The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s been hosting its Green Building Open House since 1995. NESEA Executive Director Jennifer Marrapese tells us how it’s evolved since then and what to expect from this year’s tour on October 13th.
Tell us how the idea for the Green Building Open House came about.
Jennifer Marrapese (JM): NESEA’s main focus is accelerating the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency measures. We really felt that allowing people to see these technologies for themselves would go a long way toward making them comfortable enough to implement them at their own properties. We also knew that there was a real willingness on the part of people who had already implemented these measures to lend a helping hand to others who were considering them. Our challenge was to find a way to bring these two groups together in a way that would be beneficial and meaningful to both. That’s when we came up with the idea for the tour. It was the perfect way to facilitate these interactions and to create the transparency and sense of community that we knew was necessary to drive increased adoption.
How has the tour changed over the past 13 years?
JM: The most obvious change is that it’s grown tremendously. I believe that in our first year we probably had a few dozen host sites, and less than 500 visitors. In 2011, the tour grew to more than 500 host sites and upwards of 11,000 participants. Those numbers really underscore the validity of the tour’s concept. Over time, we’ve added a lot of features that have added tremendous value to the overall experience the tour provides. For example, in some locations there is a kick-off party to orient visitors ahead of time and to get them excited. In other locations, our local organizers organize bike tours or bus tours so that visitors can tour buildings together while minimizing their carbon footprint. This year, we’ve partnered with you to host the project profiles that make up the new virtual component of the tour. The virtual tour deepens the experience of people on the physical tour by allowing them to see beforehand the details of the properties they plan to visit. It also broadens the audience we can reach by allowing people who can’t physically visit a site to “tour” it online. Additionally, the other content hosted on energysage.com—the educational content, the information about brands and vendors, and the tools to help potential consumers to navigate the purchase process—helps us to deliver an incredibly rich overall experience.
Each year, we want the tour to be better than the last, so we’re always looking for new features that will provide real value to the people taking part in the tour.
What impact has the tour had on the adoption of these technologies?
JM: We’ve seen the benefits of peer to peer interactions in this process. People get to see these technologies in action, talk to others about their experience, and learn from the expertise that comes with having gone through the process. Research shows. as consumers learn from their peers who have successfully implemented renewable solutions, and become more familiar with these technologies, the likelihood that they will start using them themselves jumps by 24%.
I have talked to several NESEA members who became deeply involved with the organization as a result of the tour. One such person, Max Horn, toured a GBOH home several years ago, contacted the architect, and said, “I want one of those.” After building his own super-efficient high performance home, he became a lifetime NESEA member.
We have other similar anecdotes from other members, but not a lot of hard data. So this year, we are working with a student from UMass, with funding from the National Grid Foundation, to try to learn more about the extent to which participating in the tour motivates consumers to adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.
The bottom line is “seeing is believing” is really working and we’re excited to see the impact of this year’s event.
Interested in learning more about clean energy and energy improvements in a real-life setting? You can sign up to visit the host properties in your area and review the online profiles.
Already have a clean energy system or made efficiency upgrades you want to show-off? You can share your experience and expertise by serving as a host property on the tour and / or by creating a project profile for the virtual tour. Take a look at instructions for both options.