Bart Laemmel and Steve Thomas Wow Attendees During the General Session and Keynote
Bart Laemmel of B2 Building Science kicked off with describing his experiences living and renovating homes in the small town of Crested Butte, Colorado. "We are delusional about how we build, we build big problems," Laemmel said when introducing the issues he's encountered over the course of working in the town. From his experiences working under seasoned mentors and working out problems in the field, Laemmel said he learned just having one title would not cut it in today's modern homebuilding world.
"The days of being just a carpenter, just an insulator, just a roofer are over," he said. "We have made this an extremely technical industry. If you just copy one person, that’s plagiarism. If you copy a bunch of people, that’s research." His work on renovating everything from homes with leaky walls to homes with renters who grew dozens of marijuana plants reinforced his message of looking above one's assumed title and profession and broadening one's perspective to find solutions to complex problems
"I am more than just a carpenter. I am a forensic carpenter. I am a mentor," he said. "I challenge this everyone in this room to leave your ego and your pride at the door when you go to work in the morning."
Next up, Steve Thomas, famous for hosting the hit PBS show This Old House for 14 years, began the Keynote on a more interstellar note. Thomas put up some photos of a recent trip visiting with famed spacemen like Buzz Aldrin and connecting Carl Sagan’s "A Pale Blue Dot" passage describing the famous Voyager photo of a distant Earth to his life experiences. Thomas spent a lot of his early life sailing the Pacific Ocean in the 70s, and lived in Micronesia to learn navigation and to become an apprentice. "Living in Satawal was the last look into a window that was closing," Thomas said.
His next project was going to the arctic and getting to know his family’s history and participating in whaling. "It was here we first began noticing the signs of climate change, still years before the term became familiar or a topic of discussion, when the whales started swimming further from shore," Thomas said.
Thomas then detailed his extensive background in home design, redesign and renovation by attributing his interest to "renovator’s disease," or the inclination to keep renovating way past when needed. After getting established, the EPA came to Thomas proposing for a redesign that focused on the concept of insulation, and Thomas decided to use his house for the project. "During this project, I sprayed a CBS reporter with sprayfoam, and while CBS loved it, the EPA hated it," Thomas said to many laughs. The total reduction of energy for this project was 28 percent.
Thomas briefly touched on hosting This Old House and mentioned that his favorite project was a barn in Massachusetts. "Back in In 1989, green building was sustainable building," he said when discussing his efforts to build with a green focus while hosting the show. Thomas also shared his experience as a producer for such stations as the History Channel, in which he participated in a program on WW2 pilots and realized a powerful sentiment. "Experiences like following the WW2 pilots are perishable, they have a self-life: the shelf-life of the person who’s story you’re telling."
Thomas concluded by going over green building, which includes energy, workmanship ("build quality"), materials, health and design (what pulls it all together). "I’ve been focused on working on and living in small houses the last few years," he said. He led a renovation on a house in an island in Maine, rebuilding and renovating the house from the inside out.
"My concluding thoughts: cost and value proposition are important," he said. To bring in the SPF industry, he commented that "sprayfoam cost is complained about, but costs can be controlled by workmanship, materials and features" and advocated "controlling features that won't compromise a home but will bring the costs of building it down."