I've heard it said that if you read a book on a topic, then you know more than the vast majority of people. And if you read two books on a subject, then you're an expert, because one of those books might contain a nugget of information that even an expert in the field has not heard before. By that standard, Bill Erickson is certainly an expert in green building and water conservation.
C.J. Erickson Plumbing, Alsip, Ill, led by Bill Erickson, chairman, his son Matt, CEO, and President and COO Jim Smith, is our Mechanical Contractor of the Year. Erickson was selected based on the firm's commitment to the green building movement. There are contractors that are bigger and greener, but Erickson, we believe presents a model that other contractors can follow.
The company's commitment to sustainable building starts will Bill, and the expert has a number of books that he can recommend.
The first is “The Great Lakes Water Wars” by former Newsweek correspondent Peter Annin. Annin's interest in the diversion of water from the Great Lakes started in 1998 when a Canadian company floated the idea (pun intended) of shipping tanker-loads of water to China. Annin explores the possibility that huge quantities of Great Lakes water could be sent elsewhere, an idea that's not far fetched since Las Vegas seems to think that water flows uphill toward the money. The water is already be exported by the bottle-full. Nestle is pumping 216,000 gallons per day from Michigan's Newaygo County that it is packaging as Ice Mountain. As an example of water mismanagement and proof that it's possible to pump a large body of water dry, Annin uses Central Asia's Aral Sea that has lost 90% of its surface area and 75% of its volume since 1960.
A second book is “Green to Gold” by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston, both from Yale. Esty, by the way, was a keynote speaker at this fall's meeting of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute, perhaps on the strength of the book's subtitle: “How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage.” The details how green-oriented companies make more money, such as Wal-Mart, which is in the middle of greening its stores, and General Electric, which has decided to become a green company and sold off the divisions, such as Plastics, which didn't contribute to that vision. Reviewers have noted that Green to Gold is pro-business and, hands down, the best primer for top management.
A book that I can personally recommend is “Green Buildings A to Z” by Jerry Yudelson, PE, Yudelson Associates, Tucson, Ariz. Yudelson provides a handy encyclopedia of green building terms in 193 pages so that people in the business can have a common understanding of what's being talked about. The section on low-flush toilets, for example, talks about how dual-flush toilets are mandatory in Australia and about how, in the author's experience, they work just fine. He also puts in a plug for radiant heating and cooling being more energy efficient than forced air. Some of the material in is basic stuff, such as what is the U.S. Green Building Council. Other sections are more esoteric, such as Vastu Shastra, an Indian approach to building similar to Feng Shui.
Bill Erickson's proclivity to do his homework has gotten him to where he is today. It's rubbed off on son Matt. And Matt's enthusiasm for the green movement led to Project Manager Dan Whitehead getting his LEED-AP accreditation.
Bill can be proud of what he has imbued in Matt, since it will be up to Matt to take C.J. Erickson to a higher and, we hope, greener level. Matt has responded by greening his own house and buying a hybrid SUV. He's greening the company by installing a waterless urinal and planning on using wind power for electricity for a storage building. He's sending his “daily dose of green” to the staff, information about the green movement, and the company is training its journeymen in new technologies.
C.J. Erickson provides a model that shows other contractors how they can take their initial steps into the green movement.
Hats off to Bill for getting the ball rolling a decade ago and for his unbridled enthusiasm for water conservation and the sustainable building movement.
It all starts with doing your homework. So, ladies and gentlemen, start your reading. Bill Erickson's proclivity to do his homework has gotten him to where he is today.