How to Make a Building More Energy Efficient

Each day, thousands of people make a conscious effort to “go green” and become more eco conscious. While Al Gore may have popularized the idea in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, citizens of the world have been banding together for years to help save the planet. Individually, each of us can contribute to the overall sustainability of the Earth’s resources to guarantee safe and livable conditions for future generations of all species, humans included. Energy consumption is one huge part of the puzzle. Humans are consuming electricity, primarily from coal-burning plants and other fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate in just living our day-to-day lives. One way to make a large impact on the amount of energy consumed is to conserve — make buildings everywhere more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. Energy sufficiency needs to be our big picture goal.

The following are ways to make an existing building more energy efficient:

• Start with what is called the “low hanging fruit” -Weatherization: Check the building’s insulation: Old, warn insulation, inefficient windows and air leaks will increase the rate at which heat leaves a structure during cold weather months and cooled air in summer. This will require the heating and air conditioning systems to use more energy to keep the building at the desired temperature. Installing additional insulation and caulking leaks is pretty easily done and pays big dividends in saving energy and money. Many communities now have Energy Audit services and Weatherization programs available to help with this effort and these programs are also investing in creating training and employment for “green jobs”.

• Turn off lights and unplug electronic devices that are not in use. Significant reduction of electric usage can happen by simply flipping the light switch or pulling the plug or investing in a smart power strip for your tv, computer and other energy hog appliances. Also, replace incandescent lights with compact florescent bulbs – Florescent light bulbs last upwards of 10,000 hours and use approximately 27 watts of energy to generate the same amount of light as 100-watt incandescent bulbs, which have a lifespan of only 1,000 hours. This not only conserves energy, but also eliminates the waste that is created from constantly having to replace incandescent bulbs.

• Replace older furnaces and HVAC systems – Furnaces that utilize a standing pilot light waste up to 35% of the fuel that it burns. Additionally, upgrading to more modern HVAC systems will help save energy in air filtration, as well as provide the building with a cleaner, healthier airflow. There are several tax and other rebates in place now to help with this investment, so while it may be pricey to replace old furnaces and HVAC units, you will save money in the long run with reduced heating and cooling costs with the additional incentive of a hefty rebate.

• Utilize electronics with the ENERGY STAR logo – Many commercial buildings use thousands of electronic devices, from computers to microwaves. According to its government sponsored website, ENERGRY STAR is “a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency.” Making use of ENERGY STAR sponsored products can reduce energy use by up to 50%.

These are just four of the many different ways to make a building “greener.” Never hesitate to contact an energy efficient building consultant if you have questions or concerns regarding strategies so that you can be more energy efficient, saving money and doing your part toward sustainability and energy independence.

Popularity of Bicycle Team Building

Almost ten years ago an Event Planner in Dallas asked my colleague to generate a conference event with a philanthropic element. After a good bit of brainstorming on our team, the bicycle team building was created. The Dallas program was warmly received with some minor glitches. We rethought some of the elements and I conducted the second ever bicycle team building in Orlando for a large pharmaceutical company. The Senior Vice President emailed me to say, “Your bicycle program was the single best team building event I have ever attended. And let me tell you I’ve attended plenty.”

When I last checked online there were 80+ companies offering bicycle team building events. Over the years tens of thousands of bicycles have been given to children in need. As someone who did the second event ever held and since that time has conducted over 200, I think I am uniquely qualified to answer the following questions: Why has this program become so popular? What are the key elements that make a bicycle team building successful?

1. Why so popular? A well-planned bicycle team building has three key elements…

A. Accomplishment – Team building can be fun, and at the conclusion of a bicycle team building your group has accomplished something tangible. Participants feel a sense of pride after coming together as a team and creating something valuable for needy children.

B. Bikes – Everybody has had one. Think about how you felt when you received your first bike. Remember the thrill of ownership and feeling of freedom your bike gave you. Quite simply, bikes engender fond memories for most adults.

C. Kids – The well-selected charity will bring children who need bikes and often times have never owned one. The look in a child’s eyes when they receive their first bike is something adults won’t soon forget.

2. What are the key elements? There are many decisions to be made correctly when planning a successful program.

A. Venue – Making a decision where the event will be held is important for two reasons. The first is to insure sufficient square footage for the size of your group. Participants will be moving around and assembling parts. If they do not have enough space it can create logistical problems. The second decision is whether to hold the event indoors or outdoors. When the weather is good, having the event outdoors gives participants a break to the indoor meetings they have likely been attending all day. A change of surroundings can foster a change in mood. Keep in mind that temperature and weather conditions where you are traveling from can be radically different than where the event will be held. Late spring can be extraordinarily pleasant in the Northeast, but uncomfortably hot and humid in Florida.

B. Charity coordination – It is highly desirable to work with an organization that is accustomed to moving their children in groups. They are likely to have suitable transportation and staff to manage their youngsters. They must select children of the appropriate age for the bicycles being built. Finally they must need the bicycles. I live in Orlando, a key convention destination. Some charities have become saturated with bicycles. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell. I was recently told by a nationally known organization with branches here in Orlando, they had almost a hundred new bicycles in storage. Your team building consultant should be able to find a children’s agency in need of bicycles.

C. Secrets – Who knows what? I believe it adds a vital element of “POP!” to the event if participants don’t know what they are going to be doing. So calling the event Bicycle Team Building pretty much gives away the story. I also strongly encourage the presence of the children receiving their bikes at the end of the event. The surprise experienced by the participants who are building bikes is surpassed by the excitement of meeting the children for whom the bikes were built.

Bicycle Team Building has grown from a standing start ten years ago to the most popular team building event. Many of our large corporate clients do events repeatedly for different divisions within their organizations. I was recently talking with a large healthcare client at the conclusion of an event and she told me, “This is my tenth bicycle team building and I cry every time!”

Find A Home Building Inspector in Your Area

It is an exciting time. You have decided on the house you want to buy and are on the point of submitting a bid to the vendor. Before you do this, it is essential that you employ the services of a home building inspector to ascertain whether this is indeed the dream home you thought it was.

Ask any friends, relatives or colleagues who have recently bought a house who they used for their house inspection, and if they would recommend that person. If they would recommend them, get the details and make contact. An industry association will also be able to furnish you with the names and numbers of reputable building inspectors. Failing that, consult the Yellow Pages.

When working out who is the best building inspector for you, ask to see the inspector’s building consulting license. Any hesitation he shows in supplying this should be a warning sign to you and it is wise to seek another consultant. Ask for details of the building inspector’s experience in the industry, his qualifications and details of the insurance cover he has for public risk, professional indemnity and for the death or injury of any employees. The names and contact details of three clients with similar properties should also be asked for. You should contact these people and ask whether they would recommend the services of this building inspector. Was the work carried out professionally, and was the report comprehensive, picking up any potential problems?

Do not stop at contacting one consultant. It is helpful to get three quotes for the inspection of the property and the report. Ask each of them whether they are a member of their industry association and if they follow the Code of Conduct of that association. Do they have a set procedure for settling any disputes which may arise, and if so, what is the method they use? An experienced and competent home building inspector should be happy to answer all of these questions, and in fact should be pleased that you are taking his job so seriously.

The report is crucial to this whole process, and you need to find out what the format of the final product will be. Ask for one or two sample reports, and find out how long the inspector envisages that the report will take to complete and be sent to you. Find out whether a verbal report is to be provided on the day, and if so, how much this will cost. It is also an important step to ask whether the building inspector is independent of the vendor or whether he is acting as their agent.

Although the report will give details of any damage inflicted by pests such as termites, it may not include details of whether these pests are currently present, so you may want to get a separate report to cover this. The major problems of the house will be included in the basic report, but you may want to pay more to find out what the cost of repairing these problems is likely to be, as well as the cost of minor repairs and maintenance.

Once you have received the report from your home building inspector, hopefully all will be in order, and you can have the confidence to make a firm bid on the property and finally become its proud owner.