When he’s not crawling underneath or on top of energy efficient homes, Aaron Hope is busy raising a family, writing books and serving as an active voice in North Carolina’s building performance industry through NCBPA. Aaron started with Southern Energy Management in May of 2017 and has been actively expanding his industry knowledge and technical experience since. This past spring, Aaron participated in NCBPA’s Lobby Days where he spoke to dozens of legislators about the benefits of supportive policies for our industry.
Here, Aaron answers some questions about his pathway into building performance and provides young professionals with recommendations on finding their own entry point into our industry.
Describe your current role at Southern Energy Management:
I am a building performance field technician covering new construction residential market in North Carolina’s Research Triangle market
What does a building performance technician do?
We work with home builders in North and South Carolina to improve the way the homes use energy. We do this through verification of performance for various programs from code compliance to the green home programs like and NGBS and LEED. Southern Energy Management’s EcoSelect™ certification program is also a competitive way for home builders to get started with energy efficiency.
Why were you interested in getting into the building performance market?
When I was in school studying electrical engineering at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, I gravitated towards classes that emphasized sustainable energy design and power electronics management. I knew then that one day I would be working in that field, but at the time it wasn’t clear in what capacity. I finally made the leap into energy efficiency after working as a technical director for several mega churches where I noticed un-sustainable those building were being managed. I saw several growing Churches that were having a hard time keeping up with the energy demand, and there were not very many tools and resources available to turn that around. That was the ah ha moment when I decided to learn more about the possibility of joining the sustainable energy workforce. I started doing my own research and pursued the Association of Energy Engineer’s energy auditor in-training certification.
How did you find your current role at Southern Energy Management?
I introduced myself to a now former colleague at a Solar for Churches Event in Raleigh hosted by North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light. We got together for lunch a week or two after meeting and he asked if I would be interested in one of the open positions in building efficiency. I applied for the job, interviewed, and was hired in this position. It was really a right place right time kind of situation.
What skills does Southern Energy Management look for in people that they recruit for your position?
This position relies heavily on building science to inform us on how to approach common and unique problems in residential construction. The cool thing about this job is that you are almost guaranteed to see something different everyday. It is both a physically and mentally demanding job. You have to be able to haul equipment around a home to perform performance tests while keeping track of data that you are collecting. A ton of experience is not required for this role, but they really do a good job of tools, training, and support necessary to do the job well.
What part of Southern Energy Management’s business is looking to add people?
The solar and energy efficiency market in North and South Carolina is really a testament to the new green economy that we hear so much about in the news. It’s amazing to think about being a part of that positive change in the marketplace. That said, the industry is rapidly adjusting to conditions. The housing market and local and federal incentives play a huge role in the way the company can staff. We currently are looking for a building performance quality assessment lead in the Charlotte market, and a building performance field tech in the Raleigh area.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I absolutely love the impact that this job has on real families. When I get to meet homeowners and answer their questions about how their home will save them money because of the methods used during construction to ensure excellent energy performance their eyes light up and it makes my day. Southern Energy Management is a B-Corporation which means that they have a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. That additional level of care for its employees really goes a long way with me. I love being in a job where I feel deeply connected to the work that I am doing and it’s nice to be on this journey with a team of people who truly believe that what we do matters and is making a difference.
What does a typical work week look like?
This job doesn’t have a typical work week and I really like that aspect of the job. I’m usually out of the house bright and early on job sites performing inspections and testing. We offer a variety of inspection services types so day to day we do a different mix of inspections in different areas as they are scheduled. The role requires a lot of driving and connecting with clients.
What are clubs, networking groups, conferences, etc. that students should get involved in?
I’ve been trying to find my way over to the World Energy Engineering Conference (WEEC) https://world.aeecenter.org/. This year it will be held in Washington, DC September 27th-29th. This conference has a focus on global energy policy, strategies, leadership and innovation. Locally, the NC State Energy Conference is a great networking opportunity to connect with local employers in our industry. I also highly recommend connecting with the local chapters of NCAEE and lastly NCSEA.
What misconceptions did you have about the job before coming into this role?
I didn’t come into this particular role with any expectations because I had no idea what I was really getting myself into here. Sometimes it is really hard to get a true feel for what the job entails based on a job posting online. These are the moments when you just have to ask solid questions and buckle up for the ride. Luckily, I’m not a lone wolf energy auditor. Southern Energy Management really does a good job or creating a team approach to completing the work for our clients and supplying their field techs with the tools and resources to be successful.
What misconceptions did you have about the industry before coming into this role?
The biggest misconception I had about this industry was that it was all solar based work. I didn’t realize there was an energy efficiency side that focuses on energy savings. The industry is moving fast, there may be positions and roles that didn’t even exist just a few years ago.
What 3rd Party Recognitions should students look for before joining a company?
There are some local and national sites that rank and award companies like the Business Journal and Forbes. The most value I found when evaluating companies was to look at their reviews on Indeed.com and LinkedIn. If you know someone who works there or can network through a connection, try to sit down with someone and get a feel for what working for the company is actually like.