#TechTuesday: ISOMAX

Happy #TechTuesday! Today we are covering a very complex system that you probably never heard of before. The reason being is that it is not available on the US market.

Patented in Europe, ®ISOMAX is a fully integrated building system that collects solar heat energy and stores the heat in the earth just under the building.

“Nowadays, about 46 % of all energy raw materials such as crude oil, natural gas and coal are being used for air-conditioning purposes, i.e. for heating and cooling of buildings – an unjustifiable luxury considering the fact that both ecologically friendly and economically useful alternatives are available. Despite a great variety of activities regarding the utilization of renewable energies the expenditure of primary energy for the manufacture of such systems and facilities as well as the initial costs for photo-voltaic installations, solar collectors or heat pumps are definitely still too high as compared with the energy savings achievable.” – Edmond Krecké, Inventor & Scientist from Luxembourg, Europe


The system uses circulating fluid to transfer heat between the earth storage and the building envelope. The process allows the entire envelope of the building to take advantage of the collected energy by running the fluid, warmed or cooled, to move heat into or out of the insulated concrete wall and the roof.


The ®ISOMAX Building Technology as a whole furthers the notion of living building standards by integrating the building shell and conditioning components into an active system that can store or collect energy in response to the exterior weather conditions and the internal comfort levels of the occupants. In the European market, this type of building construction has delivered an average heating load of approximately 24 kWh / (m2 /a) which is just above those of a passive house standards that have set the most restrictive benchmarks for the heating and cooling load of a structure not to exceed 15 kWh/(m2 /a).

The ®ISOMAX building system relies on two ideas that are different than those currently being used in a high performance buildings or passive house standards. The first concept is the transformation of the exterior wall from a passive thermal resistance to one that can actively participate in the temperature control of the interior. This is accomplished by the heat transfer fluid which moves heat into and out of the walls and roof. The roof captures the naturally occurring solar heat energy for storage in the earth. The second concept is to utilize the earth as a thermal medium to provide cooling, heating, and storage to allow for temperature regulation of the building. The structure interacts with the earth-stored energy, allowing it to be stored and recalled as needed over time.


The ISOMAX® building system is the brain child of Graduated Engineer, Physicist Edmond D. KRECKÉ, Inventor & Scientist from Luxembourg, Europe. He has been involved in the development and adoption of the building system in more than 50 countries in the world. He is the advisor to numerous national governments on the building system after having an amazing record of expertise in construction of sustainable and efficient passive housing. Mr. Krecke is the President of the Presidential Council – Berlin / Monaco / Zurich / Washington and has also been nominated by the Executive Board of the Association of German Engineers for the Nobel Prize for Physics.


The ISOMAX® system combines the components of building construction and building services equipment to provide a future-oriented, resource-saving and therefore sustainable, environmentally friendly system design. Noteworthy is its versatility and related applicability both in the design of new buildings, as well as in the general modernization of old buildings. The ISOMAX® system promotes and allows each individual building design, both architectural and constructive planning approach, under their respective state of the art.

The ISOMAX® construction technology provides self-sufficient building technology. The residents will have a cost-neutral building with a health-promoting and physiologically reasonable comfort level.

Special characteristics ISOMAX® system:
  • Optimal insulation both sound & temperature barriers
  • Speed of construction using both precast and partially pre-cast systems.
  • Cost comparable to convention system with added advantage of thermal comfort
  • Solar absorber lines between roof and roof insulation possible
  • Extension of building system technology with photovoltaic technology
  • Pleasing and better aesthetic appearance








#TechTuesday: Photovoltaic System

Yesterday millions of people across the U.S. experienced the first total solar eclipse visible from coast to coast in 99 years. In honor of that event, this week’s #TechTuesday is dedicated to a Photovoltaic System.

Solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells by scientists, convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV gets its name from the process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage), which is called the PV effect. The PV effect was discovered in 1954, when scientists at Bell Telephone discovered that silicon (an element found in sand) created an electric charge when exposed to sunlight. Soon solar cells were being used to power space satellites and smaller items like calculators and watches. (NREL)

PV cells come in many sizes and shapes, from smaller than a postage stamp to several inches across. Solar cells are often less than the thickness of four human hairs. In order to withstand the outdoors for many years, cells are sandwiched between protective materials in a combination of glass and/or plastics to make a PV module.

In order for the generated electricity to be useful in a home or business, a number of other technologies must be in place:

  • Mounting Structures 

PV arrays must be mounted on a stable, durable structure that can support the array and withstand wind, rain, hail, and corrosion over decades. These structures tilt the PV array at a fixed angle determined by the local latitude, orientation of the structure, and electrical load requirements. To obtain the highest annual energy output, modules in the northern hemisphere are pointed due south and inclined at an angle equal to the local latitude. Rack mounting is currently the most common method because it is robust, versatile, and easy to construct and install.

  • Inverters 

Inverters are used to convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar photovoltaic modules into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used for local transmission of electricity, as well as most appliances in our homes. PV systems either have one inverter that converts the electricity generated by all of the modules, or microinverters that are attached to each individual module. A single inverter is generally less expensive and can be more easily cooled and serviced when needed. The microinverter allows for independent operation of each panel, which is useful if some modules might be shaded.

Advanced inverters, or “smart inverters,” allow for two-way communication between the inverter and the electrical utility. This can help balance supply and demand either automatically or via remote communication with utility operators. Allowing utilities to have this insight into (and possible control of) supply and demand allows them to reduce costs, ensure grid stability, and reduce the likelihood of power outages.

  • Storage

Batteries allow for the storage of solar photovoltaic energy, so we can use it to power our homes at night or when weather elements keep sunlight from reaching PV panels. Not only can they be used in homes, but batteries are playing an increasingly important role for utilities. As customers feed solar energy back into the grid, batteries can store it so it can be returned to customers at a later time. The increased use of batteries will help modernize and stabilize our country’s electric grid.

Advantages of Solar Energy

  1. Renewable: Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy. We will have access to solar energy for as long as the sun is alive – another 6.5 billion years according to NASA.
  2. Abundant: The potential of solar energy is beyond imagination. The surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) – 20,000 times more power than what is needed to supply the entire world.
  3. Sustainable: An abundant and renewable energy source is also sustainable. Sustainable energy sources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because there is no way we can over-consume.
  4. Environmentally Friendly: Harnessing solar energy does generally not cause pollution. However, there are emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems – almost nothing compared to most conventional energy sources. It is clear that solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.
  5. Good Availability: Solar energy is available all over the world. Not only the countries that are closest to the Equator can put solar energy to use – Germany, for example, has by far the highest capacity of solar power in the world.
  6. Reduces Electricity Costs: With the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, homeowners can now “sell” excess electricity, or receive bill credits, during times when they produce more electricity than what they actually consume. This means that homeowners can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. Data from One Block Off the Grid reveals that adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 after 20 years. Nowadays, most homeowners choose leasing or power purchase agreements to finance their solar panels. This drastically reduces, or in some cases completely eliminates, the upfront costs of a solar panel system, and allows homeowners to start saving money from the first day.
  7. Many Applications: Solar energy can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to generate electricity in places that lack a grid connection, for distilling water in Africa, or even to power satellites in space. With the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can even be seemingly integrated into the material of buildings (building integrated photovoltaics) – Sharp, a solar panel manufacturer with headquarters in Japan, recently introduced transparent solar power windows.
  8. Silent: There are no moving parts involved in most applications of solar power. There is no noise associated with photovoltaics. This compares favorable to certain other green-techs such as wind turbines.
  9. Financial Support from Government/State: Government and state rebates have become available both on utility-scale and for the majority of homeowners. This means that the effective costs of solar panels are much less than what they used to be. In some cases, the price of a residential photovoltaic system can be cut more than 50%.
  10. Low Maintenance: The majority of today`s solar power systems do not required a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.
  11. Technology is Improving: Technological advancements are constantly being made in the solar power industry. Innovation in nanotechnology and quantum physics has the potential to triple the electrical output of solar panels.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

  1. Intermittent: Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.
  2. Energy Storage is Expensive: Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smoothen out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive. Luckily, there`s a good correspondence between our access to solar energy and human energy demand. Our electricity demand peaks in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the same time there`s a lot of sunlight!
  3. Associated with Pollution: While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution. The bottom line is this: There’s nothing that’s completely risk-free in the energy world, but solar power compares very favorably with all other technologies.
  4. Exotic Materials: Certain solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare in nature. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).
  5. Requires Space: Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonably prices.

The largest PV systems in the country are located in California and produce power for utilities to distribute to their customers.


Information collected from different RESOURCES 




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#TechTuesday: Airtight Building Envelope

This #TechTuesday we will talk about the importance of Airtight Building Envelope and how to achieve it the easiest and most sustainable way.

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the commercial and residential building sector accounts for 39% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States per year, more than any other sector. Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels to provide heating, cooling and lighting, and to power appliances and electrical equipment. By transforming the built environment to be more energy-efficient and climate-friendly, the building sector can play a major role in reducing the threat of climate change.

Energy flow chart depicts resources and their use represents vast quantities of data.

What is airtightness?

Building airtightness (also called envelope airtightness) is the resistance to inward or outward air leakage through unintentional leakage points or areas in the building envelope. This air leakage is driven by differential pressures across the building envelope due to the combined effects of stack, external wind and mechanical ventilation systems.

Building envelopes under the Passivhaus standard are required to be extremely airtight compared to conventional construction. They are required to meet either 0.60 ACH50, air changes per hour at 50 pascals, based on the building’s volume (regular house is 4-5 ACH50). In order to achieve these metrics, recommended best practice is to test the building air barrier enclosure with a blower door, machine used to measure the airtightness of buildings, at mid-construction if possible.

This is what Jeremy Avellino, founder of Bright Common, says about airtightness:

Airtightness is the single most important variable in the design and construction of high performance buildings.  Its a relative term though.  Passive Houses aren’t “airtight” like the space shuttle, they’re airtight “enough”, allowing a home’s full interior air volume to be refreshed without mechanical ventilation about once every 2 hours.  But getting a building envelope to blower door test to to the Passive House standard (minimum code compliance allows a building to be 12 times more drafty!) is the most challenging piece to detail to and build well.  But its worth the effort and achievable with a collaborative process. Put simply, when you solve for airtightness, you solve for comfort and durability. Without airtightness, you lose both. I always tell our clients, if you were on a boat and it was as leaky as your home is now, you’d do something about it right away!  Treat your home like that and you’ll reap all the benefits of a Passive House: comfort, durability, indoor health, resiliency, and a surprising level of sound control from outdoor noise…not to mention climate change mitigation in your own small way.  Now whats the simplest way to get there? Well, avoid spray foam (it fails) and use a simple, reliable, time tested air barrier.  If its a new construction project we like sheet goods like plywood (ZIP works too) coupled with really, really good tapes made by companies like Pro Clima and SIGA.  If its a renovation we lean into an interior air barrier and use a vapor variable air barrier like Pro Clima’s Intello Plus from 475 High Performance Building Supply. Its building science, not rocket science, so anyone can do it with a little effort and a lot of passion.

Why create airtight building envelope?

  • Increases your comfort and health: The room temperature in your building stays cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In addition, street noise and pollution do not infiltrate your building.
  • Saves money: You reduce your building’s energy consumption for heating and cooling.
  • Protects your investment: Your building is permanently protected from wind, rain, snow, insects, condensation, and mold.
  • Increases your energy efficiency: Your building contributes to climate and environmental protection. You transform your home into a high performance building, ultimately resulting in a lower degree of energy dependence.

Evolve Build tested following high-performance, nontoxic adhesives, tapes and membranes by SIGA on the Emerick Brothers Jobsite:

  • Wigluv 100 and Wigluv 150 The high-performance adhesive tape is designed for use as a peel and stick flashing against water, air and moisture infiltration. It is suitable to provide a weathertight seal around windows and doors, joints in sheathing and WRB, and as a general flashing in residential and commercial construction.
  • Fentrim F 6″  The black, fleece-backed flashing tape Fentrim F is the ideal flashing solution for jobsite conditions where mixed substrates are present. Primer is not required, even for masonry, and the aggressive acrylic adhesive bonds in the most difficult temperature conditions. A tear-proof, split-release liner allows fast and error-free results.
  • Fentrim IS 20 75mm is an advanced product used to create an airtight layer on the warm side of the building. Fentrim IS 20 is vaper closed and therefore stops hot humid air from entering window cavity. It is the best air-sealing solution since it is able to deal with building movement (doesn’t crack) for a lifetime of the building.

SIGA’s newest product that we plan on testing soon is MAJREX. SIGA took inspiration from CACTUS (READ MORE) to create a Vapor Retarder that significantly reduces moisture development in the structure and defuse any moisture that is in the structure to the outside fast. It is important to mention that Majrex is the first and only airtight membrane certified by the Passive House Institute.









#TechTuesday: ICFs

This #TechTuesday we are presenting another great product that we believe in! Insulated Concrete Forms or simply ICFs are hollow, lightweight forms manufactured using high density expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels that are connected by 100 percent recycled polypropylene webs, making the blocks 60 percent recycled material by total weight. 

ICFs offer the strongest, healthiest, low maintenance and cost efficient developments to date! It is energy efficient, safe and resilient.

Michael Sebright, president of Evolve Build:

“I met Manfred Knobel, ICFs installer, during the World of Concrete 2006 in Las Vegas. Manfred and I had a conversation about the solutions for building going forward – it was a start of Energy Reconsidered. Now we use ICFs on 10+ projects because it allows us to build fast and strong. ICFs are also attractive from the design point of view as design possibilities are limitless. The reason we use it is simple – it is the best product on the market because of speed, cost and sustainability.”   

ICFs offer a “5 in 1” solution that provides structural strength, insulation, vapor barrier, sound barrier and attachments for sheet rock and exterior finishes in one easy step. ICFs produce high performance buildings that are designed and constructed to minimize maintenance and repair, offer low energy consumption reducing operating costs and has the ability to continue functioning in adverse situations.

Benefits of an ICF:
  • 30-70% savings in energy consumption and costs
  • Tornado, hurricane and earthquake resistant
  • 75% reduction in outside air infiltration (less dust and allergens)
  • Five times quieter than a wood-frame home
  • Building with ICFs saves at least 10 trees per home
  • ICFs can be used to build virtually any home plan, using any finish – brick, stucco, siding, and more.

Paul Camozzi, Director of Commercial Development at Amvic:

“Using insulated concrete forms is quickly becoming one of the healthiest and fastest ways to create the tighter continuous Insulated envelops necessary for high-efficiency homes. ICFs are durable, resilient and innovative. They offer protection from fires, earthquakes, severe storms and flooding. Government led public/private programs and National Building Codes are supporting and recognizing disaster resilient building design and continuous thermal insulation which have changed from traditional construction methodologies to providing green buildings with measurable results. ICF construction contributes strongly to building safer communities while achieving sustainable construction and a healthier way of life.”

ICF construction results in durable, resilient structures that are environmentally friendly and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life-cycle; from the planning, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition phase. Green building ICFs construction contributes strongly to building safer communities through sustainable construction and providing a healthier way of life for years to come.

Some might argue that an expandable polystyrene (EPS)  barrier filled with concrete is not necessarily eco-friendly, but the true environmental friendliness of insulated concrete forms lies in the big picture of sustainability and detachment from utilizing more natural resources.

Building a new home with insulated concrete forms is environmentally responsible. The cement in concrete is made of limestone which is the most abundant mineral on Earth and EPS produces only 1% waste in our landfills. Compare that with all the acreage of timber destroyed in logging activities to produce construction lumber and ICFs already have an early advantage.

The real environmental impact is achieved over years and years of home ownership. Take for example:

  • At least 22 trees are required to be harvested for the lumber in a stick frame home.[1]
  • ICF forms reduce energy usage which helps preserve natural resources.[2]
  • ICFs are more efficient in heating and cooling and can reduce energy consumption. Saving up to 40% in energy costs.[3]
  • There is less construction waste associated with ICF forms compared to stick frame building. ICFs deliver 1% – NET 0% waste by the end of the project compared to upwards of 15%.[4]
  • EPS is comprised of 95% air and displays a .[5] ICF foam panels are made of 2% plastic derived from a petroleum by-product (usually harvested from already existing petroleum waste) with a 1% noncombustible component. Making the foam panels 100% recyclable for multiple manufactured products. There is no limit to the amount of times EPS foam can be repurposed into another product.[6]

Although only accounting for 2% or less of the EPS panels in ICFs, flame retardants and fossil fuels are indeed being used to produce the expandable polystyrene foam of ICFs. This is why it is imperative to minimize construction waste and recycle the EPS waste from jobsites to repurpose this carbon material into other products and resources. Although flame retardants  and non-organic materials aren’t the best eco-friendly elements out there, they assist in making sure an ICF structure stands up to natural disasters and is free of rot, mold, insects and pests. This ensures a longer lasting, stronger and more resilient, maintenance free home or building.

Eddy Paiz, Piaz Construction:

“It has been a beautiful experience installing the ICF walls at Kingsley Court. We were impressed how easy and fast it was. Now, my team and I are looking forward to do more projects with ICFs in the future”

ICF forms have a lifespan of 75+ years, meaning their environmental damage during manufacturing prorated over that period is miniscule. It can still be argued that there are very few, if any, “perfect” green construction materials as of yet. As it stands now though, insulated concrete forms are at the top of that list. The reduction in energy consumption over multiple decades provides the best option for green construction today. ICFs will continue to push the limits of current standards and will strive to be the greenest and strongest method of building in the years ahead.

Ask us how we can help you change the way you build!







#TechTuesday: HELIX STEEL

One of the reasons that makes Evolve Build stand out from other design-build firms in Philadelphia is the most innovative and sustainable technologies that we implement in our projects. We are committed to use the most advanced products available on the market today to help us achieve our design intentions in socially, financially and environmentally sustainable manner. Our goal as designers, builders, artists and innovators is to educate people about the better building practices. Hence we are introducing #TechTuesday – a bi weekly post featuring one of the products we believe in!

This week we are kicking it off with Helix Steel (Twisted Steel Micro Rebar (TSMR), a 3 dimensional concrete reinforcement technology that quantifiably increases shear strength, durability and ductility while providing industry leading pre-crack capabilities.

At 4 times the tensile strength of rebar and one-third the weight, TSMR enables a tremendous reduction in overall carbon footprint and provides valuable LEED credits.

TSMR is used in applications ranging from structural foundations, walls, and slabs to suspended structural concrete, paving and tunnels.

Helix Steel uses a combination of high tensile steel and superior anchorage provided by its patented twisted geometry increases concrete’s tensile strength, modulus of rupture and splitting tensile strength. Unlike rebar, mesh and fibers, Helix Steel works before the concrete fails. Helix Steel is the only reinforcement approved to replace structural reinforcement in concrete with a simple design method.

Helix Steel’s TSMR increases concrete’s strength and resilience and eliminates or reduces traditional reinforcement (rebar and mesh) required by building codes.  Helix is added at the ready-mix plant or on site directly to the concrete mix –reducing costs and valuable time.

Michael Sebright, president of Evolve Build:

“I was introduced to the Helix product by Paul Camozzi at Amvic INC. after the World of Concrete (WOC) 2015 in Las Vegas. The first time we used to product was at 1309 North Howard Street foundations and footings only weeks after it was formally approved by ASTM (American Standards for Testing Materials) for market use”.

Advantages of using the Helix Steel are countless. When paired with the ICF, the product reduces the install / set-up cost of a project by nearly a third of the time. Joey Penna from Forming Solutions ICF says,

“As a distribution of Insulated Concrete Forms, Helix micro rebar is a great asset to homeowners & developers in minimizing production time by eliminating structural steel which sometimes is a great hurtle especially with California’s seismic zones. It offers innovation in strength and safety which we believe everyone deserves.”

Evolve Build has utilized the Helix Steel on nearly 6 projects to date and have another 10 significant projects lined up to be built this year.  

One of the primary reasons concrete fails is due to the rebar rusting out from eventual moisture penetration into the concrete. Unlike traditional rebar, Helix Steel is electroplated with zinc which is important for long term structural concrete eliminating the rusting process. Landon Boucher, Innovative Structural Engineering, says:

“Helix Steel is an incredibly innovative concrete reinforcement product. The difficultly that traditional rebar presents on site is something we witness on a regular basis. Whether that be spacing limitations in the footing, storage limitations with site conditions, safety concerns with loading and so on, our industry is absolutely in need of something better. We believe Helix Steel can be that catalyst for change. We look forward to more concrete mixing companies, architects and contractors becoming more familiar with the product and seeing its acceptance grow to the point that they become the new standard”.

This product’s application is endless from a newly commissioned art installation (coming soon) to completely reconsider ICF installations in New York City.

Ask us how we can help you change the way you build!


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Evolve Build is a unique Design/Build company because of the services we provide and materials we use. Using the most advanced, eco-friendly and innovative products, it is our responsibility to educate the public about the better ways of construction. Our goal is to demonstrate what the most advanced, time efficient and cost effective building methods. To align with the goal of educating the public about better ways to build, we are now utilizing all major social media platforms. Check them out and make sure to follow Evolve Build to keep up with the amazing things we are striving to accomplish!

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Evolve Build

Building things strong!

Fresh Pizza and New Interns

Last Monday was an exciting day for the Evolve Build as we welcomed three new team members and kicked off the beginning of summer with fresh pizzas from Fishtown. The new addition to the team includes David Berry, Dan Kelly and Valerie Frolova, who come from Temple University with different backgrounds and years of experience. We will properly introduce them as well as the whole office crew in the upcoming days so stay tuned for that!

Evolve Build is extremely excited for this summer as our team has lots of amazing plans and ideas to implement during the next three months. We are thrilled to keep you updated!

Evolve Build

Building things strong!

Founder Profile: Michael Sebright

Michael Sebright never had any trouble building business. The Philadelphia-based trained architect built a lot of houses all over the country through the years, but in early 2008 he stopped all activity for a year to chase what he saw as a dramatically shifting market opportunity.

Sebright traveled the globe researching the latest in green building techniques, materials and technologies. In the process he met a visionary German builder that would go on to become a partner and driving force of Sebright’s re-launched firm, Energy Reconsidered.

While Energy Reconsidered, a construction and product development firm born in 2009, has carefully navigated the changing regulatory and economic landscapes, it has not gone untested. The untimely death of Manfred Knobel, who bravely fought cancer for a year, left behind heartache, stress and a huge void where the company’s CEO once loomed large.

Despite the loss of his dear friend and mentor, Sebright has kept moving forward by rebuilding a more complete and nimble company. Energy Reconsidered employs, simply defined as hybrid green energy technology that utilizes a near surface geothermal heat exchanger and solar power while incorporating green construction, and has gained expertise in financing, construction and total green build project management. The company has quickly become a leader in delivery and implementation of sustainable and high-performance building products.

Sebright is awaiting word on a major contract with a state agency and large national developer that he said would be “revolutionary” in both scope and impact.

When will net zero energy become a more mainstream concept?
I’m a little resigned, until the energy costs literally skyrocket and people can’t afford their heating bill. Although Obama’s energy package put out in his first term was phenomenal but those incentives are fading away. New projects starting in a year or so won’t have those same advantages to make them financially feasible.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges was losing our partner Manfred. That was emotional and that was business. That hit every layer of everything we were about. We became very close. We were traveling to Europe together. We spent hours together. We were partners as if it was our second marriage. As his health started to decline we had to make shifts in how we do business really only having about six months we had to change the direction of our business. With him having been so new and a trailblazer and a resident expert in construction, it was quite a transition.

Manfred was a personal mentor for me. It was terrible. For a year and a half it was really tough. We had some younger employees because we hadn’t been making revenue and they started fighting with us. We had some investors who were getting upset because things weren’t moving. I just didn’t have the mental capacity to stay focused and charge after new clients. I just wanted to spend time with my partner before he passed away.

How did you overcome the loss?
The loss, although terrible, relieved some burdens of different ways of working. Manfred being German, he had particular thoughts and ways of how we do projects and construction. Us being younger and him being older, he ran the conversation. With his passing we were freed up to have a little identity change and it allowed me to step back and say we’re not going to be as strong on the construction side of things. We were building new social, economic, political and academic connections, including relationships with Penn State, Drexel and Carnegie Mellon, and spent real quality time developing a comprehensive company rather than a construction-heavy company. We really refocused the company. Before I went gung ho into a whole new venture, I considered shutting down the company. My faith became a major component to staying focused and calm.

How does working from the Philadelphia area help your efforts?
This is a hotbed for what we’re trying to do. We just happen to be in it. Philly is trying to be a top green city in the country and in the world — our sustainability, our water management, and so on. So the way things lined up is very uncanny. The people I met in my faith community were leaders in the Philadelphia Industrial Deveopment Corporationand also made very particular connections at Wharton who helped me understand how to do business and ask tough questions. They helped me identify who my clients are and where to spend my time business development-wise. All these questions got resolved and we fell into a very critical layer of connections.

What will you be working on this summer?
We have multiple projects in the pipeline. We’re a consultant on a project in Cape May, N.J., one of the best-built houses in New Jersey and among the top 1 percent in hitting certain energy efficiency criteria. This building is a really cool project with a very unassuming client. John Huber Architects (from Wyncote, Pa.) is doing the general contracting and we’re handling all the energy work. We’re taking the existing house down to the foundation and rebuilding it. We just made a financial package for them and it made a lot of sense. They’re going to retrofit the house so they can retire in this home. Looking at where they come from, retired and with a little money set aside, the additional costs for what we’re doing will be paid back to them in five years through energy savings. Because they’ll be on a fixed income and put all their energy work in the mortgage, they can have predictable living expenses. So it became an economic conversation.

This project in particular will have a small solar thermal collection system, a small photovoltaic system and some advanced construction types and different wall assemblies. Materials will be put together in a  much more energy conscious way. There are a lot of layers brought into this project. We try to reduce the energy load of a building as greatly as possible by whatever means we have available to us. We can reduce the energy requirements and then bring in renewable sources of energy.

— by Joe Petrucci