BEBL are BEBL – The Building Energy Bottom Lines Gathering in Portland, Maine
10/1-3/2014: What an incredible few days. I’m still on a bit of a high from it, actually. And so is the entire office, it seems. There’s no way our business hasn’t been changed by this, and most certainly for the better. Maybe even dramatically so.
Most NESEA regulars have at least heard a little something about Building Energy Bottom Lines. Essentially, it’s a peer review group composed of NESEA members, which means like-minded individuals who share values and often overarching business goals. Many but not all of the members of our group work in the built environment, being either builders, designers or a combination thereof. This certainly helps cohesiveness and allows us to get right into the meat of things without having to explain what we do to each other and why. There’s more of a focus on the “how”, with the guiding theme around the triple bottom line – People/Planet/Profit.
Led by our fearless and always inspiring leader, John Abrams of the astounding South Mountain Company, our group (one of 3) plowed through two very full days of sharing, intense focus and guidance. This was both about looking closely at the numbers as well as the spirit and passion driving them. Our representation there included myself, my partner in Kaplan Thompson Architects, Jesse Thompson, our Office Manager Adrienne Stauffer and our BrightBuilt Home Director, Parlin Meyer.
After an evening of food and drink together as folks arrived, we started bright and early, reviewing each business in turn, as all presented their current state and posed their current biggest questions and challenges to the group. It was eye-opening to see what a talented, smart group was in the room, something that’s often invisible at the BE conference itself. We went last, and after a tour of our office and meeting/intro with our staff, gave a protracted version of the challenges and big questions we hoped the group would help us process the next day.
I want to make sure it’s clear that this was not an easy thing to do, in several respects. One is that the preparation was fairly comprehensive, and for us, the hosts and prime subjects, it was pretty intense and took a ton of time. In addition to our presentations, we had to have all our in numbers in line, including P&L statements and various other requested metrics. Secondly, we really had to put ourselves out there in order to get deep, valuable input from the group. I felt pretty exposed for a bit. As owners, we all put a lot of emotion into our businesses, and some of it came out. At times, it felt like therapy, only everyone was just questioning us. If there were a couch in the room, we would’ve been on it.
The day was a fantastic journey that delved deep into a number of complex and interrelated issues, with lively debate on a few. Somehow, we ended up with a clear and substantive list of action items, in priority order. And many on that list were not things we could’ve imagined at the start of the day. Yet the direction felt right on. The group was in sync and engaged, and seemed to really get who we were as a business and as individuals who run a business.
I am still dazed by the generosity of the group. I’m stunned by the results. I’m filled with gratitude. And I can’t wait to return the immense favor.
NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.