Bob The Builder's Blog

Thank You Friends For Your Referrals

We want to thank everyone who has referred Fireside Home Construction to their friends, family or acquaintances over the last several months. Your kind actions are really what make us a success. If you know someone who is thinking about building or remodeling - whether they are at the very beginning stages of their planning and just have questions or are ready to take action on the project next month - please consider sending them our way.

We also wanted to let you know we have a new Referral Program.

  • Any referral you send to us that becomes a new client, as a thank you, we will donate $100 to the local charity of your choice.

It is our way of showing you our appreciation and to help a cause that is important to you.

Thank you for your help!


Fireside Home Co. Winner of Big 50 Award from Remodeling Magazine!

Last week we made a trip to the Remodeling Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA to accept our Big 50 Award from Remodeling Magazine!

Out of about 200,000 professional remodelers in the country, only 1,300 are Big50 winners.

We are very honored to receive this distinction as the award recognizes excellence and leadership, and we are privileged to be named to this select group of remodelers.

You can click here to read our article in the May issue of Remodeling Magazine

Here's some more information on the award from Remodeling Magazine:

"Each year since 1986, the REMODELING Big50 inducts 50 owners of remodeling companies that have set exceptionally high standards for professionalism and integrity through exemplary business practices, craftsmanship, and impact in their community or the industry at large. Big50 remodelers run successful, often growing, companies of various sizes that have taken the lead in raising industry standards.

The Big50 selection process has become increasingly rigorous in recent years, and the result, REMODELING editors believe, is one of the strongest classes to date. All 2011 inductees “stood up to detailed examinations of their businesses and their books, and they all demonstrated an admirably deft ability to restructure, retrench, and flat-out hustle to remain viable in a challenging economic climate,” according to REMODELING."

Proud to Build Green Homes in a Cool City

I recently learned that the Ann Arbor area has more green buildings per capita than any other city in the U.S.  Cool city, that is, indeed!  And I am proud to be one of the area’s green-living residents and green builders making it so. 

This weekend, three colleagues and I are holding public tours of eight green homes.  Fireside Home Construction built two of those homes and I can’t wait to show them off.  It’s a chance for us to raise awareness of an issue near to my heart and to showcase what we do best. What a great way to spend the weekend!

The tours will take place June 12th and 13th in support of the national "Green Buildings for Cool Cities," a partnership between the Sierra Club and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  They, along with many groups and individuals, want to see cities adopt green building as a key component of their long-term environmental planning.  Tours are taking place all over the country and, locally, the Ecology Center is sponsoring them to help raise awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable buildings.

All of the homes we are showing are certified or registered with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program at the Platinum level, the highest possible level of achievement.  This means they are documented examples of excellence in energy efficiency and environmental stewardship and that they have been designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in the areas that matter most:
  • Energy savings
  • Water efficiency
  • Emissions reduction
  • Improved indoor environmental quality
  • Environmental responsibility
I hope you’ll come tour. You’ll like what you see and you may learn something you didn’t already know.  You’ll have a chance to ask green building professionals about how to “green” your own home now and start making a difference today.   You’ll be talking to builders and designers who know that buildings contribute nearly 40% of global warming emissions and consume over 70 percent of electricity use in the United States and who are committed to clean energy environmental solutions and to rebuilding our local economy. 

It will be a great, green day.  

Register at now and please help spread the word.  Maybe the beauty, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and environmental stewardship of these homes will be “catchy.”  And that’s what we want.  

More green homes, after all, mean that we are going easier on our planet.


It's Nice to Be Powerful

Last week, when I received the first DTE Energy bill since finishing the upgrade to the solar panel array at my permanent model home and business office, I learned that my house - built using innovative green technologies, the latest in sustainable energy systems, the design excellence of a green-minded architect and a lot of TLC -  is powerful . . . very powerful.

So powerful, in fact, that DTE owed ME money last month! Ha!

I think I'm going to frame the bill.

Since I built this home in 2007, my goal has been to get to net zero energy.  We've made a lot of strides and now this 4,000 square foot shingle-style home generates more than 70 percent of its own energy needs - as well as credits from the local energy company!

It's yet another reason to love my house...AND my way of (green) building.

When it was completed in '07, my house was Michigan's very first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum-rated home and as one of the "twelve greenest homes in the nation." Since then, it has achieved even more green certifications and awards.  It uses 73 percent less energy than a typical existing home its size, and generates its own energy using photovoltaic cells and saves energy using geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The update to our array added four kilowatts of photovoltaic cells to our original two. Because of it, I am less reliant on DTE Energy, specifically, and on non-renewable energy sources, in general.  The upgrade reduced our already- low annual energy expenses and also made the house a great testimony to everything I believe in when it comes to building green homes in Michigan or anywhere else for that matter.

There couldn't have been a better investment, as far as I am concerned and I recommend it to you.

By making use of sustainable energy sources, you can:

  •  Expect savings every single month because you'll use considerably less electricity from the public utility.
  • Hedge against rate hikes. I know you've been getting as frustrated as I have by unpredictable rate hikes.  By generating your own free power, no more worries there!
  • Protect the environment.  Solar electricity comes from a clean and renewable source, the sun, and geothermal systems generate heat energy from the earth.
  • Increase property value. These are smart upgrades that make your home more desirable and valuable.

 Try it.  Be me. :-)

HERS: The Lower the Score, the Greener the Home

When you're out shopping for a car, the "miles-per-gallon" sticker is one of the first things you look for, right?  You want to know how efficient that car is and how much it costs to operate.  Did you know there is a similar number to consider when you are shopping for a house?

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score is a number describing the energy efficiency of a home as it compares to a house built to code. The score is based on the results of tests performed - on everything from heating and cooling systems, to windows, lights and appliances, to the building envelope itself - with highly specialized equipment.  The tests include a blower door test (to test the leakiness of the house) and a duct test (to test the leakiness of the ducts), among many others. Results are then fed into an approved software program that analyzes results and provides the final number.

What to look for . . .

The lower the better.  The HERS rating has a scale that begins at zero for a home that generates as much power through renewable energy on site as it consumes. Very few homes fall into this category, though. In fact, the scope of HERS scores in the real estate world today is quite wide. For instance, a representative existing home has a score of about 130, while a typical newly constructed home comes in closer to 100. 

Homes that qualify for an ENERGY STAR label must have a HERS score of 86 or less and that's good, but there's still better.  Fairly recently, the U.S. Department of Energy posed a challenge to the homebuilding industry to go even greener and build a new generation of high-performance homes. To qualify for the program, a home must score 70 or less on the HERS. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption. 

When you think about that, what we accomplish in energy efficiency is really something to be proud of.  Fireside Home Construction recently built an affordable, custom, 1,900 square foot (finished space only) green home with a HERS score index of 50. That's 41 percent more efficient than a base Energy Star rating score!  In addition to making us proud, the low score contributed to helping us achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating (the highest possible!) and keeps the home's operating expenses low, as well.  "M&M's Li'l Ranch's" estimated total utility (heating, cooling, hot water, electricity and service charges) bills add up to only $80 per month! 

And that's not even as low as it goes! Our 4,000 square foot headquarters in Dexter, Mich., started out with a HERS score of 37.  Recently, we added four kilowatts of new solar panels to our original two and started generating about 70 percent of our own energy needs.  We can't wait to see our new score.  It may become the number forever associated with "The Fireside Challenge." 

So find out just how many "miles per gallon" your home gets. Call a professional, let them conduct the tests and then take the steps to improve your score.  It's worth it.

Fireside Home Construction Wins it's 4th EnergyValue Housing Award

Knowledgeable owners of older homes love the character and histories of their houses, but live in them resenting their high heating and cooling costs, and deeply regretting their very-valid concerns about how their homes affect indoor air quality and the environment.

Older homes, problematic when it comes to energy use and built with materials that may be unsafe, stand as testimony to the fact that green building must become a way of life for today's builders. In addition to that, "green" must become every homebuyer's greatest demand and expectation. After all, it is an activity undertaken in the interest of both environmental stewardship and the safety of the people who live in the homes we build.

If I were king, "green" wouldn't even be worth talking about. It would be a permanent, expected and sustainable change in the world of residential construction. Pun intended.

I have felt this way since I became a builder in 1996. As a result, I made energy-efficiency and environmentally friendly homebuilding pillars of Fireside Home Construction's business model from virtually the very beginning.

When I started out in this business, we barely knew what "green" was and I reflected on that fact last month when I traveled to the National Association of Homebuilders' International Builders' Show® to accept my 15th award related to green building and my FOURTH EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA).

The EVHA honors builders who voluntarily incorporate energy efficiency in the design, construction and marketing of new homes. Winners are considered an "elite" group of builders, but in my opinion we are a group of builders just doing the right thing, the only thing that makes sense for the people who make their lives in - or around - the homes and structures we build.

At the Builders' Show, EVHA judges reported that Fireside Home Construction "appears to be doing everything it can (that is economically feasible) to design, build, and market an excellent home." The judges remarked on our attention to detail in site planning, pre-construction energy analyses, and the construction process and I was, certainly, very proud of our accomplishment.

The home that received the award included a wide variety of energy-efficient technologies:

  • Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs)
  • Geothermal heating and air conditioning
  • Heat recovery ventilation system
  • Spray foam insulation
  • High-efficiency lighting

It met the standards and qualifications for several innovative energy/green building programs, as well:

  • Energy Star®
  • Green Built Michigan
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - Platinum rating
  • U.S. Department of Energy's Builders Challenge

And, thanks to the work of my employees, the quality products from my suppliers, and the expertise of the trades craftspeople who worked on the job site, this is an extremely durable and wonderful home for its owners. They enjoy lower heating and cooling costs, maximum indoor comfort and air quality and the knowledge that their home has been recognized by many third parties for high performance as it relates to energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and overall environmental stewardship. Am I proud of our accomplishment? Sure. But I can't stop there and rest on my laurels. Building "green" is a process enhanced every day by new technologies. Fireside Home Construction is committed to learning them, using them and achieving even greater "green" gains in the future - for our buyers and for our world.


Why Choose Fireside