“Helping people figure out what makes sense to do in a house is a really fun job.”
–Ryan Shanahan, Zero-Energy Retrofits Manager, KCA, Portland, Ore.
Ryan Shanahan didn’t set out to work with builders. Growing up outside of Boston, he discovered punk rock, went to college for music, and toured the country with his band. It was far from glamorous (or lucrative), but it was fun—at least until Shanahan realized he couldn’t afford to make music a career.
“At one point, we could fill the tank in our van for a dollar a gallon, and then it went up to four,” he says. “It got me thinking about energy consumption and energy efficiency, our reliance on fossil fuels, the wars we were in—all that big picture stuff.”
Ryan went back to school and earned a certificate in sustainable design through Boston Architectural College. Because he was not an architect or engineer, however, the path forward wasn’t entirely clear. He moved out to Portland, Ore., where the green-building movement was growing at the time, and landed an internship at Earth Advantage, a nonprofit focused on accelerating the adoption of sustainable and high-performance residential building practices. Over 13 years he worked his way into a senior role managing the zero-energy certification program.
“There are benefits to building energy-efficient homes that go way beyond saving money,” Ryan explains. “The power goes out, and all of a sudden your home is way more resilient. It can hold heat or cold for a lot longer than one that isn’t insulated
In May, Ryan joined Birdsmouth Design Build to head up their energy retrofit business. It’s easier to get the details right if you’re building new, and Birdsmouth has passed that inflection point, where they have the luxury of only working on new builds. But they realized that addressing climate change in a meaningful way means getting back into retrofits. And Ryan is excited to help more folks understand what’s possible with their existing homes.
“It’s about connecting the dots and helping people recognize that a quality home is energy efficient, water efficient, and durable; it has good indoor-air quality. And all those things benefit you as a new homebuyer, owner, renter, etc.—whether you’re interested in environmentalism or not.”
—Andrew Zoellner, executive director, Keep Craft Alive
Hear Andrew’s interview with Ryan on the Keep Craft Alive Podcast.
Photo: John Botts courtesy of Birdsmouth Design Build
From Fine Homebuilding #309