Contractors Build Business Opportunities Through Better Buildings Neighborhood Program
You may have seen that an independent evaluation, released this summer, found that home performance contractors across the country increased business opportunities and established lasting local, state, and national connections through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. The program distributed a total of $508 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to more than 40 state and local residential energy efficiency programs across the country from 2010 through 2014.
These Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners worked with local contractors to complete more than 119,000 home and building energy efficiency upgrades. The increased demand for residential energy upgrades resulted in an estimated 10,191 net jobs and $1.3 billion in economic activity, creating more opportunities and income for contractors who participated in these state and local programs.
Helping Contractors Expand Efficiency
Various networking, promotion, and training opportunities influenced business practices of many contractors in the grant communities. Contractors reported that participating in efforts connected with the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program increased their:
- Adoption of energy-efficient building practices
- Marketing of energy efficiency services to homeowners
- Frequency of efficiency-focused training for fellow contractors and sales staff
Sixty percent of surveyed participating contractors reported that their services became more comprehensive while working with Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners, which helped diversify their business opportunities with clients.
What’s more, a significant portion of energy upgrade leads for Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners were generated by local contractors. More than 33% of customers who undertook energy upgrades through these partner programs reported hearing about the upgrade opportunities through a contractor. This was significantly higher for multifamily (45%) and commercial (63%) customers.
Contractors Contribute to Program Success
The evaluation reports also identified four main factors contributing to program success based on achievements during the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program 2010–2013 evaluation period:
- Offering multiple types of energy assessments
- Installing low-cost measures during assessments
- Developing large pools of eligible contractors
- Providing contractor training
The fact that all four success factors involve contractor contributions and capabilities shows how critical they are to the growth of home energy upgrades across the country. Several of the other supporting factors of success were also closely related to contractor participation in programs:
- Building strong relationships between programs and their participating contractors
- Providing a flexible approach to conduct comprehensive upgrades, including allowing participants to stage their upgrades
- Conducting effective quality assurance and control practices
- Targeting outreach activities to specific populations, while not restricting participation to narrowly defined populations
Following the grant period, many Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners were able to sustain some or all elements of their programs without additional DOE funding. And some contractors surveyed for the report indicated that the program’s end would not affect their practices, while others listed a number of ways that their companies planned to adjust, ranging from scaling back or seeking out other incentive programs to facilitating low-interest financing options.
Dale Hoffmeyer leads DOE’s Better Buildings Residential. Better Buildings Residential works with residential energy efficiency programs and their partners to improve homeowners’ lives, the economy, and the environment by increasing the number of high-performing, energy-efficient existing homes in the United States. Learn more about Better Buildings Residential.
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