This has been one long, cold winter with very few breaks.

There was a day in January when we had the coldest temperature (5 below) since I’ve lived here (nearly 40 years).  Many of the New England snowstorms dropped more in the southerly regions than in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  The snow stayed on the ground.  Turned to ice from time to time.  The cold kept on coming.

It’s not over yet.  A blizzard’s on the way, or so they say.

Through it all, our carpenters and solar installers are out there in it, day in and day out.  Sixteen of our 35 employees do carpentry or solar installations – almost half our workforce.

Sometimes they’re working inside, but mostly not, especially this winter when I really wish they could have been.

But no such luck.

It does help to have a heat source to go to.  Here’s a beauty, on one of our jobs, with the crew gathered at “camp” for coffee break.

During one deep cold snap in January Billy Dillon, one of our foremen, came into the office and announced, “Tomorrow is  architects’ day on the job.”

Only one, Ryan Bushey, showed up.  He may be smiling, but you can bet he’s hurtin’ and shivering too.

How long do you think he lasted at 10 blustery degrees?

Unlike Ryan, they dress for it.  Phil Forest, our solar foreman, who’s out there every day that he possibly can be, says it’s all about layering, and wool is the best for minimizing bulk.  Here’s what he wears on cold days:

• 2 pairs wool felt boot inserts

• 2 pairs thin wool socks

• 3 pairs wool long johns

• 2 turtle necks

• 2 wool sweaters

• 2 sweatshirts (one a hoodie)

• wool hat

• warm, comfortable knee pads

• 2 cups of coffee

A beard helps too, he says.  He listed fifteen different articles of clothing (!) and the list doesn’t even include pants and boots and gloves.  Wonder how long it takes him to get dressed, huh?

Here’s a series of photos that shows the dedication of the solar crew (Phil, Hunter, and Dario) to getting the job done.

7:30 AM – snow on roof

About 9 AM -shoveled snow

About 10 AM – remaining snow melted

4 PM – modules installed

Job well done, in tough conditions.

These guys, all 16 of them – that’s Billy, Phil, Hunter, Dario, Rocco, Jon, Jean, DonE, Pete, PeteD, Bob, Curtis, Ryan (not the one in shorts), Ian, Chris, and Aaron to name them each – work in sometimes punishing conditions, doing what they do with warm clothes, great determination, tremendous endurance, big hearts, and good humor.   And remarkable skill.

They might just say Aw Shucks but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call it heroic.



In September I wrote about a new initiative we are working on called Building Energy Bottom Lines (B-Lines for short).  Now it has come to fruition – it’s ready-to-launch.  That will occur at the annual Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) conference – Building Energy 14 – in Boston in early March.  You can read about it here.  You can apply for membership there too.

I’m pumped up about this new NESEA program.  It’s an effort to assemble 30 (for now) of the most progressive and thoughtful architecture, building, and energy companies in the Northeast to share secrets, cross-pollinate, and learn from each other within a rigorous peer group structure.

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2014 . . . AND BEYOND

As 2013 ended, and the New Year began, we completed production of our SMC five year strategic plan.  We do this every two years.

In a certain way, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that 2013 was a magical year for us.  Maybe it’s not so mysterious – maybe it’s just maturity.  We have matured, evolved, and changed in dramatic ways.  And yes, there is some magic.

In 2012 and 2013 we tackled some of the most complex projects in our history. These have increased our reach and our capacities.  We are particularly excited about our work with the Island Grown Initiative – we have begun the process of designing and building, with them, a multi-faceted agricultural hub for the Vineyard at Thimble Farm.

Today we have 31 full time employees, two part time employees, and two interns. There is an abundance of talent, skill, youth, and passion.  We are fortunate.  People want to work here.

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Whenever possible at SMC, we like to measure how we’re doing.  Like other businesses, we have a collection of ways to measure our financial progress – profit and loss, annual budget projections and actuals, cost tracking of each of our projects, value of our several funds (pension, equity, and reserves) and more.

We consistently track (measure) our work backlog to help us plan for our near-term future.

We also measure social factors:  employee education costs, compensation ratio top to bottom, length of employee tenure, average employee age, charitable contributions, and community service.

We try to predict our longer-term future, too – by doing strategic planning, creating five year plans, projecting organizational charts, and making succession plans.

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