Michael Strong of Houston-based Brothers Strong says, “We got huge resistance in our company when we made the turn to green. Sales managers and project managers said, ‘This is not a good idea. Consumers aren't asking for it; it will demand too much in the way of resources; it's too expensive.'”
Change is never easy, especially when employees feel they're suddenly being asked to turn away from familiar practices.
Strong addressed the resistance by explaining that they'd been doing green remodeling all along, although they'd never called it that before. “I said, ‘We may not have done photovoltaic cells or geothermal, but that's just the sexy stuff. We've always been efficient with our resources on site, and we've installed tankless water heaters and PEX plumbing.'” He told them to think of “green” as “high-performance.”
CARROT AND STICK When Dennis Allen, of Allen Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif., rolled out the green mission to his employees, he found it effective to use both the carrot and the stick.
“When we were first starting our green work [12 years ago], it was really my passion,” Allen says. So he tried to build enthusiasm among his employees by starting a twice-a-year competition with a $500 kitty. “It was all about what they had added to a project to make it greener, not what the client asked for or the architect did. They had to isolate what their contribution was. And they voted on who deserved it.
“It completely changed the game for us,” Allen says. Suddenly, his employees were doing more than simply waste-recycling on site. Now they were introducing solar design, efficient windows, and better heating equipment to projects, and paying more attention to paints and adhesives.
Years later, he still gives a prize to the field person who has done the most to bring green to the company's clients and projects. But he has also introduced the stick to ensure that his company makes good on its promise to clients.
Because Allen says he's “put himself out there” as a green business, he wants to ensure that certain green practices are worked into every project. So his company's boilerplate specs include things like window flashing systems and vapor barriers, as well as LEED-approved caulks and adhesives.
“The point is to make sure the building lasts longer, which conserves resources,” he says. “These are things that are good building practices, but most companies aren't paying attention to them. We set out to do these things in every project; beyond whatever gets specified by the architects.”
Once a required green measure is taken on a project, project leaders must photograph it or ask someone from management to do a site inspection, in order to document the procedure.