Clean energy workforce gathers to tackle building decarbonization

South Burlington, VT

Hundreds of Vermont contractors, architects, equipment suppliers, and manufacturers gathered this week for Efficiency Vermont’s 24th Better Buildings by Design (BBD) conference, to learn how to incorporate carbon-reducing, energy-saving strategies into Vermont homes, businesses, and public buildings. The two-day conference concluded on Thursday.

Efficiency Vermont Interim Managing Director Rebecca Foster welcomed more than 600 attendees Wednesday morning to the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington, thanking Vermont’s building professionals for the work they have done over the last two decades to help Vermonters access the benefits of energy efficiency.

 “Here in Vermont we have avoided 13.2 million tons of GHG emissions since Efficiency Vermont was founded in 2000, while at the same time delivering Vermonters $3 billion in lifetime energy cost savings,” said Foster. “Our programs have played a big role in delivering those amazing numbers, but we haven’t done it alone; it’s the building professionals here today that have made those results possible.”

 Foster spoke to the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions while assuring energy affordability, pointing to energy efficiency as Vermont’s most cost-effective carbon reduction strategy.

 Vermonters spend an average of $5,800 a year on energy bills, and low-income Vermonters spend up to 17 percent of their household income on energy, including heating, transportation, and electricity.

 “Those kinds of burdens cause really hard decisions to be made around kitchen tables in this state. Tradeoffs between food, medicine, and energy are all too common, and they are unacceptable,” said Foster. “As we think about the work we have in front of us… Yes, the climate science says that we have to tackle greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale, but we have to do so in a way that’s cost-effective and ensures that energy remains within reach, and affordable for the people who need it most.”

Guest speaker Julie Moore, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, echoed Foster’s call for cost-effective decarbonization and emphasized the critical need for affordable housing and communities to help grow Vermont’s workforce.

 “Your work creating better buildings is inextricably linked with other challenges Vermont is facing. Most notably issues related to affordability, workforce recruitment, and housing,” said Moore to the conference goers Wednesday morning. She noted the 234 specific action steps called for by Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, which include energy efficiency improvements, can feel overwhelming. But, she said, “The grounding, the connections, the conversations, the learning that will take place over the next two days here; this is exactly where we are supposed to be right now.”

Clean energy workforce training

BBD provides building professionals with a range of continuing education opportunities to build up their knowledge in energy efficiency best practices and technologies to better serve their customers. The participants are members of Vermont’s 17,500 person-strong clean energy workforce.

Examples of training sessions and workshops offered at this year’s two-day BBD conference included:

  • Smart homes and connected devices
  • Conditioning and compartmentalizing high-performance multifamily buildings
  • Bringing passive house retrofit solutions to scale
  • Shaping equitable decarbonization
  • Using natural gas refrigerants to meet decarbonization goals
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Hydronics for low-energy net-zero buildings

The best of the best

Efficiency Vermont also honored outstanding energy efficiency projects for the past year, announcing the winners of the Best of the Best Award:

Residential New Construction - Best of the Best Award 

  • Project Name: Home in Norwich, Vermont 
  • Winning Company: Back Tilt Studio
  • Project Partner: Earthshare Construction 
     

Residential New Construction - Healthy Homes Award 

  • Project Name: Home in Calais, Vermont 
  • Winning Company: Montpelier Construction
  • Project Partner: Matt Lutz, Architect 

Residential New Construction - Affordability Award 

Project Name: KTP Mobile Home Park 
Winning Company: John Graham Housing and Services
Project Partners: KBS Homes, Addison County Community Trust 
 

Residential New Construction - Affordability Award 

  • Project Name: Whistlestop Mobile Home Park 
  • Winning Company: Downstreet Housing and Community Development 
  • Project Partner: KBS Homes 
     

Commercial Building Design & Construction - Large Renovation Award 

  • Building Name: HULA Tech Campus
  • Owner: Scully Interactive / HULA 
  • Entrant: Smith-Alvarez-Sienkiewycz Architects 
     

Commercial Building Design & Construction - New Construction Award 

  • Building Name: Pomerleau Family YMCA 
  • Owner: Greater Burlington YMCA 
  • Entrant: Freeman French Freeman 
     

Commercial Building Design & Construction - Small Renovation Award 

  • Building Name: Vermont Natural Resources Council Headquarters 
  • Owner: Vermont Natural Resources Council 
  • Entrant: Vermont Integrated Architecture, PC 
     

Efficiency Excellence Network - Partner of the Year Award 

  • Farnum Insulators 
     

Efficiency Excellence Network - Leadership Award 

  • Maple Leaf Mechanical 

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 seven 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 www.efficiencyvermont.com.

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