Martha’s Vineyard Times: October 13, 2010

In these difficult economic times for Island contractors and associated trades, builders have adapted. From grand, expensive, multi-year construction jobs, some have changed pace to accept small-scale renovations or additions. Some who have been the lead builders on big projects have taken work as subcontractors. Some have turned to specialization, including specialization in energy conservation and renewable energy techniques.

Bill Potter, a contractor based in Oak Bluffs, has turned to energy conservation techniques in new construction to change his residential building business, known as Squash Meadow Construction, and “succeed during the economic downturn.”

“And, at the same time, this type of work helps increase the market value and comfort for people who buy these homes,” Mr. Potter wrote in an email to The Times. Mr. Potter has joined forces with Mass Save to change the direction of his contracting business.

“I would like to share my story of how I have helped home owners on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard save money through Mass Save®, the energy efficiency initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers. As an Oak Bluffs-based residential building contractor, I have helped my customers achieve significant energy savings, build more durable homes and leave a positive lasting impact on the environment — by tapping into Mass Save.”

Mr. Potter has been in business here since 2001. He describes his company as committed to building energy-efficient homes, and he credits Mass Save with leading the way. “After completing two LEED and Energy Star homes, I saw firsthand how simple changes to the design and specifications of a house can result in a residence that’s thirty-five percent more energy-efficient than code.

“By following the Mass Save guidelines and working in cooperation with Cape Light Compact, for the last two years, I have incorporated energy-efficient design into the construction of the homes I have built. This means increased insulation, energy-efficient windows and heating and cooling systems, as well as ENERGY STAR appliances.”

Builders and conservationists agree that energy-efficient homes lower energy use and with that, energy costs. It can call the attention of buyers to the value and support house prices.

“The proof,” Mr. Potter says, “is that both the lending bank and the home appraiser rate energy-efficient homes as having added value, based on their increased energy efficiency.”

Mr. Potter changed his approach to building in 2008.

“I basically changed my business model, positioning myself as an energy-efficient building contractor. This has not only been beneficial for my customers, but for me as well. During the economic downturn, I have been able to hire, rather than layoff, staff, and in March of 2010, I had my most profitable month ever.”

Mr. Potter’s own house, built in the fall of 2009 in East Chop, is 3,600 square feet in size, with six bedrooms and three and a half baths. Large as it is, he says it is rated LEED Gold and Energy Star Level 2.

“Mass Save is easy to access and a valuable resource. Working with Mass Save has been beneficial for my customers, for my business and for my own home.”

According to the description of its services at the website, the services offered by the organization are available to homeowners and businesses, as well as builders.

“Mass Save® is an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers, including Bay State Gas Company, The Berkshire Gas Company, Cape Light Compact, National Grid, New England Gas Company, NSTAR, Unitil, and Western Massachusetts Electric Company.

“The Sponsors of Mass Save work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to provide a wide range of services, incentives, trainings, and information promoting energy efficiency that help residents and businesses manage energy use and related costs.

“Homeowners and renters. Large and small business people. Building and trade professionals, we all have a role to play in creating more energy-efficient communities. By making smart choices we can manage our energy costs, enhance the value and comfort of our homes and businesses, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

For contractors like Mr. Potter, “Mass Save offers training, incentives, and educational resources to contractors, building managers, and facilities teams so you can recommend, install, and maintain the latest generation of energy-efficient equipment — and help your customers achieve their energy goals.”

The added benefit, as Mr. Potter attests, is a building model that is durable, even when the construction industry is battered by the national economy’s Great Recession.