by Skander Spies
Two weeks ago Mark and Skander attended the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Montana meeting in Bozeman, MT. Strangely enough our firm was the only contracting company in the vendor exhibition area.
We attended the conference to promote our integrated construction philosophy, showcase our innovative products, and build meaningful relationships. We had a great time meeting some wonderful Montana architects and sharing ideas on high performance design.
There is a certain skepticism between architects and contractors- partially because architects sell concepts and ideas that resonate with a clients dreams, and contractors then saddle that dream with a budget and construction realities. Montana architects know that having a great contractor on their project will ensure happy clients when the construction process is complete. They also know that contractors see what works, what fails, and what really breaks the project budget. The architects we met with were eager to talk to a contracting company that was really looking to reach out and collaborate. Offering a consultative and integrated approach to design and construction is the best way to create comfortable, energy efficient buildings within the budget. While many architects were surprised that a firm offering subcontracting services would reach out directly to them, the vast majority of people we met understood what and why we were there. When the architect, general contractor, and subs are all invested in meeting the client goals, everyone wins.
There were a number of other window representatives showing products in the exhibition room. We spoke with them, and noticed that their offerings all seemed similar- recycled wood, a few color options, and energy performance just a hair better than code minimum requirements. The Alpen and Zola windows we sell are innovative, cutting edge products that offer exceptional flexibility to designers and exceptional value to owners. Offering these products takes expert knowledge of building science, construction practice, and the design process. Our booth saw a tremendous amount of traffic during the conference because we offered a distinctly different product that we were genuinely passionate about.
It’s telling that the AIA-Montana opened the conference with a session about the Bullitt Center in Seattle, the world’s first commercial office building to meet the Living Building Challenge standard for zero environmental impact. This standard targets the idea that buildings should enrich the natural environment around them. Montanan’s value their natural environment and resources, so it makes sense that we need to develop projects like the Bullitt Center here. We’ve followed this project carefully because our friends at Hammer and Hand did quite a bit of work on the project, it’s a showcase for the future of buildings, and was a great testbed for the Prosoco products that we use and sell. Our Zola windows are similar to the ones used on the project, and after the conference session many architects found that we were the vendors that offered the most knowledge on project like the Bullitt Center. The construction industry has always evolved to new standards and ideas in design, and we are excited to be a proactive force in that evolution.
While we were in Bozeman, we also checked in on a Zola window order from earlier this year. The project is just wrapping up, our client is thrilled, and the windows look fantastic. We shared our visit with a few friends from the Passive House Alliance Northern Rockies chapter (thanks for Gray Davidson and Chris Gonzales for their time) who wanted to check out Zola windows in person. Despite our web presence, ad buys, or other marketing efforts, most of our business still comes from referrals- real, warm blooded human interactions. We sincerely enjoy making new friends and working with people that know us well. Being at the conference was an opportunity to meet other people that are dedicated to building the next generation of high performance buildings, and we were grateful to meet so many Montana architects that are eager to bring more sustainable buildings to life.