The Merger of Two Iowa-based Companies Results in the Launch of a Fully Sustainable Home Center
BY JUAN SAGARBARRIA
When he is not coaching high school football, Steve Gilbert focuses his energy on saving energy. His company, Gilbert Home Comfort & Energy Solutions (GHC), specializes in finding optimal energy-efficient solutions for homes and businesses in the Iowa and Missouri regions – a trend that has propelled their thriving business for the past 33 years. Equipped with a staff that is steeped in energy-saving knowledge, GHC provides products that include spray polyurethane foam insulation and LED lighting, as well as solar, geothermal, and modulating compressor technologies for heating and cooling.
“Out here in the rural market, you kind of have to do a little bit of everything,” says Gilbert. “Our synergy of energy services and retail components has always been driven to suit the homeowner or business owner’s needs.”
Although GHC offers an extensive, diverse, and environmentally friendly line of products, they have always put an emphasis on spray foam insulation. In years past, GHC distributed SPF products and brought in SPF contractors to the fold for each respective installation. Then, GHC decided to develop and include their own SPF subcontracting company – Energywise Sprayfoam Insulation – to their operation.
“We had been promoting spray foam to our customers and selling it for our projects because we really understood the value of SPF in any kind of construction, particularly because of the way it makes heating and cooling equipment work so much better, performance-wise,” says Gilbert. “However, we decided that other contractors weren’t performing up to our standards in terms of customer service, so we decided to control the process. It is all about customer experience.”
With the addition of Energywise came the appointment of Damon Boyd as general manager of the SPF contracting company. Boyd took the position while also managing a True Value chain-retailer hardware store in Leon, IA, nearby GHC’s facility. In time, Boyd and Gilbert formulated a plan to join forces and create a business that would showcase GHC’s expertise and services. This merger gave way to the construction of the Gilbert True Value Home Center, a fully functioning store built with green technologies, offering products that cater to the Midwestern farming and ranching communities. The store now adjoins GHC’s warehouse and office space.
“We worked up a concept of a fully sustainable True Value store in the middle of the Midwest,” says Gilbert. “We wanted to have a Wow-factor when people walk in, and we have achieved that. We have managed to put everything that we do to improve the performance of a home into this store.”
Obviously, spray foam insulation played a major role during the formation of the store. Gilbert, along with the GHC operations, managed to allocate 15,000 square feet for the store out of the 50,000 total sq. ft. of GHC’s facility. A wall divided both spaces, which made the SPF application go smoother because GHC’s offices and inventory space were never in the way of potential overspray damage.
Prior to the SPF application, which was carried out by two Energywise crewmembers, all openings were masked with plastic sheeting for overspray damage protection. They parked their spray rig in front of the store and pulled their hose, which was attached to a Graco Reactor E-30, through the entrance and worked from there. Since the entire project took place during the winter, the crew utilized diesel heaters to ensure that the metal substrate’s temperature was above 38 degrees before they installed the foam. The two-man crew completed the SPF application in seven days, wearing PPE consisting of Tyvek suits, supplied fresh air respirators, and gloves while they worked. Additionally, the Energywise crew had large industrial fans exhausting air and ventilating the area for the duration of the SPF application.
During the installation, the Energywise crew utilized Profoam’s ProSeal, 2 lb. closed-cell spray polyurethane specifically formulated for cold temperatures. The crew sealed the building envelope by applying three inches of foam to the exterior walls and four inches to the roof deck. Since the ceiling height was 22 feet off the ground, the crew used a scissor lift with fall protection to apply foam to the underside of the roof and the higher areas of the exterior walls. Then, the Energywise crew applied a thermal barrier coating over the foam as an additional layer of protection.
“The use of winter-blended, closed-cell spray foam allowed us to encapsulate the entire envelope of the store,” says Gilbert. “Since, we applied the foam we have experienced incredibly low energy costs; the store virtually hasn’t added any cost to the entire facility’s energy bill. We also get a lot of comments on how comfortable it feels inside the store from wall to wall. It is a high-performing space in terms of comfort and energy efficiency.”
After the SPF was in place, GHC and True Value employees worked in concert to add more sustainable features to the store, including LED lighting, a heating and cooling geothermal system, and 280W solar panels that now power the entire store. Gilbert noted that the outcome of his and Boyd’s efforts, now Gilbert True Value Home Center, was beyond satisfying on a personal level. He further notes that bringing their concept to fruition has provided GHC and True Value an emphatic boost in regards to professional growth.
“The key to our success has been meeting the customer’s needs, wants, and wishes,” says Gilbert. “It’s really about embracing the proactive costumer. Consumers know what they want, and they’ll move forward if they can find a contractor that understands the products and speaks intelligently about them. We have 100 percent American-made, cutting-edge, sustainable technologies and now we have a store that showcases them all.”
For more information, please visit www.gilberthomecomfort.com