Building Energy Efficient Homes is a Work of Heart
Many contractors look at building energy efficient homes as simply the latest evolution of standards in the industry, higher goals to strive for to stand out against their peers, or a necessary next step in the quest to curb climate change. But for others, like Allan Sharpe, President of Sharpe Builders in Fredericton, New Brunswick, energy efficiency in homebuilding is a passion project, a mission very close to their heart. His journey to Platinum-level Registered Energy Efficient Builder all began around 30 years ago when his daughter was little.
“We were living in a small bungalow, and I remember at the time, our daughter had chronic colds and allergies. I attended a CHBA Habitation Conference where we were talking about indoor air quality, and I left thinking, ‘I’m going to sell that house and we’re gonna build an R-2000 enviro-home.’ Seeing my daughter’s allergy symptoms improve and seeing the difference the new home had on her overall health, it was night and day. That’s when it set in for me,” Allan shared.
Since then, Allan and his team have been incorporating energy efficiency into his builds without a second thought.
“We only pick clients today who want to build energy efficient homes, or whose renovation projects incorporate energy efficiency. It’s worked very well for us and it’s what we want to be known for,” he stated.
As a child, Allan always loved building things. When he was around 10 or 12 years old, he’d help his dad (who had his own construction company at the time) on sites during the summers and after suppertime.
“Once I picked it up from my dad, it stuck with me. I was a mechanical technologist by trade, but I was helping with builds on nights and weekends. Eventually, I gave up my full-time job to do what I loved, which was building homes,” said Allan. He then went on to create his own company, Sharpe Builders, and incorporated it in 1987.
Aside from his personal experience with the benefits of energy efficient homes, Allan recognized some of the other rewards that follow building homes with the future in mind, namely the immense feeling of pride that comes from knowing you’ve built something that will last a lifetime.
“Building energy efficient homes is just the right thing to do. It’s something that’s coming as a standard to the industry, so why not get ahead of the curve? I took my training back in the day to carve a niche for myself because I was interested in it, and I understood the science, so it was an easy sell for me.
When I first joined the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick, they offered some great training for the R-2000 program. They would work with you and show you techniques to certify your builds. But if my guys came up with better techniques, they were very open to change – I really appreciated that part. I’ve had some guys with me for over 30 years, so seeing their suggestions still in effect today makes them proud and strive for that level of excellence every time.
And when you drive by something you built 20 years ago, or you run into someone in the grocery store, you don’t need to hang your head. You’re glad to see old customers and want to know how things are working out. When you’re a small volume builder, that’s your name and reputation on every house, so you need to ensure that you’re doing things the way you’d do it if it were your own home.”
Allan also acknowledged that energy efficient home building isn’t for every builder.
“The builders who are most focused on energy efficiency will not be the ones doing the best as far as income goes. You do it because you’re passionate about it, it’s the right thing to do, and the quality of life for your clients will be better. Even securing incentives for your clients takes more work because the goalposts to achieve those rebates are always changing. But you do it because your heart is in it. You don’t just do it to get it done faster, you do it to do it right.”
Allan’s passion and dedication to his craft is part of the reason why he and his team are so highly sought after and have earned a reputation as one of the top builders in New Brunswick. It’s a passion he shares with his son, Jeremy, who joined the Sharpe Builders team 9 years ago, and is on track to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Jeremy brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the trade from his time spent building homes in Whistler and Victoria, British Columbia. He is well on his way to becoming a key member of our team and shareholder in the family business,” proclaimed the proud father.
Alan also credits his competitive edge to his commitment to developing the best building envelope possible for each home.
“The levels of insulation, the windows, the airtightness of the home – I’ve always preached that those are the most important factors in building a house. Those investments are going to pay you back numerous times over the life of the house. Mechanical equipment wears down over time, but once the house is built you don’t want to be ripping it apart and changing that envelope.
We routinely achieve high ratings in our air tests. If I’m on a conference call talking to other builders throughout the country, they just can’t believe we’re getting the results we get. It’s a process we’ve adhered to over the years and never swayed from – it’s something that sets us apart,” remarked the builder."
Allan also credits the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick with setting the course for his success and urges new builders to turn to the organization as a primary resource for industry knowledge.
“Qualifications are something you need to keep up to date on. Being a member of the CHBA-NB opens your eyes to a lot of the industry changes and the training available. I think now’s the time for young builders to get energy efficient training and start their careers applying the industry’s best practices.”
Allan indicated that client understanding is also a vital component to securing future business and that being armed with the latest knowledge can help builders explain upgrade benefits with greater ease.
“Educating your clients is so important – they need to fully understand the benefits of these energy efficient upgrades so that they can see the value in them. Once they’ve lived in an energy efficient home, they’ll feel the difference for sure. But it’s the initial sell that takes some work due to the upfront costs associated with them.”
Further, he added, “It’s also important for homeowners to maintain things like their air exchangers. Most service providers now will set up a routine cleaning with their clients to ensure it gets done so that everyone can make sure the home is performing optimally.”
It’s obvious to anyone who chats with him that building quality homes is more than a job for Allan, it’s a life’s mission. As he touched on time and again during our talk, building energy efficient homes is a labour of love. But with those extra hours invested comes a priceless return: knowing that what he does every day helps the environment and improves the lives of every customer he works with.
Allan Sharpe is the President of Sharpe Builders located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Allan is also a proud CHBA-NB Master Builder™ member of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick and a Platinum-level Registered Energy Efficient Builder.
Certifications: R-2000 | Net Zero Ready | Net Zero | CHBA-NB Master Builder™
For more about Allan and the team at Sharpe Builders, visit www.sharpebuilders.ca