BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines

The first group of Bottom Liners at Orientation at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School, 4/27/14.

BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: fostering the mastery of business skills to complement and support our technical skills.


BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines is a new NESEA initiative to help us use our businesses to create the world we wish for – to make better lives for our families and our employees, enhance our communities, respond to the urgency of climate change, and achieve financial stability. If you have great aspirations for your business that become overwhelmed by mundane daily realities, as we do, “Bottom Lines” may be your ticket to a journey of discovery – think of it as backpacking to better business.   Strenuous, invigorating, scenic  . . .  and fun!

BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines consists of a group of regional peer group networks of architecture, engineering, building, design/build, energy efficiency, and renewable energy businesses dedicated to high performance building. But the focus is not on building. The networks meet several times a year for two day faciliatated sessions at individual members' places of business, and communicate online year-round. We share the inner workings of our businesses – open them wide to scrutiny from our peers, who help us to expand our capabilities and sharpen our skills.


Read an article written by BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines member Dan Kolbert on how participating in this program has sharpened his business accumen, and provided him with a critical network of peer support.

Watch NESEA member Brad Morse describe his career transition and how participation in NESEA's BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines program has helped in that process:



READ about Whole Business Networking and…


•  People:  Social change & justice, employee well-being, governance, ownership, community involvement, philanthropy, legacy, and service;

•  Planet: Building performance standards, resilience, company carbon footprints, and environmental restoration;

•  Profits:  Financial success and stability, growth, capitalization, sales and marketing, investment.

TBL practice is a fundamentally different kind of commerce that is growing exponentially in the world of American small business.   Whole business, you might call it.  And peer group networks are a proven way to improve business performance. BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines combines these two ideas.

BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines & NESEA

Within the various NESEA programs, we gain technical knowledge from our fellow practitioners. Willingness to share successes along with lessons learned from past mistakes is a cherished NESEA core value.  This has cultivated a community that is truly a learning organization for developing broad-based mastery of technical skills.

But we perceive a need and a strong desire among members of the NESEA community to foster mastery of business skills to complement and support our technical skills.

This effort is a part of the growing BuildingEnergy 365 focus to make BuildingEnergy work for NESEA members throughout the year.  We believe we are not changing the construction industry quickly enough to face the challenges ahead.  We need to ramp up.  We need to build capacity and new leadership potential.   At a recent BEBL planning session, after hearing details of the vision, longtime NESEA stalwart Bill Stillinger said, “This is something NESEA should have been doing for a long, long time.”


NESEA members John Abrams, Paul Eldrenkamp, and Jamie Wolf have each been involved, in the past, in networks in which companies drilled into each others’ businesses year after year to help each other improve financial performance.  As Paul says, “Before that I had no context, no idea what other people were really doing.  If I had not joined that peer review group, I would not be where I am today.”  And Jamie:  “We all must solve the same problems, but we solve them in different ways.  I learned what’s under the hood in other companies; that helped me with mine.”

Meanwhile, since 2007 John has taught a two day class at Yestermorrow Design/Build School called The Art of Small Business.

In 2012 Jamie and Paul attended John’s class; Jamie returned in 2013. We decided we could expand what was happening there – the dynamic of companies coming together to share information about how to do better business that’s better for the world – to a larger audience, with more continuity.  We agreed that the regional peer group network model is the right one.  We presented the idea to the 2013 class and asked for their reactions.  They were enthusiastic.

BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines was born.

The program has been designed by the three of us in association with NESEA Executive Director Jennifer Marrapese and Yestermorrow Executive Director Kate Stephenson.


Each network consists of 8-10 geographically diverse businesses.  To begin, three networks were established, limited primarily to companies in New England. Participants may range in size from businesses with no employees to those with 100 employees or more.  Prerequisites for membership include alignment with BEBL goals and commitment to engaged participation.

We have already identified a number of committed companies.  At BuildingEnergy 14, we offered two half-day introductory workshops to collect participants.  In April 2014, we convened a two-day launch gathering at Yestermorrow in Vermont. In November 2015, we will host a Bottom Lines Summit in Northampton, MA.

If the program over-subscribes, we will form additional networks only as our capacities permit – we need to be certain to deliver a quality experience to all participants.


The networks meet several times a year for two day sessions at the individual members' places of business, and will communicate online year-round. We learn from each other.  Groups agree on useful metrics and share performance data and experiences.  We swap stories.  We trade the marginalia in books we have learned from.  We examine documents that we have developed to help our business operations build capacity. Most importantly, we share the inner workings of our businesses – open them wide to scrutiny from our peers, who help us to expand our capabilities and sharpen our skills.

Member businesses pay a significant fee.  We do not want cost to be a barrier to entry but it is important that everyone has skin in the game and the program is profitable for NESEA and partner organizations.  If your ability to pay the fee does not grow over time, we’ll be surprised, because we’re quite sure there will be great value to all participants.

The three of us will initially be the facilitators – one of us for each network.


Do you want to find out what all this might mean for you? Watch the NESEA website for news. Get in touch with Miriam Aylward at  Apply for membership. As Paul says,  “There are two kinds of small businesses in the NESEA community:  Those that I have learned a tremendous amount from and those that I will learn a tremendous amount from when I get the chance.”

This will be that chance.

LEARN how BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines works.


Each BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines Network is made up of 8-10 business enterprises from fields pursuing sustainability in the built environment. Each group is supported by an experienced facilitator. The group meets twice a year at the business location of one of its members. Each business is represented by its owners and essential staff. Network Members are responsible for sustaining a robust level of engagement with other network members thru their personal and professional participation in the network. The quality of their participation is the source of network success. In this role they should expect to:

  •     Arrive at meetings prepared to participate and contribute
  •     Support their peers
  •     Take the initiative to know each other and their business
  •     Accept leadership and facilitation roles that sustain the network
  •     Openly contribute and share business information, systems, and financials
  •     Respond to each other with respect and trust
  •     Commit to attending meetings and participating online between meetings
  •     Take responsibility to host a meeting at their business location
  •     Promote BEBL participation to others who would benefit


Each network member takes a turn hosting the other members at their place of business. The network gathers for two days, and assembles the night before to connect socially over dinner. On day one of the gathering each company has the opportunity to share the current status of their business, the opportunities and challenges they face, and the bottom line metrics that describe where they are and where they are headed. Members share insights, support, and critical thinking. At the end of day one the focus shifts to the host company. Before dinner we gather with their staff to walk thru the paper trail, from initial sales leads to project completion and followup with each step presented by the staff responsible. Afterwards we head out to dinner to connect socially with the company staff and each other. 

On day two we convene to evaluate and share insights about the opportunities and challenges the host company is facing. This process is facilitated to develop the potential of the host company and its members. The day concludes with a period devoted to the ongoing development of the network and the interests of its members. It is an essential goal of BE Bottom Lines to develop the leadership potential of its members, and they are expected to play an essential role in the management of their own networks.


BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines intends to develop these capacities in its members' enterprises:

  •     Ownership
  •     Leadership
  •     Governance
  •     Communication: Internally and Externally
  •     Bottom Line Performance & Accountability
  •     Operational Systems
  •     Service: to Clients, Owners and Employees, the Enviromnent, and the Community
  •     Planning & Growth: the Long View


The Host Company is responsible for welcoming network members to their company and introducing them to the people, systems, assets, and operations they employ to sustain their enterprise. In this role they should expect to:

  •     Identify appropriate accommodations for visiting members
  •     Coordinate with NESEA staff to secure locations on identified dates
  •     Coordinate the agenda with the BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines facilitator
  •     Prepare their company for the network visit and its purpose, what they will share, and how they will be engaged
  •     Lead the portion of the network gathering that is focused on the host company (in coordination with the Facilitator)
  •     Act as welcoming host to the network


BuildngEnergy Bottom Lines: Application and Fees


The annual fee for network participants is based on the gross dollar volume of the enterprise. Fees are annual, and cover meeting space and equipment during network gatherings, NESEA logistical support, and facilitator compensation. Fees do not include travel, food, or lodging at network gatherings. The additional cost per participant per gathering ranges from $75-300, depending on the needs of the particular group.

Here is the fee schedule based on annual dollar volume.

Annual Dollar Volume Annual Network Fee
Up to $500,000 $1,500
$500,000 to $1,500,000 $2,000
$1,500,000 to $3,000,000 $2,500
$3,000,000 to $5,000,000 $3,500
Over $5,000,000 $4,500


The first step in joining a BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines network is to complete an application online. There are questions that will probably require you to locate business information in order to be able to answer them. For that reason, we recommend reviewing this list and gathering the info before completing the application. Here is what you will need to have ready to fill out the application:

  •     Company and personal contact info
  •     Business type (e.g., C Corp., S Corp., LLC, sole proprietor, worker co-op, ESOP, B Corp, other)
  •     Number of full and part time employees or captive subs
  •     Gross Revenue and % Net Profit for the past 3-4 years
  •     A description of the business, its services, the region served, period of operation
  •     Short and long term aspirations for the business
  •     The challenges the business faces (brief description)
  •     Your interest and experience with the the domains of People, Planet, and Profits
  •     Your current NESEA membership status
  •     Your interest in playing a leadership role in your network and BE Bottom Lines
  •     Confirm your understanding of BE Bottom Lines and member commitment

With questions, please contact Miriam Aylward at or call 417-774-6051 x14.


Becoming a BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines network member is a major commitment of time, money, engagement, and attention. In return you will gain deep insight and practical understanding of how your business can thrive as it serves a triple bottom line. You will develop enduring relationships of support and sharing. You will become a more effective and responsive leader. You will surely give generously, and gain abundantly. And we’ll be sure to have plenty of fun doing it!

BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: Facilitation & Governance


Each Bottom Lines Network is facilitated by one of the three founders of BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines. Each are long time NESEA members with active businesses, devoted to and fascinated with the challenges we all face in leading and managing a business. They were inspired to create Bottom Lines based on the benefits each has derived from participating in similar peer network experiences. Their job is to guide your network, facilitate its meetings, provide insight and guidance based on their experiences, and nurture and develop the concept of Whole Business Networking.


One of the most important responsibilities of any business is to establish and administer a responsible and responsive system of governance that serves people working together with shared purpose. To instill an appreciation for this essential function each network will be responsible for establishing and managing its own governance. Network participants are expected to establish and share these responsibilities with the guidance of their facilitator.

Registered Network Participants will attend the two day Orientation and Network Formation gathering at Yestermorrow in Waitsfield, VT.

Meet the Facilitators:

John Abrams

South Mountain Company

John is a longtime student of facilitation and a veteran meeting junkie. He is founder and CEO of South Mountain Company , a 39-year-old employee owned architecture, building, and renewable energy company committed to responsible business practices . John’s book COMPANIES WE KEEP: Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place, was published in 2008. He blogs sporadically at


Paul Eldrenkamp

Byggmeister Inc.

Paul Eldrenkamp founded Byggmeister, Inc., a Newton, MA-based design/build remodeling firm, in 1983. He participated in remodeling industry peer review groups (Business Networks and then Remodelers Advantage) for over 12 years. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, is a frequent speaker at regional and national trade conferences, and writes occasionally for the Journal of Light Construction.

Jamie Wolf

Wolfworks Inc.

Jamie was good with blocks as a kid, graduated to tree forts, and has been working as a designer and builder ever since. Wolfworks is a boutique scale design/build company in Avon, CT endeavoring to provide that service responsibly. Jamie considers his peer network experience, over a period of twenty years, as fundamental to Wolfworks' ability to understand and manage all aspects of business operations, a journey that continues here with you. You can learn more about Wolfworks online, read about Passive House projects and energy related thinking on Jamie's blog, and see some recent projects on Houzz.

Kate Stephenson

HELM Construction Solutions

Kate is an experienced leader in the fields of green building, professional education, sustainability, and business management. As a partner in HELM Construction Solutions, she works with established and emerging businesses to achieve triple bottom line metrics, develop business systems, and plan for a dynamic and resilient future. She has deep experience in post-secondary education, and led the Yestermorrow Design/Build School for over thirteen years. Her design and planning expertise includes a foundation in regenerative design principles and master plan development. Kate helped to develop and is a facilitator for NESEA’s BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines program. Kate is a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, and serves on the Board of the Urban Death Project and the Advisory Board of One Square World. She holds a MS in Management from Antioch University New England and a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Science from Haverford College.


Our Mission

NESEA advances the adoption of sustainable energy practices in the built environment by cultivating a community where practitioners share, collaborate and learn.