With general contractors in a slump during the recession, the Recovery Act has thrown a lifeline to businesses such as Boston Green Building, a Massachusetts-based residential construction company. Launched in 2007 by Brian Butler, BGB specializes in zero-energy homes, weatherization and renewable energy projects. Brian got into the field seven years ago, and since then, he’s seen a dramatic increase in work for specific energy-efficient improvements, such as insulating homes.
“Our bread and butter jobs are kitchens and baths. But our weatherization work has gone from 10 percent up to about 35 percent of our business now,” Brian says. “The green building movement is starting to gain incredible momentum, and I’ve been so deeply involved in it every day — I’m more focused on it than the average guy.”
Not only has business increased this year, but BGB has also been able to convert an intern into a full-time architectural designer. The former intern, Sayo Okada, moved to the U.S. 10 years ago for college, and worked for three years at a Boston architecture firm designing childcare facilities. Sayo went back to her home in Japan for a year when her mother was sick and returned in August 2008 only to discover all her friends and coworkers had been laid off. Sayo spent a year as a server at a restaurant, searching the classifieds for architectural design openings in the Boston area, eager for a job in her field.
“I finally discovered a posting for an unpaid internship looking for someone to help out with the design of a zero energy development,” she says. “It was unpaid, but I just wanted to do something.”
Sayo was surprised that green buildings weren’t on the American agenda when she arrived to the U.S. more than a decade ago, she says. Already in Japan, oil and utility costs had increased enough to put pressure on families to build more-efficient homes. She believes the Recovery Act is “extremely important” to the economy and hopes that the provisions within the bill promote awareness about green building and residential energy efficiency.
“The incentives established by the Recovery Act have made energy efficiency and green renovations more affordable for our clients,” Sayo says. “It’s really helping a lot of small businesses like ours.”
The company has also been able to keep its subcontractors much busier this year, and some Boston-area homeowners see the results of the stimulus in their energy costs.
“The incentives are attractive to homeowners in our region where the cold winters dramatically increase heating bills,” BGB owner Brian Butler says. “They’re looking at getting back about $3,500 from federal tax credits and state rebates for efficiency measures on their homes. Of course, over time, we expect they’ll recoup the remaining cost of the work, and then some.”
Before the Recovery Act introduced these incentives last winter, BGB had experienced a sharp decline in business. The new leads had stopped, current projects slowed and the company was forced to lay off three of its full-time employees. Beginning about halfway through this past summer, BGB began to see an increase in business again and Brian predicts a 20-percent growth in revenue, which he attributes to the company’s business model lining up with the stimulus bill.
“Efficiency measures are in high demand right now, and many of our clients approach us halfway through a renovation or addition project to ask us to help decrease their home’s energy consumption.” Brian says. “These types of efficiency projects are an easier sell with the current federal and state incentives.”
American taxpayers can benefit from the Residential Energy Property Credit (Section 1121) that increases the energy tax credit for homeowners’ energy-efficiency improvements to their existing homes. The new law under the Recovery Act increases the tax credit to 30 percent of the cost of qualifying improvements, up to $1,500. The credit runs through 2010. Visit www.energysavers.gov/financial for more information.