The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Green Building Open House will be held on October 13th. Homeowner and Tour Host Alan Spector shares his thoughts on the value the GBOH provides.
How long have you been participating in the Green Buildings Open House Tour?
Our house has been on the tour for four years now. Each year, our participation has evolved because we keep adding elements that improve upon the features we already had in place.
I’m an architect by trade so I have both a personal and professional interest. I first designed and built the house in 1984 to strategically utilize passive solar to heat the house. In more recent years, we’ve added solar panels to generate electricity and heat our hot water. This year, we’re excited to show visitors our most recent addition, a new electric car that we run off our solar panels’ excess capacity. Every year, we’re moving closer and closer towards a zero cost / zero emission plan and we’re excited to share our journey with people on the tour.
When you first heard about the tour, what attracted you to it?
We’ve always been proponents of renewable energy and we enjoy sharing what we’ve learned through our own experience with others who are also interested. We’re always surprised by the variety of people who come to see our home. Obviously, we get the folks you’d expect—people who are considering implementing these measures into their own homes and who want to see how it’s working here. But we also get people who already have implemented these measures, who are looking to compare my system to theirs. I guess there’s a little bit of competition involved. Sometimes I’m doing something better than someone else, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, though, we always wind up talking things through with a light towards improvement.
We get a range of ages, too. Some people that come in are younger, in their teens and twenties, and it’s really the best part because we see them get inspired and we imagine this becoming more and more prominent as subsequent generations start to value clean energy more. I’m always a little surprised, too, that older people are coming in to learn about what I’ve been doing, too. They’re starting to see the economic value that some of these systems can provide in addition to the environmental benefits which is piquing their interest.
Why do you think the tour is important?
Being able to actually come and see and experience these technologies helps people to learn about them. People have different ways of learning about things but in the end, seeing sometimes really is believing. When guests come in, they see that my wife and I are actual people living normal lives with normal jobs. This sort of innovation shouldn’t be so foreign to people. I think people are genuinely surprised when I tell them that I’ve been heating my house from the sun since the 80’s. It’s really not such a new thing at all, people have been doing this in one way or another for thousands of years.
The benefit of taking the tour vs. just coming to my house is that visitors get to see a variety of systems in a variety of different setting. My house is very modern, but I have paired up with someone locally whose house is more traditional. Visitors get to see that this is working in both situations. It helps them to understand that these technologies can work in whatever the situation is at their own properties.
What would you tell someone else to convince them to be a tour host?
Being a host allows you to feel like you’re part of something much bigger than yourself and your home. While the benefits of what I’m doing are immediately visible to me, it’s important for me to share what I’ve learned along the way with other people who are reaching out for ideas or answers.
What would you tell someone who is considering adopting clean energy at their own property?
Using renewable energy is really empowering when you think about it. Although my wife and I aren’t completely off the grid, for most of our energy, all we really need is the natural power of the sun. When we began our own journey, the government was slow about implementing renewable energy policies. I saw X Y and Z factors coming to a head to create a really big problem for our world, so I took it upon myself to do something about it. What we’ve done here hasn’t broken the bank. In fact, it’s been a great financial investment in addition to the investment in our future and the future of the planet. These decisions are some of the best things we can do for ourselves in the short-run as well as for future generations in the long-run. It’s not hard, and there will always be people like myself and the other hosts on the tour who will be willing and able to help you.
Interested in learning more about clean energy and energy improvements in a real-life setting? You can sign up to visit the host properties in your area and review the online profiles.
Already have a clean energy system or made efficiency upgrades you want to show-off? You can share your experience and expertise by serving as a host property on the tour and / or by creating a project profile for the virtual tour.