Apr 20, 2023
The Next Generation of Home Performance Legends
Meet the people making building performance more inclusive, manageable, and mainstream.
By: Macie Melendez
At BPA’s national conference in Nashville last year, there was an evening session called Home Performance: Past, Future, & the Stories Behind It All. It’s what I fondly referred to as the legends of home performance.
Moderated by Chandler Von Schrader, the panel of that session included 12 home performance professionals who have been doing our industry’s good work since the ’70s and early ’80s. It included Rana Belshe, Steve Cowell, Suzanne Harmelink, David Keefe, Dick Kornbluth, Joe Kuonen, Michael R. Lubliner, Gary Nelson, Andrew Padian, Charles Segerstrom, John Tooley, and Linda M. Wigington.
This year, each of those legends nominated someone who they believe is leading the industry now—people they can pass the torch to, so to speak. Those people are Jonathan Budner, Kara Saul Rinaldi, Shannon Stendel, Collin Olson, Matt Hargrove, Dan Rieber, Courtney Moriarta, Dan Perunko, Amanda Hatherly, and Beth Karlin.
I was honored to attend the Next Gen HP Leaders session this year to see how this generation is making the profession more mainstream, manageable, and inclusive. As Von Shrader served as moderator again, some of last year’s legends took their seats in the audience. It was endearing to see the respect shared between the “then and now” generations.
Von Shrader started the session asking the panel how they plan to reduce their carbon footprint this year. There were plans for heat pumps, electric vehicles, bicycling to work, and growing more of their own food in a home garden. These answers gave great insight into the type of people these next gen leaders are—the kind of people who truly walk the walk.
Next, Von Shrader asked them about how they got into the industry and what their guiding principles are. One thing that struck me about their answers was that a lot of their dedication to the industry came from an a-ha moment. The one poignant thing that led them to this career.
In 1989, Collin Olson saw a diagram in Popular Science magazine. It was about an HRV and the diagram showed air coming in that was cold and when it go out it was warm…and vice versa. He remembers seeing it and thinking “you could live in there and you wouldn’t need any energy.” He said it was this epiphany that led him into building performance. Now, he holds a Ph.D. in physics and is a Senior Staff Physicist at The Energy Conservatory in Madison, Wisconsin. (Fun fact: He’s also a member of the Building Science Boogie Band.)
Another interesting perspective was that of Beth Karlin. Karlin also holds a Ph.D. (not of physics, but of social ecology) and is the Founder and CEO of See Change Institute in Calfornia, which studies and shapes the role of human behavior in social and environmental change.
She said that as she sat in sessions this week, she didn’t understand half of the acronyms being used. But that’s why she’s valuable to the industry. “That makes me valuable because I understand the people’s behaviors we’re trying to change,” she said. She said she’s here to remind everyone of the good, confused people in the world and then serve as a bridge to meet those people where they are.
One panelist shared how rewarding this community is and how important it is to surround yourself with people who you’d like to be. Another said making promises to other people is what drives them to continue the good work they’re doing.
This group of people are making strides in the policy and programs that drive this industry. They’re innovating, inspiring, and mentoring the next next generation of leaders. There should be no doubt that if these people are being passed the torch, then our industry is going to be [fire emoji].
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