Melbourne, FL – February 2, 2014 – We have often mentioned our building scientist friends at the Florida Solar Energy Center, in this Blog, and we have thanked them for their guidance and inspiration, but probably not often enough or strongly enough. The truth is, they showed us the way we have followed in our energy efficiency initiative, and quite probably they gave us the tools we needed to save our company during the recent housing debacle.
As it became evident that the economic downturn might become much more serious than most anyone was willing to think about at the time, our founding partners, John Luhn and Larry Hufford, convened a company strategic conference to examine the hard possibilities and devise a plan for the company’s survival if worse came to worse. In a true disaster, which we all know now is exactly what happened, we determined that to sell new homes against the competition of heavily-discounted used homes flooding the market, we would have to offer our customers something dramatically different and hugely beneficial to them – so advantageous that they would defy the conventional wisdom, that was surely to arise, that the best thing to do would be to wait.
But, how to do that? The traditional way builders deal with soft markets is to cut as much cost as possible out of the homes they build, cheapening their houses so their prices can be lowered as much as is humanly possible. But, that is NOT the LifeStyle way. Our heritage demands we always deliver the highest quality and most durable homes possible and rely on the extra value of a LifeStyle home to produce the sales we need.
It was Larry Hufford who hit upon the idea of increasing the energy efficiency of our homes as our defining positive differentiation, and it was Larry Hufford who made contact with the Florida Solar Energy Center, in nearby Cocoa, to see if they might be able to help us. After listening patiently to our market analysis and strategic dilemma, Dr. Subrato Chandra, at FSEC, advanced the idea he might have the solution we were looking for.
In fairly short order, Subrato convinced us to adopt serious, documented energy efficiency as our way forward. In return for our pledging to build a few houses that would include the features and deliver the performance he had in mind, he offered to have his staff do the necessary research for us, advise us how to proceed, train us, our suppliers and our sub-contractors how to do what would be necessary and then measure our results; all at no cost. It was his idea that this commitment to us would not only help LifeStyle Homes, but would also verify the real world value of all the work he and his team had been doing for years to improve the energy saving performance of homes throughout America.
Sadly, we have lost both Subrato Chandra and John Luhn, but the work they set in motion lives on. By now, it has most likely surpassed their fondest wishes for its success. LifeStyle Homes became the first home building company in Brevard County and only the 41st in the nation to become an accredited Building America partner of the U.S. Department of Energy in their Builders Challenge program.
So, this blog post is intended to tell just a bit more of the long and intricate story and tell it again for those who may have missed the message. We also want to thank our team of building scientists at FSEC, now led by Eric Martin. The photo of the award trophies you see here, just scratches the surface of prominence and respect the Florida Solar Energy Center has achieved world-wide. We thank them for our guaranteed HERS 60 SunSmart(SM) homes, for our even more remarkable Net Zero Energy SunSmartPV(SM) homes and for all the future advances we expect to achieve with their continued help and guidance.