Net zero and high-performance homebuilding with Bob Deeks of RDC Fine Homes

On today’s episode of “The Building Code,” Bob Deeks, owner and president of RDC Fine Homes in Whistler, British Columbia, is joining Zach and Charley to dive into the topic of building net zero homes. Net zero, or carbon neutrality, is the process of completely canceling out the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity.

Listen to the full episode to hear Bob talk about building net zero homes, how to meet environmental standards and how to grow your business by setting yourself apart.

WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED WITH BUILDING HEALTHY, HIGH-PERFORMANCE HOMES?

“As we headed into the early 2000s, and I really started to understand that there was a huge education gap in the industry around what we did. It’s one thing to frame a wall and stand them up and throw a roof on. It was an entirely different animal to really understand the building science and how moisture moves through wall assemblies, how you managed indoor air humidity, indoor air quality. So, we made a huge commitment not only to me but to the entire team to make sure that we spent a lot of time and effort on educating our team around building science. Around 2005, I started looking around to see what sort of certifications were available to bring some extra accountability and due diligence to the process. We discovered the Built Green standard. In 2006, we built our first Built Green-certified project. That’s where air tightness testing started to become a factor in what we built and really started understanding that if we didn’t test, we really had no idea of how we were doing.”

HOW DO YOU EDUCATE YOUR TEAM ON THE SCIENCE BEHIND BUILDING NET ZERO HOMES?

“We really made it a standard that if you were going to be a senior leader on an RDC construction site, whether you are a project manager, a site superintendent or a lead hand carpenter, we expected you to at a minimum, take the building science course and really understand simple things like: What’s the difference between an air barrier and a vapor barrier? What is the importance of a blower door test? How do you do it? What does an HRV do for a house? We’ve continued that journey. Of course, in British Columbia, we’re really lucky that the government is supporting education for skilled trades. We can get about 60% recovery on any approved education. We spend upwards of $20,000 a year on education. Of course, that’s only 40% of the cost. So, we’re leveraging close to $50,000 of education for our teams.”

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Bob Deeks | RDC Fine Homes

Zach Wojtowicz:

Welcome everybody to “The Building Code.” I can’t believe they brought us back. I’m Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

And I’m Charley Burtwistle. We’re here again, somehow. Episode number two for us, episode 119 for “The Building Code.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

We’ve got Bob Deeks, owner and president of RDC Fine Homes. We are covering net zero homes along some other topics. How to grow a business, how to get your customers engaged in Buildertrend, how to meet the environmental standards that are coming your way. Do you know anything about net zero?

Charley Burtwistle:

I know little to nothing about net zero, so very excited to talk to Bob.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Hopefully, Bob can fill us in a little bit. Let’s get it.

Charley Burtwistle:

Let’s get it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Bob, let’s just start with RDC Fine Homes. Charley and I were looking at your website. You built some beautiful homes out in British Columbia, and we want to know before we get into the details of how you lead into net zero homes. Tell us about yourself. How’d you get started? I saw your company started in 1993. You’ve been around for a long time. How did that happen?

Bob Deeks:

Long time, yep. How did that happen? I never intended to go into construction.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I hear that a lot.

Bob Deeks:

I followed a pretty traditional education path. Graduated from high school, went to university, got a commerce degree thought I would end up in the business world. I grew up in Toronto, so I started my post university career working in advertising actually. I had reconnected with a colleague out here in the ski school and being between jobs and really being sick, I think, of sitting at a desk staring at four walls.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right. Feeling trapped, just looking for more?

Bob Deeks:

Feeling trapped, yeah. So, I jumped on a plane, came to Whistler, and I had just sold a house in Toronto, which I had renovated with a good friend from university. I was sitting on a pile of money and the market here seemed to be hugely depressed and land values were super low, and bought two vacant lots on the lake.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow.

Bob Deeks:

And all of a sudden, I was a landowner in Whistler, 4,500 kilometers away from where I really lived and really knew absolutely nothing about building houses. I designed a house, literally contracted with a guy out of Ontario to do a traditional timber frame design, thought this would be fantastic. Never really considered that financing might be, might be a challenge.

Of course, this is the late eighties when the economy is not doing great. Interest rates were fairly high. Went to get financing, got turned down at the last minute. We were clearing the lot, the timber frame guy was scheduled for delivery, and we had no financing. I had to cancel everything. And then my partner and I really looked at the situation we were in because we’d put all our money into the lot and the taxes came due and even in those days, the taxes were thousands of dollars. And we were like, “We can’t afford this.” So, we put the lots up for sale, sold them both within a month. And we doubled our money because the economy was doing better.

Charley Burtwistle:

Oh wow. And you had owned those lots for how long?

Bob Deeks:

12 months.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow. Kind of worked out for you, then.

Bob Deeks:

I think we bought the two lots for about $120,000 and sold the two of them for $250,000.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow.

Bob Deeks:

And then I looked around and bought a house in Whistler. All of a sudden, I was now a homeowner in Whistler, and I did not have a job. The three jobs that were available in Whistler in the late eighties were either restaurants, or bars, or construction. I sold myself as a carpenter and bought some hand tools. I bought myself a hammer, and a level, and a saw, and a bunch of other things.

Charley Burtwistle:

Other than the renovation, you hadn’t, you did in Toronto, did you have any experience or was this just a fake it till you make it type scenario?

Bob Deeks:

This was entirely fake it till you make it. So, I got a job forming concrete, and I had never formed concrete in my entire life. I showed up in this job site with my brand new tools. Any builders listening to this will laugh. I had bought a 16-ounce finishing hammer because I literally did not know any better. I showed up on a job site to form concrete …

Charley Burtwistle:

I have my hammer.

Bob Deeks:

… and I have my little 16-ounce with the curve claw, a homeowner hammer. I almost got laughed off the site the first morning.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m here to construct things.

Bob Deeks:

Yeah. I think within a week I had gone and bought myself a 28 ounce east wing hammer that gave me tendonitis for the next five years.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Overcorrected, maybe?

Bob Deeks:

Overcorrected, yeah. Biggest hammer I could find. That was my start. That sort of got my feet underneath me. I was a fairly quick study, figured out concrete forming and basic carpentry skills that summer, did that for a few years. Then in the early nineties, when we had a fairly significant recession here, there was just nobody hiring. I had a contact in the hotel industry who needed some maintenance work done and started working for them and spent the next two years renovating hotels.

Charley Burtwistle:

There you go.

Bob Deeks:

By that point, I had no interest whatsoever in going back to work for anybody else and started RDC Fine Homes. Here we are today.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So, did it primarily start as a renovation company then? Or did you move almost immediately into new home structures?

Bob Deeks:

Primarily just started renovating hotels. I grabbed a couple of friends who were also unemployed and had no construction experience.

Zach Wojtowicz:

The sales pitch must have been amazing. Hey, we’re just trying to make ends meet here. Give us a shot.

Charley Burtwistle:

No experience required.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just bring a normal-sized hammer.

Bob Deeks:

Fake it till you make it. My core values today are positive, reliable performance. That’s the core values for RDC. And I think going back to those early days, though we never articulated core values, that’s what I really believed in. So, we really worked hard to make sure we understood our customer’s expectations, and we always doubled down on making sure that we did it right. And so, as we went out into the marketplace later in the nineties and into the 2000s that has served us extremely well.

Charley Burtwistle:

For sure. Kind of shifting away from you and more into RDC, obviously humble beginnings, but since then, you guys have become pretty prominent home builders up in British Columbia. Multiple Georgie awards, I saw. I’d love to talk about the transition that RDC has made. Specifically, you guys are in the news a lot now for the net zero transmission housing and all the work you’re doing from a sustainability side of things. Can you walk us through that transition from the humble beginnings to the enterprise you guys are now?

Bob Deeks:

In the late nineties I had an opportunity to build a new luxury home on a site that had an older home on it. That older home had fairly recently been renovated. It hadn’t been renovated very well, but it was a fairly significant addition. When I went in and looked at it, the primary way that you would have developed that lot in those days, is you brought a machine in, and you just crunched the whole thing up and threw it all into the landfill.

As I walked around this house, all the framing lumber was less than 10 years old. The windows were less than 10 years old. It was flooring that was all kinds of good materials there. And I really looked at this and thought, we should not be landfilling this. This is perfectly good material. And then the financial side of my brain also recognized that there was a fairly significant cost to tear it down and throw it into landfill, but that there might be value in the materials that were on site.

I was actually able to connect with a guy who agreed to come in and dismantle the house at no cost in return for all the materials. We essentially repurposed the vast majority of that building. It really opened my eyes in the late nineties. There’s a better way to do construction. It started with just a more sustainable way of demolition. It then turned my attention to, is there a better way to build?

I was always looking for, what is, what is the latest technology, what is a better way to do this? We were doing heat recovery ventilators a long time before they became commonplace up here. We became knowledgeable of it, building science and air tightness in the early 2000s. Initially starting to use a spray foam, which was a very, very new strategy for insulation in those days. Specifically because we were looking for better moisture control, particularly in some of the roof assemblies we were building with a lot of valleys and recognizing that there were some problems inventing those types of roofs. So, spray foam became a great strategy for non-vented roof applications. Of course, the heat recovery ventilators, HRVs, we became very aware of the consequences of indoor air quality and moisture control and just how to build a healthier, better house.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And you were doing this in the early 2000s and late nineties?

Bob Deeks:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

How common was it back then for builders to be doing that? I can’t imagine that this is something that a lot of contractors were really considering.

Bob Deeks:

I’d say far less than 1% of the industry was involved in this. Then as we headed into the early 2000s, and I really started to understand that there was a huge education gap in the industry around what we did. It’s one thing to frame a wall and stand them up and throw a roof on. It was an entirely different animal to really understand the building science and how moisture moves through wall assemblies, how you managed indoor air humidity, indoor air quality. So, we made a huge commitment not only to me but to the entire team to make sure that we spent a lot of time and effort on educating our team around building science. As everybody became more knowledgeable about it, we became more and more interested in the performance of houses.

How can we make our houses more energy efficient? How can we make it more comfortable? As the dawning realization that energy efficiency and thermal comfort and indoor air quality all went hand in hand. The strategies that you use for each one of them were complimentary to the other. Also that if you screwed it up, there were serious consequences to that indoor environment, both from a health and safety standpoint, but also from a durability of the buildings.

Around 2005, I started looking around to see what sort of certifications were available to bring some extra accountability and due diligence to the process. We discovered the Built Green standard. In 2006, we built our first Built Green certified project. That’s where air tightness testing started to become a factor in what we built and really started understanding that if we didn’t test, we really had no idea of how we were doing.

What’s really commonplace here, because air tightness has now become mandatory within the BC building code in certain regions, as it has in other places in the United States. We all think we’re building airtight houses until we test them.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Bob Deeks:

For us, we really started to understand if we don’t test it, then we actually don’t know. While I had a team that really understood the detailing for air tightness, there were times where we would bring the blower test in mid construction and the guys would hit it right on, they’d hit the mark. And then there were other times where something would come out of left field and we would fail miserably. We would discover as a result of that mid construction floor tests that some fairly significant things that weren’t obvious had been missed.

That really reinforced how important certification was for us and how important testing was to make sure that we were consistent in the delivery of that better built high-performance house. As an extension of that, as I started to become more knowledgeable about what net zero was and what was required, I thought that was just a logical extension of where we had started our journey. We had the first labeled net zero house in BC in 2010. We used it as a demonstration project during the Olympics that were here. We toured a thousand people through it.

Charley Burtwistle:

That’s amazing.

Bob Deeks:

And as a result of the construction of that and the promotion that we got, we actually started to get some clients, some of whom were interested in net zero, but it really put us on the map in terms of being an expert for high-performance sustainable energy, efficient construction.

Charley Burtwistle:

There’s your advertising background you’re showing off your houses in the Olympics. I mean, talk about the advertising gold right there.

Bob Deeks:

That’s right. We’ve really been building on that and becoming better and better at the strategies around how you build high-performance houses. Today I think every new house that we’re building meets the labeling standard for either net zero or net zero ready. We completed the first net zero renovation in British Columbia last year. We’re partway through construction of our second net zero reno. This one will have solar panels on the roof. The first one was in net zero ready, which means that the house was modeled to be able to produce as much energy as it used. The one we’re doing right now, the owner is committed to doing the solar panels. We’ve got a 16 kilowatt photovoltaic array that’s designed into the structure and next summer that’ll go into place. That’ll be our third project over the last 10 years that not only is net zero modeled, but we’ll have the solar panels on the roof.

Charley Burtwistle:

You guys are trailblazing the path here. The first in British Columbia, you’re building all these things. Even back in the early 2000s, you said you were educating your team on building science. What were you doing to find that education and educate yourself and your team, and break through this barrier of the traditional way of doing things. Because I’m sure a lot of builders listening to this right now would love to get into that space, but maybe don’t know where to start. Do you have any advice or resources that you use early on to educate yourself on building science and set yourself down this path?

Bob Deeks:

That’s a great question. In the early 2000s, I got invited to join the Canadian Home Builders Association. Wasn’t really too sure where that was going to go, but I was smart enough to understand that there was going to be value. We live in a very small community that is somewhat isolated from the mainstream construction and becoming part of the home builders would connect me to a broader group of my peers that I could learn from. One of the first things that I discovered was they had a really good suite of education opportunities, one of which was building science. I went and took the building science course.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s something that I’m really curious about. You’re taking an initiative to educate your team and that’s something I know working with builders is hard to do. You went and took the building science course. How did you bring it back to your team and your field crew, and your engineers, what was that reception like?

Bob Deeks:

We were collecting a staff that were also interested in passionate about building better. I had an engaged team, and I don’t think we told people, “Your job depends on you taking continuing education.” But we certainly set a standard that we expect that you take the education that we’re offering you. RDC paid for it. In the early days we paid out of pocket for education, we gave people essentially an education budget, although we don’t do it today, there was a time where we tracked everybody’s education, and we were awarded people for the most points.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Incentivized them a little bit.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Bob Deeks:

Yeah, there was an incentive.

Charley Burtwistle:

I love that.

Bob Deeks:

We really made it a standard that if you were going to be a senior leader on an RDC construction site, whether you are a project manager, a site superintendent or a lead hand carpenter, we expected you to at a minimum, take the building science course and really understand simple things like what’s the difference between an air barrier and a vapor barrier? What is the importance of a blower door test? How do you do it? What does an HRV do for a house?

We’ve continued that journey. Of course, in British Columbia, we’re really lucky that the government is supporting education for skilled trades. We can get about 60% recovery on any approved education. We spend upwards of $20,000 a year on education. Of course, that’s only 40% of the cost. So, we’re leveraging close to $50,000 of education for our teams.

Charley Burtwistle:

It’s an investment.

Bob Deeks:

It is. My risk is not managed if my team doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right. That makes a lot of sense. What do you say to the builder who’s skeptical about net zero homes? I can’t do that, or it’s not realistic, or it’s too expensive, or all the things we’re going to get into as far as the characteristics of the home.

Charley Burtwistle:

Or even just like you said, the class is too confusing, the education’s too hard.

Bob Deeks:

The only thing that’s consistent in society today is change. Nothing stays the same. The industry is changing around us incredibly quickly. When I started this journey, nobody told me I had to do this. We were a little bit proactive, but today the building codes are going to mandate net zero housing. If you want to stay in business, you have no choice, as a starting point. It’s intimidating, absolutely. Learning something new and learning something technical is intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as you think. They’re all somewhat worn out adages. How do you eat an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time. And so, you’ve got to start dipping your toe in the water and get some education because there’s an enormous amount of education opportunities out there, in COVID land, it’s online.

Sometimes you need to revisit things a few times, so it really sinks in. Building net zero in a large number of the climate zones in North America is not that hard. We can talk a little bit about what our RDC strategy is to cost-effectively achieve a net zero standard. Of course, we’re building in a relatively cold climate in Whistler. As we move North in Canada, and if you look at the Northwest of the United States, you get some very, very cold climate and it absolutely gets more expensive and it gets more complicated the colder the climate. In a climate like Southern California, building to net zero is really quite simple.

Charley Burtwistle:

I love what you were hinting at there, strategies they can use to be cost-effective. What would you say are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned? Obviously, someone like you has been doing this for a long time, versus someone that’s just starting out, what were some of the realizations you had to get to where you are now and probably still continuing to learn lessons to this day.

Bob Deeks:

The two first strategies that we use when we start modeling are windows and air tightness. We go out to the marketplace and buy the very best windows we can. What I explain to clients is that the first place we’re going to make an investment is windows because it is your lowest cost opportunity for improving not only the energy efficiency of your house, but the thermal performance in terms of, is it warm enough in winter? Is it evenly warm in every room? Is it easy to keep it cool in the summertime? It’s also interestingly the easiest way for soundproofing a house, particularly in a busy urban environment. We don’t necessarily promote Passive House, but we use Passive House windows because Passive House took it to the window industry and created a standard.

Passive House rated windows are going to be the highest performing windows that you can buy. You don’t have to go to Europe to buy Passive House Windows. Certainly in the lower mainland of British Columbia, I think we have four manufacturers that all have Passive House rated windows, and we do try to buy local. Triple paned, high-performance windows, that’s our first box that we check.

And then the second one is air tightness. I would encourage anybody who’s looking to get into this space, whether it’s improving the overall thermal comfort, durability and energy efficiency of your house, is really look at a good air tightness strategy. There’s all kinds of different ways to achieve air tightness. We typically are now modeling our projects down below 150 pascals. If you have confined a good strategy for cost effective air tightness ceiling, that is your lowest cost pathway to high-performance buildings. We use Aerobarrier as our strategy. We’ve tried just about every other option. We do have a wall and roof assembly strategy that we generally follow for all our projects. And then we use Aerobarrier to get our air tightness numbers as per our model. We like that strategy because it’s risk-free, relatively low cost, a way to drive certainty to the number that we need to meet the target in our model.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Let’s take this down to your customers a little bit. Are you seeing an increase in people looking for net zero homes in your area, or in the industry? Or is this still a relatively niche market?

Bob Deeks:

Okay. We’re starting to see both. There’s increasing interest, but the building code, like our building code both nationally and provincially has a target for net zero ready homes by 2032. Where we’re consistently building here, in some cases, the local municipalities are requiring construction to meet an energy level that’s just one step below net zero ready. I think as it was introduced in some places in the United States, in California, we have a step code here, which is a pathway to net zero. It’s a voluntary building code pathway to energy efficiency that was made available to municipalities in British Columbia to allow municipalities to start educating and building capacity in the industry for better build houses. In January of 2022, the provincial building code will move to what is referred to as step three of the BC Energy Step Code. That’s two steps away from net zero ready. In 2027, they’ll move the provincial code to step four.

And then in 2032, it’ll move to step five, which is that zero ready standard. And the national code is essentially following along in a similar pathway. By the mid-2030s, the building code for both big buildings and small buildings, houses and commercial buildings will be net zero ready. I think there’s lots of places in the United States that are following a similar pathway. It’s two-fold one, we have consumers who are much more interested in this as an initiative to reach our climate goals. But also governments are mandating this.

Charley Burtwistle:

I love that. The pathway and stepping people one step at a time to get to that eventually net zero ready end point where you guys are. That seems like a really, really smart play there. As people are transitioning towards that, what kind of insights or benefits do you normally use if you’re trying to convince someone to go down this pathway of promoting net zero homes, other than it’s going to be mandated, you have to do this?

Zach Wojtowicz:

You have to do this.

Charley Burtwistle:

What are the benefit?

Zach Wojtowicz:

People love to be told that. This is being forced upon you.

Bob Deeks:

That’s one of the things I’ve certainly learned in my spiel is there’s no value in telling my customers what they have to do. Although I have been known to do that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Bob, I can tell you’re very passionate about it though. I think they should know it’s from a good place. You care about them. It’s important for them to know this is the expectation that I’m being held to, therefore I’m doing what’s best for the customer, right?

Bob Deeks:

Yeah. We’re trying to do the best for you as the customer, but I figured out a long time ago that it was really hard to sell energy efficiency. To say, “You should spend all this extra money on energy efficiency, because you’re going to actually get it back in some short period of time.” But as I talked about earlier on, the energy efficiency strategies are directly tied to that better built home that has better indoor air quality. It’s thermally` more comfortable. You go from room to room, it’s the same temperature throughout the house. The house is more durable because we’re managing moisture in a more effective way. We’re building better building envelopes. One, because we need to manage the durability of the envelope, but we also need to manage the air tightness. We’ve always sold energy efficiency on the basis of this is just a better built house.

My analogy sometimes is towards cars because in various parts of North America, you can have a builder build you a house that really would be built to a similar standard as a 1980s car. Do you really want to go and drive a brand new car off a dealer lot that is reflective of technology from 1980?

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Bob Deeks:

Or do you want to go to that dealer lot and drive a car off that is reflective of 21st century technology?

Charley Burtwistle:

It’s got Bluetooth and it’s got to have the heated seats.

Bob Deeks:

And when you look in real dollar terms, there are cars that you can buy today that probably are cheaper in real dollar terms to what was being produced in 1980. It’s interesting when you look at the car analogy because everybody wants to know what’s my payback, but people will drive whether you drive a car off a lot that’s $35,000 or $150,000. Most of those cars, the moment you drive them off the lot, the car has been cut in half.

Charley Burtwistle:

Decreases the value.

Bob Deeks:

You need to learn how to sell your houses like they sell cars because that energy efficient house brings across all kinds of additional benefits to the family. Particularly when you talk about indoor air quality as a result of having a heat recovery ventilator. In particularly in today’s world, when we’re really worried about virus transmission, and all those other things. Good filtration, properly right-sized mechanical systems, which will evenly heat and cool your house, reduce your energy use, be more durable and just be that much more thermal in comfort. Comfortable day in, day out. Those are the tools that you can use to sell that.

Interestingly today, the one thing we haven’t talked about is carbon, but of course the end goal of energy efficiency is to reduce carbon emissions. What we’re now really understanding is what really impacts carbon is the embodied carbon and construction. That’s my new conversation and will become our new niche as we move forward with energy efficiency becoming mandated by building code. We’re losing our brand identity there because everybody, whether they want to or not, is going to catch up.

Charley Burtwistle:

They need to match the rest of the market. You’ve just been ahead of it, you’ve got to find the next thing.

Bob Deeks:

Yeah. Embodied carbon, there’s a lot of discussions around carbon emissions, but what we’re learning now is that the embodied carbon in construction far outstrips the emissions from operation. And then of course your fuel choice has an enormous impact on emissions too. That’s our new conversation with our clients. You’ll start to see on our social media channels, I’m going to start to talk a lot more about the impacts of carbon.

We have a new tool that we’re using to measure embodied carbon. We’re just in the process of going back through some of our previous projects to understand how much embodied carbon was in there. We’re going to look to change some of the materials that we’re using in construction next year. While I haven’t put it in paper, our goal, maybe not for 2022, but for 2023 will certainly be a net zero carbon building because there are lots of materials that are available today, that if you put enough of them in the house, the carbon capture of those types of materials would … One is the most obvious will exceed the embodied carbon in things like concrete. Get your building down to a place where you’ve actually stored more carbon than you’ve emitted in construction. I think that’s going to be the end goal. The industry doesn’t know it and we haven’t got our head wrapped around it. The first step is going to be net zero construction, but the next is going to be net zero carbon.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You heard it here, first folks.

Charley Burtwistle:

Love that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m glad you brought up tools and things that have helped improve your business. That brings us to Buildertrend and how you came to us. When you were growing your company and looking to set yourself apart in the market, what role did technology on that side play?

Bob Deeks:

That’s an interesting question because in the early days I was super frustrated with things like time sheets, and the mistakes that were getting made. One of the first things I really started looking for was a better way to track and manage time. We’ve always been very transparent with our clients. We want to show them where they’re spending their money and part of what was important to me because so much of the cost of construction is the wages that are paid to the carpenters. It’s expensive. Being able to provide clients with a detailed explanation of where did the guys spend their time? What did they do? How much time did they spend on those individual tasks, was important. I’m actually shocked today, defined, particularly sub-trades and small contractors who are still doing all their payroll manually.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’ve seen it dozens of times in my own experience traveling and working with businesses. A lot of things are written on paper that they hand in and then they’re manually entering it. Even their invoicing systems are that rudimentary when it comes down to it.

Bob Deeks:

And business owners that are staying up to midnight.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah.

Bob Deeks:

Five days a week to try and keep up with this. We’ve just taken it for granted.

Zach Wojtowicz:

This is how I should be doing it. It’s like, “No, there’s something else you could be doing.”

Charley Burtwistle:

There should be a better way.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You know they’re thinking it.

Bob Deeks:

We were looking for a better platform that had a more friendly interface, both for staff. We were also really looking for something that we could engage our clients with.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Bob Deeks:

We deal with a lot of clients who don’t live here, and construction is expensive. It creates an enormous amount of anxiety. If we can connect our clients meaningfully day to day on what’s going on in their job site, it manages their anxiety. If it manages their anxiety, they are happier and they’re much easier to deal with. A happy client is an easy client to deal with.

One of the huge selling features was the support that was there. Somebody that you could pick up the phone and ask a question, there was no charge for it. The guys are encouraged to use that whenever they do and, and very supportive help. There’s no stupid questions. The scheduling tool and the daily log for our clients have proven to be enormously valuable tools. I have a client right now in Hong Kong, we’re doing a very large complex project for him under a very, very short timeline. He started in January. They’ve been stuck in Hong Kong and haven’t been able to travel now for over 12 months. He shared with me a week ago. He said, “You know, when I did my house in Dublin, I had to make six trips from Hong Kong to Dublin to make sure that my project was progressing.”

Charley Burtwistle:

Dang, quick flight.

Bob Deeks:

“The neighbors would call me and tell me there was nobody on site, or the builder wasn’t communicating very well,” he said. “You can’t imagine how much anxiety it created for my wife and I.”

Charley Burtwistle:

Oh yeah.

Bob Deeks:

Through that process, he said, “The ability to log in every morning, read the daily log update, to see what the guys did, to look at the photographs and see the progression of the photographs, go on to the scheduling tool. And double-check that what they say is going on site is matched on the schedule that they’re showing me.” He said, “We have no anxiety.” He said, “While I can’t travel today with the travel restrictions,” he said, “I feel no need to make a trip to come out and make sure that you guys are doing what you said you were going to do. We feel so secure and there’s so much trust.” I’d say that the team is doing a good job, but sometimes it’s hard to demonstrate what you’re doing and Buildertrend helps us enormously in making sure the client understands that we’re doing what we said we were going to do.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I think that’s huge. I hear that all the time, talking to our customers, as far as with getting their homeowners involved, they’re hesitant, they’re a little nervous. They’re afraid they might show something that they shouldn’t in the program or do something they shouldn’t be doing and my message to them. And Bob, I would invite you to speak on is, the benefits that you gain far outweigh the potential of any sort of mistake you might make initially while you’re learning the program or getting involved with it.

Bob Deeks:

The worst thing you can ever do is assume that you can hide your mistakes from your clients. Because you can hide some things, but if you continue to hide stuff, eventually it’s going to trip you up and that’ll undermine the trust you have with your client.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right.

Bob Deeks:

In a heartbeat, right? If you own up to the small mistakes and you’re transparent about small mistakes, and you’re like, “Yeah, the boys made a mistake. They had to redo that. I’m not going to charge you for it. You can see the mistake was made. I’m going to show you the credit on your invoice.” You can turn a negative into a positive very, very quickly. Those mistakes are very, very strong learning moments for your team. They won’t make that mistake again. But if you bury those mistakes, then essentially you’re teaching your team that it’s okay to make mistakes because there’s no consequences.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well, Bob, I think we could talk all day and we’ve put you through the ringer here. We really appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

Bob Deeks:

Anytime.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We’ve covered all types of things going from advertising to building net zero homes and how to get your team to buy in.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. Incredibly valuable stuff. Bob really, really appreciate your time. I was going to say, we can link all your socials in the show notes as well. So, anybody listening out there can follow along as you begin to present on some of these things that RDC is doing, it seems like a great educational resource for anybody listening.

Bob Deeks:

We’ve got our YouTube channel. We do regular posts on our projects there. And then our Facebook and Instagram has all those videos that we really use as an education tool, just to demonstrate what we’re doing and help the industry understand what some of those simple strategies are. Of course, it’s a great promotional tool for us, for well-aligned clients who are thinking about the same things.

Zach Wojtowicz:

All right. Signing out this is Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

Charley Burtwistle, appreciate it. This is “The Building Code.”

Bob Deeks:

Cheers, guys!


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