The Builder’s Journey: Rob Nicely
How I came to build Fine Homebuilding’s best new home of the year, and what it taught me.
Synopsis: Rob Nicely built FHB’s best new home of the year for 2013. In this article, he writes about how his constant desire to learn more about his chosen profession directed him toward the world of green building, which led further to his discovery of Passive House, a way of building that reduces energy demand by thoroughly detailing and constructing the building shell. He finally got the opportunity to try out the Passive House method when he was hired to build a house in Carmel, Calif., which became that town’s first Passive House. He took away from the experience four important lessons: (1) Air-sealing is hard, (2) advanced framing is easy, (3) additional standards such as Energy Star certification and EPA’s Indoor AirPlus qualification are within reach, and (4) building a supertight, energy-efficient house requires a team of people from start to finish. With this new knowledge and experience under his belt, he says that he could never again in good conscience build a “normal” house. See more award-winning homes from the 2013 HOUSES Awards.
Despite my parents’ anguished cries to stay away from the trades, I have spent the past 25 years in construction. Building is what I am good at. I enjoy the analytical and organizational aspects of my job as well as the moments of Zen when I can totally focus on making what is in front of me useful and beautiful. Because I love the craft of building, I am always looking for ways to learn more. This desire to be a better builder led me to the world of green building. After years of attending training programs and conferences; reading books and magazines; and studying air quality, resource efficiency, Energy Star, and the California Advanced Homes Program, I started to feel like I had my feet under me.