisclosed firm behind the proposed incentives package code named “Project Mulligan,” which included $1.08 million in state and county tax refunds and another $504,000 in county development grants for the company to bring 180 high-paying jobs to a new headquarters office here.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny those incentives on Tuesday, siding with local roofers who said they feared subsidies would lead to the new company poaching qualified office personnel from area contractors.
In an email to commissioners, chairman Michael Verble disclosed the employee-owned company publicly for the first time and blamed “misinformation” for those fears. Without incentives, there is little chance the company will move here, he said.
“It's too bad that we will now end up relocating our headquarters to a more welcoming, friendlier location that actually values all of the things that our employees do and represent,” Verble wrote. “Thus Sarasota County will lose a great national company with great people. What a shame.”
But the message, obtained by the Herald-Tribune through a public records request, ends with an offer to discuss the project further with commissioners.
“We welcome conversations, regardless of the recent vote, because we know that the information previously given to you by others was incorrect,” Verble wrote. “I honestly would like to relocate the corporate headquarters of this great company to my hometown and hope that you may reconsider your vote.”
BLACKLISTING PROPOSAL What to Expect: The Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council plans to issue a final rule implementing President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order 13673, commonly referred to as the blacklisting proposal, in August 2016.
About the Proposal: The proposal would require federal contractors and subcontractors to disclose any “violations” of 14 federal labor laws that occurred in the three years prior to any procurement for federal government contracts/subcontracts exceeding $500,000. The proposal also requires contractors and subcontractors to update disclosures of labor law violations every six months while performing covered government contracts. Reported violations may then be used to disqualify contractors and/or subcontractors from performing federal work, based on a complicated and seemingly unconstitutional set of procedures proposed by the federal agencies.
ABC’s Actions: ABC submitted comments urging the withdrawal of the FAR Council’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Notice of Proposed Guidance implementing the blacklisting proposal. To view a summary of ABC’s efforts in opposition to the proposal, visit abc.org/blacklisting.
PAID SICK LEAVE What to Expect: DOL plans to issue a final rule in September 2016.
About the Proposal: The proposed rule requires certain federal contractors to offer employees up to seven days of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave for family care. The paid sick leave required by the proposal is in addition to a contractor’s obligations under the Service Contract Act (SCA) and Davis-Bacon Act (DBA). Therefore, a contractor may not receive credit toward its prevailing wage or fringe benefit obligation under the SCA and DBA for paid sick leave provided in satisfaction of the requirements of the proposed rule.
ABC’s Actions: ABC submitted comments on the proposal, stating it exceeds the executive branch’s constitutional and statutory authority. The comments also noted that if the DOL does not withdraw the proposal, at a minimum the DOL should conform the proposal to the existing requirements of the DBA and SCA in order to avoid confusion and unnecessary burdens on government contractors. From ABC