Archive for April, 2010

By greeniq

hwVok 5 Solar Powerhouses to Watch in 2010

Despite the economic downturn of 2009, the U.S. Solar Industry reported tremendous growth and stability; a trend that many experts predict will carry over throughout 2010. According the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the right policies and new innovation within the industry will continue to stimulate the solar market’s continued growth across the country in coming months.

In addition to its positive impact on the environment as the cleanest, and most abundant renewable source of energy, the use of solar energy also positively contributed to the economy. As reported by the SEIA, the growth of the solar industry added 17,000 new jobs from coast to coast, and today employs approximately 46,000 U.S. workers. As the cost of photovoltaic panels used in solar installation decline and federal tax credits, grants and incentives rise, now more than ever, is the time to harness the power of solar into our building practices.

So who are these influencers stimulating solar growth? Following is a sampling of solar power companies to watch – they’ve started small but they’re growing and making inroads for the renewable energy market along the way.

  • SolarCity – With it’s all-in-one solar offering, SolarCity works with businesses and homeowners alike to design, install, monitor and even finance their switch to clean energy. SolarCity prides themselves on making it easier and more affordable for anyone to use renewable solar energy for less than the cost of many cell phone plans.
  • ZepSolar – As the old saying goes, “time is money”, and ZepSolar has found a way to not only save time and money, but resources, materials and space when it comes to the use of solar power. The patented Zep System dramatically reduces installation time with its specialized slot in the PV frame that enables the rapid coupling and automatic grounding of solar modules. Watch their demo video to see for yourself how ZepSolar is optimizing the efficiency of solar today.
  • DirectGrid Technologies – DirectGrid recognized shortcomings among microinverters in the PV market, which led to the development of their leading-edge solar micro-inverters for residential and commercial PV applications. Their microinverter offerings are grid-tied, designed to bring the benefits of PV savings to residential and light commercial users. All are designed to target silicon thin-film PV modules, a cost effective solution known to increase micro-inverter reliability and efficiency.
  • 1366 Technologies – 1366’s mission is to make the cost of solar power competitive with coal power, and they believe to have found the solution through one of the most abundant elements on earth, Silicon. 1366 has invented a new, and far cheaper method that reduces the waste of Silicon that commonly occurs in during solar cell manufacturing. Rather than make its own solar cells in the short term, 1366 plans to sell equipment to existing manufacturers around the world in hopes that others will adopt its technology quickly. Keep an eye out in the near future, as 1366 starts manufacturing solar cells on its own through their innovative solar wafer making process.
  • SoloPower – Another new key player in the solar market is SoloPower. The San Jose based company worked with 3M to develop a flexible CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide) photovoltaic module that includes the 3M™ Ultra Barrier system, designed to provide protection against the elements for longer periods of time. The flexible CIGS modules represent a breakthrough solar product in the market and will be deployable with lower installation costs, providing less expensive solar electricity for utility, commercial and industrial customers. Be on the look out for SoloPower’s new modules, which are expected to be available for sale later in 2010.
By Building Experts Team

Today we’re introducing “Social Marketing Stars,” our new series that profiles individuals, companies and other organizations that have found success using, you guessed it, social marketing. We’re going to start with one of the biggest “stars” in our industry – Imad Naffa.

Imad Naffa is a Civil Engineer licensed in three states and specializes in the Building Codes. He has over 25 years experience in the fields of Building, Fire and Accessibility Codes. Imad is founder and president of NAFFA International, Inc., a private Building Code Consulting firm located in Fresno, CA.

Thanks in part to his wife, Imad has capitalized on available social media tools to support the marketing of his expertise, which has helped him realize a significant positive impact on his business during a time when others are fighting to keep their companies afloat.

To what do you credit your social marketing success? How have you attracted so many followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn?

I think more than anything else, it’s my diversification. Beyond talking about what I do for a living, my expertise; the building, fire and accessibility codes—I started talking and sharing information about subject matter that was of interest to me. Once I did that, the following and interaction with global members exploded.

I have a passion for what I do every day, and have been doing that for the past 25 years. I enjoy talking about it, training, deciphering and engaging with others. Social media allows me to do this even more, in a big way!

I found out that there was a fairly large global audience that was interested in the design, architecture, construction, building regulations and the building codes. These subjects are what I know best. I had a passion for reaching out to explain and share, and it appears that there were plenty of individuals online, especially Twitter, that were willing to engage.

The technical engagements only went so far though. After six months of being on Twitter, I expanded my postings to deal with subjects that were of interest to me. They ranged from social media topics and news, world affairs and global happenings, LEED, green building, Eco topics and much more. These topics had global appeal. I discovered that my followers expanded exponentially within six months once I engaged in topics of interest to me and those that shared a common interest.

Today I find myself having great exchanges with exceptional people on six continents, located in hundreds of cities, dispersed throughout the globe. Not in my wildest dreams, did I think this would be possible!

Did you ever think you would have this many followers and provide as much content as you do?

No. I had no idea that people would be interested in technical topics that I talked about frequently (building codes, building regulations, green, LEED, etc). I always figured that these topics had a small segment of the vast social media audience. The fact is, it’s still relatively a small segment. Participation by architects, engineers, contractors and code officials remains a very small community on social media, but it’s growing!

I realized soon enough, that the large number of followers had to be due to my departure from talking about technical topics only, and diving into numerous topics that I was already interested in and wanted to engage with anyways. I think once I did that, there was no looking back.

How were you introduced to social marketing?

It’s funny. In the beginning (i.e. 18 months ago), I didn’t see a reason for the use of social media. I figured there was no place for business there. All I can remember was watching people talk about what they ate or where they are! At my wife’s insistence, I gave Twitter a shot. It was intimidating in the beginning. A vast ocean of postings and information being exchanged. I didn’t know where to start.

So I simply started following the postings and following people that were talking about subjects I was interested in, such as construction, architecture, engineering and the building codes. Before too long, I figured it out.

Over the past 15 years I developed web-based software and resources to make learning and applying the building codes easier to end users and more interesting by adding multimedia and simplifying the intimating building codes. In the past, people found out about my online offerings by word of mouth and through some advertising. Using social media, especially Twitter, is allowing me to avail my online offering, such as The Building Code Discussions Group (BCDG)- 22,000+ international members-and a number of other building code related resources, to a worldwide audience. The membership on the BCDG has increased by 25% in the last nine months, mainly due to Twitter followers participation.

How has Twitter helped you and your business? How can it help others in the industry?

It sure did. It did’t take long either. The first benefit came through building a bridge of friendship with many professionals in the USA and internationally by discussing building codes and related topics and by posting news and developments taking place related to the building, accessibility/ADA and fire codes. Once that bridge of friendship and level of comfort was established, it became efficient to transmit information and share with a wide audience.

I started getting inquires about my services (i.e. building code consultation). Soon after, I started linking some of the Q&A from the Building Code Discussions Group to my postings on Twitter. That introduced my followers to a myriad of building code related topics that they were interested in. From there many registered as new members on the BCDG. In the last nine months, I’ve seen a 25% increase in paid membership from new members coming directly to our site from Twitter.

In the mean time, I continue to post on code developments, technical links that architects, engineers, builders and code officials can use to stay current with the ever-changing codes and allow me to interact with the smartest people in the business.

What advice do you give to industry professionals who are hesitant to take the first step or don’t see the value in social marketing?

Most professionals are hesitant at first, and for a good reason. Social media may be intimidating and some are not able to see how it can help their business.

The fast is-social media is here to stay.  It’s too big and too efficient for disseminating information quickly, and it’s going to get more prevalent in the days to come.

The newest technologies, code developments, engineering concepts and marketing ideas that professionals can use, trends taking place in our business and much more are talked about every passing minute online.

The smartest people in every discipline you can think about, such as architecture, engineering, construction, code enforcement, legal, green building and related fields are participating in social media today. Many more are joining every day! By following these smart professionals, you will leverage your knowledge and stay competitive.

If a business chooses not to participate, I believe in the long run they will be left behind. To stay relevant, competitive, efficient and knowledgeable, you must keep up with what is happening in the world around you and in your specific area of expertise. Social media provides such an outlet.

Imad Naffa Social Marketing Stars: Imad Naffa Follow Imad on:





Blog (World of Building Codes)

By Shawn Draper

This past Friday I attended the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Within the first hour of the show, I saw and experienced one of the more memorable events in my career. I saw a Reed Business Information sales rep standing in the middle of the convention hall in shock over the announcement his employer had closed their business that morning. Seeing him standing alone among hundreds of people made me very sad for him, the great people that made up the Reed team, and our industry.

Now I’m pretty sure he was aware of the impending decision, and I’ve been told the former Reed employees are receiving generous severance packages. Nonetheless, reading an email of your job’s demise while on the road attending an industry event  is a brutal thing to experience and a difficult thing to watch. Seeing Reed unravel through hallway conversations, email, Facebook and Twitter during the day left me reflecting on how publishing companies have influenced the industry and me.

During my twenty-plus year career in the home and building business, I have been privileged to work with some of the best people in our industry. Many of them happen to be leaders from publications that serve builders and remodelers. When I was tasked with building and leading the remodeling business for Andersen Windows, our agency account executive, Deb St. John, introduced me to Peter Miller of Hanley Wood and said, “It is my goal to make you as well respected as Peter within the remodeling industry.” Peter, a publisher of information, was so well liked and respected because he took the time to engage and be a part of industry he served. As a result, Peter became an expert in the remodeling industry. I’m not certain Peter could hammer, saw, or design anything around his house or yours. I do know Peter helped give remodeling the respect it deserved by becoming a voice for the remodeling market and remodelers.

No sooner did Peter Miller opt for early retirement than Dean Horowitz, now formerly of Reed, showed up on the scene. Dean is an idea guy. The NAHB Remodelers Council wanted to publish a new magazine, so Dean worked with the leaders of the Council to create Professional Remodeler. The Internet was becoming formidable, so he built Demonstration is critical to teaching and learning in the construction industry; Dean built the Show Village at IBS. But the most important thing Dean did for his publishing company was create a team that understood new and big ideas are important to his clients, their agencies, and the industry.

 Who's Going to Be the Next to Challenge the Industry?

From BoschAppliances

This leads me back to the floor at KBIS wondering who will be inspiring the industry to embrace big ideas? Is it a publishing company or its publisher? Is it a manufacturer or a service provider? Is it one of the great people that has been forced to leave their jobs? I don’t know. I’m certain of a couple of things. First, any building products manufacturer or publishing company will be well-served by the people Reed left behind. Second, another leader within the building industry will emerge who will challenge the industry, so we can all do more moving forward.

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