All-electric neighborhood, equipment supplier win ‘Best of the Best’ at annual efficiency expert conference 


Seven businesses honored for energy leadership, innovative projects at annual Better Building by Design (BBD)  

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT—More than 1,000 registered attendees gathered at the Better Building by Design (BBD) conference this week, the annual event organized by Efficiency Vermont to connect leaders of building construction, efficiency, and workforce development. Seven organizations were celebrated with “Best of the Best” awards for their commitment to energy efficiency. 

The event, hosted at the DoubleTree Hotel & Conference Center in South Burlington from April 3-4, was devoted to the theme of “Blueprint for Equity: Energy Efficiency & the Future of Building.” Attendees gathered to discuss the latest in efficiency practices and technologies, build new relationships and professional connections, and share insight and experiences through nearly 50 conference workshops. 

Efficiency Vermont managing director Peter Walke welcomed attendees by stressing the importance of equity and workforce development. “Equity can’t be something ‘extra’ that’s bolted on to business as usual. If Vermont is going to reach its climate and emissions goals, we can't repeat the mistakes of the past that left so many behind. Equity has to be embedded in how we design our policies, deliver our programs, and support our customers. And equity has to be built into how we prepare our workforce for the future. The structures and supports need to be in place to reach low-income households and energy burdened communities, and to ensure that anyone who wants to work in this field can do so.” 

Keynote speaker Danny Combs, founder of the Colorado nonprofit TACT—Teaching the Autism Community Trades—spoke to BBD about meeting those workforce challenges with the strengths and talents of neurodiverse individuals. “Engaging autistic and neuro-distinct adults with skilled trades education not only gives them the tools and confidence they need to succeed. It also gives employers access to more workers who are eager for fulfilling careers. They are among the least-employed but highest-retained workers in the country. This group has so much to offer.” Combs was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s 2024 Citizens Honors Award for Service for his work with TACT, which the society noted "has become the most successful training-to-employment program for the autism community in Colorado."

Efficiency Vermont celebrated seven companies leading the way in efficient buildings and innovative and sustainable designs. This year’s “Best of the Best” awards include two Efficiency Excellence Network member awards, three residential new construction project awards, and two commercial new construction project awards. The winners are: 

  • Efficiency Excellence Network - Partner of the Year: O’Brien Brothers Agency. The 155-home Hillside East neighborhood at O’Brien Farm showcases the commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency of CEO Evan Langfeldt, development director Andrew Gil, estimating/purchasing manager Brandon Secl, and the entire O’Brien Brothers team. The homes all target ENERGY STAR and DOE Zero Energy Ready Home certifications while meeting Efficiency Vermont’s high standards for energy-saving appliances, windows, and insulation. Eight homes in the community will be designated low-income affordable homes and meet Efficiency Vermont’s Certified 2.0 standard. The homes feature all-electric heating and cooling and, through a Green Mountain Power partnership, EV chargers in each garage, Tesla Powerwall batteries in each home, and a neighborhood microgrid for community battery backup power.

  • Efficiency Excellence Network - Leadership Award: F.W. Webb, Rutland and Williston offices. General Managers Brian Bradley and Bryan Tatro and team have been at the forefront of ensuring Vermonters can access high-quality energy efficient equipment. By participating in Efficiency Vermont’s midstream programs, F.W. Webb has helped Vermont ratepayers access rebates on more than 7,000 pieces of equipment in 2023 alone. Their work extends beyond residential projects, and supports commercial customers in Vermont utilizing Efficiency Vermont’s custom rebate program. They also ensure Vermont HVAC, refrigeration, and plumbing professionals are up to speed on the latest in best practices for equipment service and installation. The team’s input continues to be a key part of ensuring efficiency programs meet the real-world needs of customers.

  • Best Residential New Construction – Market Rate Project: Shelterwood Construction, Barnes Hill project in Waterbury Center. A high-performance net-zero home that exceeds the Passive House standard for airtightness and is heated with an all-electric Mitsubishi ducted heat pump system. The team’s commitment to sustainability included using local timber in construction, including exterior soffits and siding from New England white pine mills, structural white pine timbers from Danville, and decking and interior ceiling trim that utilizes white cedar milled in St. Albans.

  • Best Residential New Construction - Affordable Housing Project: Habitat for Humanity of Addison County, Booth Woods project in Vergennes. An all-electric, energy-efficient, and volunteer-built home was the third built in the last two years in the Booth Woods neighborhood. Student architects at Middlebury College designed the home under architect John McLeod. The project was overseen and planned by Ripton contractor Alex Carver.

  • Best Residential New Construction - Special Projects: Hayward Design Build for the employee housing at Manning Farm in Swanton. Manning Dairy replaced an energy-intensive and outdated manufactured home that housed their farmworkers with a zero energy modular home built by Huntington Homes and finished by Hayward Design Build. The new house heats with a ducted heat pump system and it exceeds Efficiency Vermont’s 3.0 standard with insulation and triple-glazed windows.

  • Commercial Building Design & Construction - Large Commercial New Construction: Cushman Design Group, AllEarth Properties project in Bristol. The building was built at half the cost per square foot of other buildings like it. Air-to-water heat pumps are used for radiant floor heating. The project also utilizes extremely tight construction and achieves high efficiency with energy recovery ventilation. 

  • Commercial Building Design & Construction - Medium Commercial New Construction: Keefe & Wesner Architects, town offices of Middletown Springs. The extremely efficient offices feature tight construction that is kept warm using heat pumps. The office uses energy recovery ventilators and control systems to minimize the energy used during air exchanges. LED lighting, combined with an efficient lighting layout, makes for a lighting power density that is 50% better than commercial code for such buildings.

About the Better Building By Design Conference (BBD)  

BBD is hosted by Efficiency Vermont, and provides building professionals with a variety of continuing education opportunities to build up their knowledge in energy efficiency best practices and technologies to better serve their customers. Each year BBD gathers participants from among Vermont’s 18,000 person-strong clean energy workforce, and other professionals from around New England, for training sessions and workshops at the two-day conference. Learn more at 

About Efficiency Vermont

As the nation’s first Energy Efficiency Utility, Efficiency Vermont has helped Vermont avoid over 13.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence award for the last eight consecutive years. Efficiency Vermont works with partners to help our state transition to more affordable, low carbon energy use through education, incentives, and support for our clean energy workforce. Learn more at

Efficiency Vermont Press Contact
Matthew Smith
Phone: (802) 540-7662
[email protected]