Building the green way: How to make jobs more sustainable with Matt Hoots

Show Notes

On this episode of “The Building Code,” Zach and Charley are chatting with Matt Hoots, owner of SawHorse design build in Atlanta, Georgia. Matt has over 20 years of experience in green building and dedicates a lot of his time to educating fellow builders and clients on the importance of using sustainable methods.

Tune in to the full episode to hear more about what it means to be a green builder and how to implement these building standards into your business.

What is something that’s becoming more popular in the realm of green technology?

“Because of COVID-19, I think people realize we do need filtration, we do need fresh air. And finally, that’s come to the forefront again, and we can do this not only in commercial spaces but in your own home. You can go into a house, and I tell you the indoor air quality is much worse than it is outside even if you’re in a city, ironically. So, that’s the challenge because we spend most of our time inside. I think the health aspect is something I’ve always been aware of because I have allergies, but a lot of people just don’t realize that you don’t have to have allergies, especially if you’re inside all the time, and you’re sneezing. Well, there’s something that’s triggering and creating those reactions. So, what can we do to that environment to keep that from happening?”

What should builders do to get started in green building?

“Green building is just one of those tools that allows you to offer better services or just better understand how things are installed. I would start with just looking at what certifications are offered for you. Take a class on that. Maybe even take a class on something that’s not even offered in your area and see how different building programs are put together. The building science physics and principles are pretty much the same across all different areas. Just come up with what you’re going to make standard in your business. I think once builders see some of these things, and they see how their risk can go down when they build a certain way, more people will want to do this.”

Related content:

Follow along with the SawHorse team’s #1920sMakeoverATL showcase project where learning, green building and luxury design come together.

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Transcript

Zach Wojtowicz:

It’s another episode of “The Building Code.” I’m Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

And I’m Charley Burtwistle.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We’re in the studio once again. Charley, how you been?

Charley Burtwistle:

I’ve been fantastic. I was actually in Ireland for the past couple weeks, which you were in about a month ago. So, we’re taking turns traveling abroad, but finally back in the studio where we belong.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Let the record show Charley did it because I went first and decided that he needed to have his own Irish love story.

Charley Burtwistle:

I did. Absolutely. I did take a lot of advice from Zach who, if you listen to the podcast a lot, know that Zach gets to travel and do really cool things all the time, and I have to sit in my little corner and play with data all the time. So, it was fun taking a page out of his playbook and seeing the world.

Zach Wojtowicz:

What can I say? You have hard skills. You got to stay in the lab, my friend.

Charley Burtwistle:

I did actually want to see, I was going to look up before I went if we had any, which I know we do, but see who some of our customers were over there and maybe stop in and do some live podcast recordings. But that did not happen. But we’ll put that on the list of to-do’s.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I once had a client in Ireland.

Charley Burtwistle:

Nice.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. And they had rural internet issues, but they made it work. These were file storages, and they used it really well. It was pretty impressive.

Charley Burtwistle:

And now that we have offline mode, I bet they’re a big fan of that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, for sure. All right, well today we’re getting into green building, once again. I feel like we’re becoming experts.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. I don’t know if I’d say that, but the bar was so low to start with that we’ve definitely learned a ton. And I think that’s kind of just the way that industry is going. That’s most people who, five, 10 years ago when they hear green building, they don’t really know what to think, and now it’s slowly and surely kind of moving to the forefront of what everyone needs to be focusing on or at least be considering as they try to improve their business.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s right. So, Matt Hoots from Atlanta, Georgia and the name of the company is SawHorse, which is a really cool name. And I was looking at their information on their website, as we do just learn a little bit about them, and they do a ton of work. Custom home, remodeling, additions. They also were founded in 1978, so I’m really interested to get into their story and let’s get Matt in here.

Charley Burtwistle:

Absolutely.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Matt, welcome to “The Building Code.” We’re really excited to have you on today. Really excited to learn about you and your business. And of course the topic today is talking about green building. And before we go too far down the old rabbit hole, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, Matt.

Matt Hoots:

Yeah, so I’m a green builder here in Atlanta, Georgia. We work on specifications, designs, and also the execution of residential renovations and new homes. So, we do custom new homes and whole-house renovations. Like you said, to the green building standard, which ironically is above the building code. What we’re trying to exceed, the building code is a basic way of building and then typically green building is more advanced, more for the occupant, so they can live in a house that’s more comfortable, energy efficient, healthy and whatnot. So, that’s kind of what our goal is in continuing education and trying to learn. Also, educating others and our clients about what it is that we do because it is kind of confusing.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So, the company you’re at is SawHorse. When did you start out there and have you guys always focus on the green building side of things or is that a transition that you’ve seen over the past few years?

Matt Hoots:

So, I guess as a brand we’ve always been known for better construction, and I think that’s when green building, probably around the year 2000 is when we picked it up because there’s certifications. There’s EarthCraft certification, which is through Southface here in Atlanta, it’s more of a southeast certification and a lot of other certifications like Leap for Homes, the green building standard. We’re kind of based on that one. So, we were part of that. And then 2001, we helped come up with an existing home model with that certification because most green building certifications are for new construction only, whether it’s commercial or residential.

And still to this day, unfortunately, not a lot of people have picked up dealing with green building or green retrofits when it comes to existing construction. And that’s where there’s the most opportunity. So, we started offering that over 20 years ago to our clients. People loved it. We’ve been part of various programs. We’ve probably tried out every program out there, and we’re to the point now where it’s like we see where the marketplace should be going and the tools, and we’re trying to help different organizations create tools. So, builders all over the United States and the world can take certain programs, apply it to existing construction and make an existing house perform like a new house. So, over 20 years and we’re continuing to push the envelope and see how we can continue to do better.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I saw on your website that SawHorse was founded in 1978. So, you guys have been in business for a long time. Typically our guests aren’t in business for that long. You might be the oldest business that we’ve had. I’d have to fact check it but that’s pretty incredible. So, obviously, we’re in business for going on 20, 25 years, then you made the transition to green and now, it’s not been another 20. Which is just a really great testaments to your strategy, your pivot of how the company’s evolved. Are you guys a family owned business? Are a lot of the same people that when you started are still working there? I’m just really interested in that angle a little bit.

Matt Hoots:

So, yes, the founder Carl, he’s still in this market. He left the business to go into the more consulting side and actually he has a business now. It’s very successful. It’s a national business where he just does green building certifications. So, he doesn’t build anymore. Building is exhausting. I happen to love it. Speaking of a family business, my family does, and my wife is in the business. I’ve got a couple kids in high school. One of them helps with the YouTube channel. He does video editing, writes music for us. The other one has listened to me complain about architects enough that he’s going to go to school for architecture.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Get it in house. There you go.

Matt Hoots:

So, he is like, yeah. So, actually he started working on some designs. He’s a junior in high school, so he’s not an architect for us yet. But yeah, we work on training the next generation, too. And that’s kind of the goal of our business. We can only be so successful as the weakest link. Well, the weakest link is knowledge. So, with green building, we can’t execute this unless people understand what it is. So, our clients need to understand what we’re selling. They have to want it. If they don’t want it, we can’t do it because they’re the ones funding if we’re doing a custom project. And also with the trades, constantly educating them. These are new ways of constructing things. You probably saw on our website; we’re doing a passive house. No one’s ever tried that in Georgia before because it’s a mild climate, not super needed.

However, you’re looking at climate change, other factors and with this kind of house, it’s more energy efficient. Say if we lose power, which has nothing to do with climate change, just means the power grid went down. The house is more energy efficient, can maintain its heating and cooling. Especially where you guys are. If it’s really cold outside you can probably stay in the house for several days if not a week and have very minimal energy loss through that. So, it’s really about comfort, and it’s really about taking care of the people that are living inside the house. So, yes, as far as family business, for sure the family wants to stay involved, that’s fine. But we’re not forcing them. We not expecting them to join the business.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And you’ve mentioned a few different times now just kind of information and education around the green building movement and I saw that you recently got added as one of the top influencers in Atlanta to promote green building. And I’d say that that’s, we’ve had a few different people in this space on the podcast before, and that’s kind of what they constantly preach to is just people don’t know this isn’t the norm yet. So, people don’t really know what the options are, what that even entails. I definitely didn’t until we started talking to a few different people. So, is that kind of your biggest challenge would you say? And could you tell us a little bit more about the influencer part of the business as well, too? Is it just information, are you helping other builders learn about this, or is it more client side helping more homeowners know that this is even an option?

Matt Hoots:

Well, it started out with the client side. It was more for teaching our clients because we’ve been doing this a long time, and I thought the conversation had ended maybe 10 years ago when I was explaining how insulation works. But then three years ago, I was having to explain that again. It’s like listen, just because the message is out there doesn’t mean people are reading it, too. It’s like a local brand. Chick-fil-A. In the nineties they came up with the whole cow and the chicken marketing, and then some of the marketers, were kind of sick of doing this. It’s like, you know what, you’ve got a new generation of kids coming up every day. They’re not sick of it because they’re not old enough to have seen it long enough to be sick of it. So, that’s the same thing with green building and our messaging.

Same thing with your messaging. You have to keep on repeating yourself because there’s always new ears, new eyes looking at it. So, sticking with the fundamentals to teach our clients this is why we do what we do. We don’t really give them an option. We’ve got a minimum efficiency standard that we want to go toward – mainly for their health and wellbeing. And because there’s a lot of things that are basic building code that you can probably get by with it. But there’s so many forces, there’s so many dynamics with the house. If you build to the basic code then you can cause health and wellness issues. And even in the southeast we’ve got humidity, we have other things, some crazy things going on within our climate zone. So, we try to go a little bit above that for ourselves. We can offer a better warranty, we have less liability because we’re able to control the house better.

We’re able to maintain moisture. Moisture is what typically destroys houses either from the outside or from the inside. So, at the builder show several years ago, I want to say this is right before, a week before the pandemic hit or before we knew the pandemic hit in the U.S. I was at the builder show interviewing just some of the vendors that we like to work with and put it on YouTube. Everybody started watching it. So, we’ve got close to a million views. I’d say most of that’s in the last couple years. Mostly just from us trying to educate our clients. But when you put something on YouTube, you can’t limit it to your clients or you shouldn’t limit it to your clients. So, everyone else started watching and so, a lot of people started coming to us asking us to create content for them.

So, with that locally, what we try to do is get other people that are like-minded, and we go to a manufacturer or something, we’ve got an influencer group where all of us are trying to learn together because we’re not only influencers but I would say more thought leaders. Here’s our problem, here’s how we’re going to try to solve it and put that message out there. And also help the people that aren’t quite there yet. It’s like listen, tag along. The information’s free. If you learn, that means that we’re using the same trades, and we’re able to all train them together the same way. And I think that’s the challenge. So, if I’m trying to do everything by myself, that means I have to have my own crews that can’t work for anybody else because if they’re telling them something differently than I’m telling them, then I’m basically untraining, and they’re training and that could be exhausting.

So, the goal is to get everyone that’s likeminded together at these events, train them together. I’ve got a virtual house, and I’ve got this learning house I’m putting together here in Atlanta where anybody can come by. It’s like we’re doing some pretty advanced things. Any part of it you want to come learn about, check it out, you can check it out on our YouTube channel. We’ve got over 50 videos on it, we’ve barely even worked on the foundation. We’ll have over 200 videos by the time we’re done with it. So, it’s really about just spreading the knowledge. Because I can’t build every house in the United States or even Atlanta and I don’t even want to. I’m lucky to be a high end production green builder. That’s just not what we want to do. So, we find the best way is just sharing knowledge with others so we can all get better as a group and as a market as well.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s really interesting. First off, your high school student has to be just psyched that he’s got a million views on YouTube. He’s probably dropping that at least weekly to his friends and classmates.

Matt Hoots:

Well, he had a video put out 10 years ago. He was holding some weather stripping, and it had over a hundred thousand views. So, he still holds that above his brother’s head who creates music for YouTube. And he’s like, hey my video is like, you’re literally just standing there looking cute. The other one edited a video which has over 150,000. He’s like, well I edited that video even though I wasn’t in it. So, you’ve got some rivalry there, which is pretty fun between brothers.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I love that. You’re the first American we’ve had that does green building, which is pretty interesting. And you’re building this community movement in Atlanta, Georgia and Atlanta’s booming. And it’s one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. I love the mission. That’s amazing. I guess I wasn’t even aware that Americans were on their way and certain parts of the country do that. So, I’m curious, you mentioned the advanced techniques. We like to get in the nitty gritty, our audience, our other Buildertrend customers. What are you doing in your passive house that you’re building for the Atlanta community?

Matt Hoots:

Well, first of all, for every builder out there, the cheapest thing to do for anybody, and we’ve been playing around with different methods of doing this is just air sealing houses. And I think that’s where, if you look at some other YouTubers that are out there, they stop at the building envelope, which is the outside of the house. And they talk a lot about that. Why? Because that’s the cheapest and easiest way to make a house more energy efficient is to stop air from leaking in and out. When you hear of a drafty house, do you think energy efficient? No, you think of a house that is losing energy where it is either conditioned energy, embodied energy that you’ve put into the air through air conditioning or you’ve got cold drafts in the wintertime coming through. So, that’s one thing that we try to, and I think most people are talking about. The next area that we have a high focus on, because I think everyone knows that a leaky house is a bad house and you need ventilation.

And I think the challenge is like how to ventilate a house properly. Most people say a house needs to breathe. It needs to leak, so you can have that fresh air. Yes, you do get some fresh air as a result of that, but you also get a lot of bad air at the same time. So, tight building envelopes, build tight, ventilate right, and then, okay, that’s our basic mantra. That’s what most green builders or building scientists agree on. So, how do you do that? I think that’s the challenge, like the ventilation and how do you create proper ventilation? And that’s something that’s come a long way even over the last three or four years as far as how to create balanced ventilation in a house where you’ve got equal amount of air coming in and out. That way you can control the air and control the fresh just to get good oxygen.

You get the bad air out of the house, and at the same time the occupants are healthy, and they’re comfortable. So, it sounds pretty basic, but it’s actually pretty difficult to execute. And everyone has a different opinion on how to do it. There are some things that are just flat out wrong, but there’s many different right ways of doing it as well. And it really depends on the design and whatnot. So, I think that’s the challenge. And a lot of the content on my channel and other channels that I’ve seen out there are focusing on ventilation. And in that aspect of a house.

Because of COVID-19, I think people do realize we do need filtration, we do need fresh air. And finally, that’s come to the forefront again, and we can do this not only in commercial spaces but in your own home. And most houses are sick. You can go into a house, and I tell you the indoor air quality is much worse than it is outside even if you’re in a city, ironically. So, that’s the challenge because we spend most of our time inside. How do we create that environment inside where the occupants are not becoming sick because of the building?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right. That definitely needs to be the first and foremost kind of thought on everybody’s mind in my opinion, is am I healthy in the house that I’m living in? And I think a lot of times when people hear green housing, at least I first did when we first started talking about this, they think about being energy efficient and climate change and being on the right side of that, but they don’t think about their own health. They think about what am I doing for the community and the environment, but am I healthy living in my home and can I improve my quality in life by having a properly ventilated house and airtight house that you’re talking about? You’ve been in the space like we mentioned 20 years. Has that always been the first in the forefront of your mind is the air quality of things? Or have there been certain kind of phases you’ve gone through or lessons that you’ve learned to get where you’re at now?

Matt Hoots:

Yeah, I like the whole house approach. I think most people jump towards energy efficiency because it’s easy to understand. If I do X, Y and Z, my energy bills come down. Well, just because you have lower, I mean really if you wanted lower energy bills, and this is a crude analogy, you wouldn’t have AC, you wouldn’t have air conditioning or heating, and you wouldn’t have hot water. But we’re not going to give up, we’re creatures of comfort. We’re not going to give up those items. So, how do we do that, and be more comfortable at the same time? I think the health aspect is something I’ve always been aware of because I have allergies, but a lot of people just don’t realize that you don’t have to have allergies, especially if you’re inside all the time, and you’re sneezing. It’s like, well there’s something that’s triggering and creating those reactions. So, what can we do to that environment to keep that from happening?

So, it’s either in the air or it’s in the water, most likely it’s in the air because we’re breathing that. And when you see the sunlight hit the room at a certain angle, you can see all those particulates in there. Well just because the sun isn’t hitting that, those particulates are still there. It’s just showing you what you have in the air. Soc, what’s really exciting now is people would talk about this, yeah we need better air quality. Well, there’s sensors out there right now. So, you can put a sensor in your house, it could tell you how good or bad your air is, and it gives you little scores. You’ve got this many parts per million. And this is what’s in the air. You’ve got too much carbon dioxide, you need to get some more oxygen in the air. Or there’s too many what’s called PM 2.5 particular matter to these small particles that you breathe that aren’t good for you. So, it lets you know what’s in the air, so you can actually take the necessary steps. Or they actually have equipment now where it takes the steps for you.

So, it’s like, okay, I sense this, and it’s going to ventilate accordingly. So, it’s not always ventilating, which is super energy inefficient if you’re always sucking the air out of your house or bringing fresh air in because it’s not conditioned. So, there are ways of dealing with that. So, I think we’re coming a long way. Mostly manufacturers have some sort of sensor and some sort of monitor now that deals with ventilation. So, if you buy even a basic bath fan, you can have one that has a humidity sensor on it sucks the air out or it has a timer on it where it runs for a certain period afterwards. That way you don’t have mold forming in the bathroom. Same thing with your kitchens. Most people don’t turn on their exhaust when they’re cooking. They don’t realize that cooking’s actually one of the worst things you can do for your health because you’re not cooking with that ventilation.

You’re breathing everything that’s coming off. Even cooking eggs is not good for you because there’s certain chemicals that are created by cooking that you’re breathing in and it could affect your health. Well, there’s ventilation now that’s like, all right, I sense that you’re cooking or sensing things near that automatically kicks on and then shuts off when you’re done. Because let’s be honest, humans, we’re very difficult to train. We’ve been doing something for a long time. So, I really like the idea of a smart house in the sense of, most people say smart houses, they think lighting controls and things like that. I think more ventilations in localized ventilations. So, in a bathroom it kicks on when you need it. If you have too much humidity or it just smells bad for whatever reason. And then same thing in the kitchen or in the laundry room. If you’re doing certain activities, the ventilation can kicked based on what you’re doing in there, and you really don’t have to worry about it. You just experience a clean, fresh air house because the systems are working properly.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m just cataloging all these things in my head, and you don’t have to call me out, Matt.

Charley Burtwistle:

I was thinking that, too.

Zach Wojtowicz:

My house was built in 1979, okay.

Charley Burtwistle:

When you said the egg …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, the eggs.

Charley Burtwistle:

I cooked eggs this morning. Did not turn on my vent.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Green technology is so cool though. You’re totally right. I think most people are like, oh I have a smart house or oh my phone can control some system.

Charley Burtwistle:

My RGB lights.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, for him, it’s like no, I’m making people’s lungs work more properly. Now, that’s like the meta of construction. It’s super cool.

Matt Hoots:

And that’s what we’re trying, you speak of metas, I mean you have metas in so many different other genres. What’s the meta for ventilation? And that’s really just balanced ventilation. So, in the bathroom, if you have a bath fan that kicks on, well that’s sucking air out of the house, how do you gain that fresh air back in? Well, you want to bring it in through your HVAC system through a fresh air intake or energy recovery ventilator or something like that. Or say if you’re not ventilating out, you still need that fresh air. It looks like you’ve got recording studios in different areas.

If you’re in there a long time, you don’t have ventilation, well, basically you’re sucking all the oxygen, literally sucking all the oxygen out of the room. Carbon dioxide levels are going up. So, you want to make sure you’ve got ventilation in there, not because you need conditioned airs because you need clean air for you to breathe. And I think that’s where most people get confused with ventilations. We’re ventilating a house to bring conditioned air to those areas. Well, there’s conditioned and also just clean air, so the humans can breathe.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So, how much of your current business is renovation remodel versus full home new build? Selfishly asking because as you’re talking about some of these things, I’m like man, do I need to go in and do some renovations in my house to get some of these things installed?

Matt Hoots:

Well, to your second question, the answer is yes. Same thing from my house, too. I’ve got this equipment sitting on my back porch. We’ve been working on the bath fans, we’re about to work on the kitchen and really, if there’s something that’s just absolutely wrong that’s making you sick now that’s causing problems, if you have natural gas in your house, you should have a carbon monoxide detector at a minimum. So, you don’t necessarily have to have a green house to have this technology in there. Your house doesn’t even have to be energy efficient to have good ventilation. And actually if it’s not very energy efficient, and it’s not very good, you probably want this balanced, good ventilation anyway just so you can at least, even if you’re paying high energy bills, at least you’re not sick. So, that’s something to do. So, what was the first part of the question?

Zach Wojtowicz:

I was just asking saw SawHorse specifically, are you guys completely new build?

Matt Hoots:

Yeah. So, it really depends on the year, and we’re targeting mostly whole house renovations because the more we learn about this, you can only do so much to an existing house. I’ve got an existing house and really, I can fix it from the outside in. It’s really difficult to fix it from the inside out. Most people try to fix it from the inside out. So, it’s about half and half. Some years it’s more renovation, some years it’s more new construction. We advertise for both, and we’re willing to do both. But anytime we do a renovation, even if it’s just an added condition or something, we still look at the whole house approach. So, we are going to deal with the crawl space, we are going to deal with the basement. If there’s radon in the house, we’re going to deal with radon. We’re not going to work on part of your house and let the rest of it be sick because that’s our reputation on the line. We want our clients to live. That’s how you get referrals.

Zach Wojtowicz:

What a tagline. We’ll save your life. You mentioned something earlier that I really was super curious. We’ve talked on the podcast a lot about the subs market and the trades and obviously, you guys can’t do what you do without them. And do you have your own subs that are doing these green certifications in concert with you? I just wanted to get a little clarification on your relationship with subs and how you targeted which subs are going to do the work that you trust. That’s super interesting because I think that’s probably a big objection to a lot of people is like, I can’t do this to my subs.

Matt Hoots:

I don’t even know if they need to be, I mean it’s not necessarily even a certification. So, the founder of SawHorse, his company is a third party. They just deal with the certifications, the verifications. For the subs, it’s really just about the specification. And to be quite honest, they shouldn’t even have to know if there’s a certification or not. You need to make sure you’ve got good plans, good specs, they just need to follow that, and that’s what they’re supposed to do. So, it’s really on the general contractor and the architect to make sure that they have what they need to do it. And the general contractor and site supervisor or project manager to make sure that it’s being executed properly in the field. So, that’s the big thing. And I’m probably going to be preaching for the next five to 10 years.

Good plans, good specs. If you have a floor plan in those specifications, most people don’t even talk about ventilation or even have electrical plans. And if they don’t have that, how are the guys in the field supposed to know what to do? So, I think that’s the big thing. Whether it gets one certification or another, there’s so many different ways to execute to get those certifications. It’s nice for them to know that we are working on that. However, if we give them a specifications like build to this, it really shouldn’t matter for them if it’s be green or not, sorry, getting certification or not.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, that makes sense. Just get the material there, make sure they know what the plan is, and they’ll make it happen.

Matt Hoots:

Most builders and architects don’t understand this, the certification, so I don’t expect the trades, but I expect the trades to understand their job and to do their job per the plans and how we tell them to do it. And here’s the thing, if you don’t give them a spec, they’re going to default to what’s typical or the building code, and that’s the name of the podcast.

If you look at the building code now compared to a house that was built 30 years ago, the building code now would be a green house 30 years ago. So, the building code is constantly getting better, but basically the mission of the building code is like how can we create a safe structure and to keep people out of the elements? And also, we’re just going to maintain a certain value. Now, you can build a house that’s to code with all code built stuff that can perform just as well as a high-performance house if it’s executed properly. You can also take someone that’s using the building code as like I’m barely going to try and get by and hopefully the inspector doesn’t notice it. So, it’s really the interpretation of the building code.

So, when you look at decks and things like that, the building code is actually better than most people are willing to build a deck. When they say the building code isn’t quite as good, they’re probably talk about more performance related things like the ventilation HVAC building envelope. But I think people do beat up the building code a little bit too much and probably not fairly. And everyone’s like, well the building code’s a D minus. I’m like, well the building code is still better than not having anything at all. So, at least we have a set of rules to go by. And it’s really the consumer, the builder’s choice if they’re going to try to exceed that. If not, then they need to talk to the regulators and just make it more stringent. So, don’t build up a rule that’s better than having no rule at all.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, absolutely. I love that. And you had some great taglines for our podcast. We’re taking notes. Something …

Matt Hoots:

I’ve already signed away all the trademarks and stuff.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. We’ll talk royalties. We’ll get the whole thing negotiated. You seem like you’d be a really good negotiator. Well yeah, to be fair, I’ve also pitched about a hundred t-shirts ideas on this podcast before and none of them had been made. So, we’ll see if this ever comes to fruition.

Matt Hoots:

How do you go back a list to all the past ones and just start?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, I’m waiting for a guest to show up with a list and be like, hey, I listened to all the episodes in preparation and I made a t-shirt master list. So, if I’m a builder in the Atlanta area or really anywhere in the U.S. or the world, and I hear this and I’m curious about wanting to learn more, wanting to maybe pivot my business more towards the green side of things, where would you suggest an existing business start if they want to start making that transition?

Matt Hoots:

I would say the green side of things. I would just say toward better building. Because once you understand how things, and every builder, I mean, a good builder’s going to want to know how to make his craft better. And green building’s just one of those tools as far as like hey, this is how we can offer better services or just understand how things are installed better. I would start with just looking at what certifications are offered there. Take a class on that. Maybe even take a class on something that’s not even offered in your area and kind of see how different building programs are put together. The building science basics, physics is pretty much the same across all the different areas. He transfers the same air as far as humidity is the same, dew point’s the same. So, the physics is the same and the principles are same.

It’s really just on how that particular certification tries to execute it. And really just come up with what things are you going to make standard in your business. Not every project that we work on can get a certification, but I’ll take certain parts of the certification. We’re going to do this every time. For instance, we don’t put in 80% efficient furnaces. The minimum is 90%. We prefer a heat pump or a ducted mini split, which is more efficient, but our minimum is still a safe minimum. So, we’re just doing the kitchen or bathroom and changing out a water heater, well our minimum is this, we’re not going to install something that’s going to kill you. And they’re like, well, we really want it. Well, we’re not going to do it. Somebody else can do that part and just sign this waiver that if you have carbon monoxide in your house, it’s not us.

Because that wasn’t part of our scope. We don’t do that. And I think once builders see some of these things, and they see how their risk can go down when they build a certain way, more people will want to do this. Now, some people do green building just because they’re like, man, I just love it. I just want to nerd out and try to be better than the next guy. So, it’s more of like, hey, how can I build the greenest thing out there? And also, just for builders where if somebody comes and wants a high-performance building or my kids have asthma or something’s like, you know what, I happen to know a little bit about that. I took the certification on it. And then get that third party, verify you’re in there to help you with the specifications, get the architect on board and basically put the team together. Like we can execute this for you so you’re not leaving business out there that you could close because you didn’t have the qualifications or the certifications.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Matt, I hate to do this to you. We’re running up against time. This was a great conversation about green building.

Matt Hoots:

It happens.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I know. It goes so fast. We look at the clock and it’s like, whoa. We could keep going for …

Matt Hoots:

Five minutes.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, we really appreciate you coming on “The Building code.” Upstanding invitation. You ever want to come back when you send this conversation, you’re always welcome here. And we wish you the best of luck here in the next end of the year.

Matt Hoots:

I appreciate it. Thank you.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Thanks Matt.

Charley Burtwistle:

Thanks Matt.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We just had Matt on “The Building Code” talking about green building. Charley, takeaways, what’d you learn?

Charley Burtwistle:

Learned a lot as always. I think like you mentioned, this was our third or fourth kind of green builder on the podcast. Continuing to learn a lot and the message keeps getting hammered home to me was kind of the misconception of what green building is.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re like painting buildings green. That’s where we started.

Charley Burtwistle:

That’s where I started for sure.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Mention that in the intro.

Charley Burtwistle:

But no, it’s not just about being more energy efficient, it’s not just helping out the environment. Those are obviously big parts of it, but as we talked about in there, it’s about improving your quality of life. And that’s something I didn’t really realize going into it about how much different things affect your life, your breathing, your environment that you’re spending a majority of your day, and you’re sleeping in every single night.

He definitely called us both out a few different times.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m going to have anxiety now walking in my house, placebo effect being like, doctor, I swear my lungs aren’t working right.

Charley Burtwistle:

Well, I thought he had a cool thing. He also was very reasonable in talking about kind of small steps that you take. Get some different sensors, see where your air quality even is. Go from there. And that’s definitely something I’m going to look into. So, yeah, Matt was very, very interesting, very, very entertaining. And I think a great episode for our listeners to listen to.

Zach Wojtowicz:

He mentioned this briefly, I didn’t want to get into a commiseration session of allergy sufferers, but in Atlanta, Georgia, if you have allergies, the pollen count is insane in the spring. And so, it makes a ton of sense in this market to kind of focus on green energy. And it’ll take time for people to, as he mentioned, education is kind of what moves things forward. And I love his community focus and all the things that he talked about to help his broader Atlanta area, which is growing crazy fast to kind of evolve their market strategies with how they build homes. And not only is it better for everything, but it’s also kind of a unique position to acquire customers. And we could have kept going as always. When we were on our way out in the lull between the outro and the end of the interview, he mentioned that actually his passive houses got education that you can give for free online it’s actually all virtual.

So, we’re going to put that in the shownotes along with his other platforms that he does a blog, his educational videos, shout out to his son who helps run their YouTube channels and family. I love learning those stories, so make sure you check it out.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah, those will all be linked to the shownotes. He mentioned the biggest struggle in this kind of movement of building better is just education information. So, we’ll have all the shownotes to all his different channels linked as always. And make sure to like, review and subscribe this episode of “The Building Code.” And that about does it for us. I’m Charley Burtwistle. Had a little bloating error there.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m Zach Wojtowicz. We’ll see you next time.

Matt Hoots Headshot

Matt Hoots | SawHorse


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