The summer I turned sixteen years old, two major events occurred that would impact my life. I got my drivers license and my first job as a carpenter’s helper. The first made me mobile and the second provided me with a means to afford this mobility. I had the good fortune to be apprenticed to two “old school” craftsmen who were happy to share their knowledge and skills with a green kid. I realized right off that I had found something I really liked to do, was somewhat proficient at and that paid better than pumping gas or waiting tables which is what my buddies were doing.
Thirty-five years and many variations of homebuilding, remodeling and carpentry jobs later, I’m still in the building business and consider myself extremely lucky to have found a profession I thoroughly enjoy and that has always provided me with a means to meet the needs of myself and my family.
I first learned about energy efficiency in the late seventies. I was working as an apprentice carpenter and I knew a guy who was starting a business using a new insulation material, polyurethane foam. We were doing retrofits on existing homes and my job was to drill a two inch hole every sixteen inches around the perimeter of the house. He would then fill the stud cavities with foam and I would plug the hole. This was after the oil embargo of the mid seventies when everyone suddenly became energy conscious. After awhile, oil and gas prices dropped and miraculously there was seemingly no more energy problem. I knew in the back of my mind that there was something to this tight construction idea and began employing what are now called “Green Building” techniques on all my projects whenever I could.
Almost twenty years later, again I had the good fortune to go to work for one of the pioneer production green builders in the country. The founders of McStain Neighborhoods had been employing sustainable building and development techniques before they were referred to as green building but always had the environment in mind. This is where I really got the opportunity to research and develop cutting edge building technologies related to highly sustainable, high performance home construction.. I have also realized that much of what those “old school” guys that I worked with all those years ago taught me about framing, flashing and details to make buildings last longer is now a part of what we refer to as Building Science.
Green building has become a passion for me and I am of the opinion that there is simply no other way to build. In order to construct environmentally responsible, healthy, long lasting structures, you must take a holistic, systems approach to design and building.
I live in a house that is almost one hundred years old and it is still a safe, comfortable place to live and promises to be for many years to come. We have the ability to create buildings that people will be saying that about several hundred years from now. That’s exciting to think about and we owe it to our grandkids.
--Jeff Medanich is Vice President of Harvard Communities in Denver, Colo