In January of this year, Geoff Ferrell stepped up as President of the EEBA board, succeeding Gene Myers of Thrive Homebuilders.
Mr. Ferrell's deep immersion in high-performance home building makes him well qualified for the position. He currently serves as Chief Technology Officer for Mandalay Homes in the Prescott, Arizona area, a company that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the most innovative home builders in America and was recently named ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the 3rd consecutive year. His duties include ensuring that the company's specifications and construction practices consistently meet its performance goals, and as part of that he leads the company's quality assurance efforts.
We asked Mr. Ferrell for his thoughts on the EEBA board's priorities for the next few years, as well as his personal goals for the organization.
EEBA: How did you get introduced to EEBA and why have you stayed active?
GF: I attended my first EEBA Summit in 2013. Mandalay had just competed in the DOE Challenge Home competition, the predecessor to the Housing Innovation Awards.
I was very impressed with the people I met. In addition to well-known industry names like Sam Rashkin, there were many top-notch builders, raters, and others. It was a great learning opportunity.
What really surprised me at my first Summit was the attendees' willingness to talk about what would be considered trade secrets in other industries. Everyone seemed willing to freely share their expertise and their hard-won lessons. As someone who began his career in the computer technology world, where so much information is considered proprietary, this openness was new and refreshing to me.
My first impression was of a community of professionals who genuinely wanted to raise the quality bar for the industry. That impression hasn't changed.
EEBA: Why do you think EEBA builders are so willing to help one another?
GF: As a group, and as individual builders, we agree that the buying public deserves better homes. In this day and age, it's ridiculous that a more affluent homebuyer gets higher quality construction, while a couple busting their butts to support a family of three has to be satisfied with lower quality because they can't afford anything better.
These days, an inexpensive car will run trouble-free for well over 200,000 miles, even though it doesn't have the same amenities or cache that a more expensive model does. We need to do the same. A $150,000 starter home should be as durable, efficient, healthy, and safe as a multi-million dollar mansion.
Everyone I've met in EEBA has this same concern and agrees that we need each other to learn how to consistently deliver that level of quality. We're trying to change the industry, and we need each other to make that happen.
EEBA: What do you see as your role as board president?
GF: My perspective is to re-evaluate what EEBA does publicly, to strengthen the things we do best and to look for ways we can offer more value to the industry.
We want to continue to be a training and a networking resource for industry professionals. We want to be the place builders, manufacturers, raters, specifiers, and others go to help one another.
Going forward, I want to get the board involved in expanding our reach. We need to find ways to connect with more builders locally and to get them to attend a training seminar like Houses That Work.
EEBA: How would you like to see EEBA evolve over the next few years? What would you like to see it accomplish?
GF: I think it's important that we continue to grow our training programs. For instance, we will launch a program at this year's Summit called “The EEBA Path to Zero Energy Homes” that will give builders a roadmap for reaching the goal of building Net Zero Energy homes. Training is the top obstacle to a builder when it comes to consistency and performance in my mind.
A priority for all builders is to attract more young people to the industry. I believe that high-performance builders are in a unique position to do that because of our embrace of new technologies and our environmental commitments. EEBA is the process of launching a NextGen initiative that will include scholarships for students to attend our Summit and our regional trainings. I want to see more of that.
would also love to see EEBA partner with other organizations. For instance, the Passive House Institute (PHIUS) and the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) do great work but they don't have our industry reach today. A partnership would help get them in front of a larger audience and would help the EEBA tribe benefit from their amazing resources too.
In short, we want to be the place that builders and designers who are new to high performance building come to get solid grounding in high-performance building and to learn from others who have gone before them. Then we want to serve as a forum where more experienced people can continue learning from one another.
EEBA: If you had to give a big message to the building industry, what would it be?
GF: We all need to care about what we are doing. Building a home is about more than profit or units sold. When you go to an EEBA event you will connect with people who really care about the impact they have on their customers and their communities.
If you have never experienced a gathering like that before, it will feel like another world at first. If you want to connect with some really amazing, innovative, passionate professionals, EEBA is the place to be. Join us and help make the industry a better place through collaboration and learning.