Video: Relationship Between Traditional Contractors and Renewable Energy Getting Stronger

When Tecta America’s Mark Gaulin spoke with attendees at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo a few years ago, many businesses were unsure about how to enter the market. Now, says the company’s Chief Operating Officer, most of the people he interacts are much more comfortable in the space, making the conference a very positive one for business.

“It’s been amazing to see the turnaround,” he says. “The difference in the quality of interactions is evident. More and more people we speak with are well-educated potential customers, not just folks who are feeling the market out.”

Tecta America is one of the largest roofing contractors in the country. In addition to its standard services, the company offers green roofs and building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) — two options that have gained a lot of attention over the last few years. This increase in interest illustrates how far the market has come, says Gaulin.

“I think that there’s an understanding that the way we build buildings – the way we used to build buildings — isn’t going to be acceptable anymore,” he says. “I think as things move on, a show like USGBC [U.S. Green Building Council] may just evolve to a construction show because that’s just the way we’re going to build buildings – that’s just what the customer is going to expect. The revolution is on.”

USGBC is working to usher in that hoped-for revolution. With over 26,000 attendees — most of whom are the builders, architects and engineers that drive the market — the Greenbuild Conference and Expo has become a symbol for the massive growth in energy efficiency, smarter building design, next-generation building materials and, of course, renewable energy.

According to the organization, which runs the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program nation-wide, there are now over 15,609 projects registered under the rating system. There are an additional 2,024 that have already been certified.

Those projects only represent a fraction of the built environment, however. A 2006 report from McGraw-Hill Construction points out that the entire U.S. construction industry represents US $4.6 trillion in economic activity. By 2010, so-called green construction could represent about US $60 billion in activity, projects the company. While the growth figures for the green building industry are impressive, that still only represents a small portion of the inefficient, resource-hungry buildings that are constructed or renovated each year in the U.S.

Companies already in the space recognize that in order to expand the use of new or recycled materials, make energy efficiency a top priority, and get more builders, roofers and electricians comfortable with renewable energy offerings, they need to more actively engage traditional players in the process. Many of the businesses on the floor of the Greenbuild trade show say their efforts are succeeding.

Benjamin Sanders, Northeast Regional Sales Manager for Schüco Solar, says that the company’s close relationship with its current and prospective customers makes for a greater comfort level. For example, he says, Schüco Solar sets up mandatory training programs for its customers who purchase and install solar thermal systems.

“Our business model on the solar side is to sell directly to installers…we will not sell a solar thermal system to an installer or systems integrator unless they come to our training, become certified and pass an exam. So we’re very concerned about quality control and working one on one,” he says.

Solar is also getting to be a very popular choice among those in the building and roofing industry. As that interest builds, businesses like the BIPV company Energy Peak are taking the same one-on-one approach to working with customers and selling product. Energy Peak’s President Rick Mowrey says that the company ran eight years of focus groups to figure out exactly what kind of product its customers would want. Those eight years have ensured high demand for its thin-film standing-seam roof systems.

“We haven’t seen any hesitation from the standing seam manufacturers because they always felt that they should be the ones integrating PV. They’ve adopted this whole-heartedly and they’ve gone into it full speed ahead. The hesitation has come in isolated cases from electrical contractors…but we’re going to train them,” Mowrey says.

A continued focus on the training process is one of the most important things these businesses can do as they look to gain market share and quickly respond to the demand for products such as solar PV and solar thermal, Schüco’s Sanders says.

“We work very closely with the basic trades…so it’s a very close, tightly knit relationship,” he says.

To hear more from these and other attendees at Greenbuild, play the video below. will not be publishing tomorrow or on Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Check back with us for all your renewable energy news on December 1.


  • I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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