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April 9 2010

Bringing Our Clients Home

Groundwire staff member Sean Pender gets up close and personal with a SustainableWorks home energy audit.
Bringing Our Clients Home

How much could you cut your energy use at home?

Groundwire builds websites. Not me, but my co-workers. I do the books at Groundwire so I bill websites (get it? Ha!) and in some ways I’m removed from the work we do, which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find myself using one of our client sites recently: www.sustainableworks.com.

SustainableWorks is a non-profit doing energy audits and retrofit pilot projects in three neighborhoods; one in Spokane, one in Federal Way and one in my corner of Seattle, Ravenna/Wedgwood. They have skilled trade workers who come to your house and do an energy audit, looking for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

A week or so after the audit is complete, an energy consultant from SustainableWorks meets with you to go over the results of the audit and to explain what work could be done to your home, what that work would cost you, and what it would save you. They also provide an estimate of the decrease in carbon emissions if you have the work done.

If you choose to do the energy retrofit, they act as a general contractor of sorts; they have contractors lined up to do the recommended work.

This is why the work is concentrated in neighborhoods; it behooves SustainableWorks, and the contractors, to blanket an area for reasons of efficiency—they can knock out a certain number of audits or retrofits all in a shorter period of time if they’re not going from one city to another.

I’d seen flyers posted in the neighborhood about SustainableWorks, knew they were a client of Groundwire’s, and heard about them from friends and neighbors so I finally registered for a home energy audit using their Plone website.

A few days after signing up I received release forms in the mail that allowed our utilities to release information about our gas and electricity usage to SustainableWorks. Later I received emails from SW directing me to an online reservation form to schedule the actual energy audit.

From a technology standpoint, everything worked at it was supposed to: me filling out the web form triggered another action (Yay! I’m in their system!) and the online reservation form (not a part of Plone but a separate system) also triggered emails that assured me I was in the process.

In early March two SustainableWorks staff showed up, precisely at 8am as they said they would, and they spent a couple of hours poking and prodding our 1940s era home to see what kind of energy efficiency improvements might be made. The Sustainable Works staff were friendly and told me exactly what they were doing as they worked around the house.

Once their staff completed testing, they took what they found and came back a week or so later with three proposals. Each proposal included details on work to be done, cost of that work, rebates available from our utilities for the work and other pertinent details.
SustainableWorks started in Spokane and they’ve had some success there; including a retrofit for a church that is projected to save the church roughly 50% on their energy costs and another retrofit for a community center for disabled adults that cut their energy bills by roughly 30%, not to mention cutting carbon emissions at the same time.

These proposals were a fantastic way for me to see how our work at Groundwire, including what I do, has a tangible effect in our neighborhood and in our little corner of the world.

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