Sam Rashkin tirelessly travels the country. Not for the prestige or the glamour, but because he has a passion. His passion is to educate the housing industry about sustainability.

Rashkin took a hard look at himself after being in the industry for 30 years. As the author of Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry, former national director for the EPA's Energy Star for Homes, and an industry thought leader who has transformed the performance of more than 1.5 million homes, he recognized that focusing on just one area of delivering high-performance homes to the market was not going to make a long-term impact.

Eli Meir Kaplan Sam Rashkin was the 2012 recipient of the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Housing.

“All the pieces had to come together,” Rashkin says. “I wanted to innovate the product and not just focus on cosmetics. And I wanted to start doing it in a very risk averse industry. So I started workshops to focus on innovation and how to put it into motion and not limit it to one piece of the pie.”

Being in the industry for 30 years has allowed Rashkin to see and experience the value of a good support network. One objective of his workshops is to help attendees learn to create their own support structure, which is important because Rashkin points out that too many people in the housing industry are operating independently. He fashions his workshops so he can bring in thought leaders to discuss key lessons learned, and manufacturers discuss key innovations.

Gene Myers, CEO at Denver-based Thrive Home Builders, attended one of Rashkin's workshops to seek ways to innovate and improve. “Sam is arguably one of the key drivers of change in the industry," Myers says. "His track record of achievement gives him great credibility. Our biggest challenges involve making high-performance homes affordable and honing our skills at selling them.”

Just as Rashkin intended, the support network helped Myers and his business. Myers discovered that learning from Rashkin and workshop presenters in addition to the other attendees was a boost to his objectives. The other attendees gave Myers perspective on challenges that Thrive faced that were not unique to the company. Myers says he now recognizes that there is a benefit in facing universal challenges, accepting them, and turning your attention to things that can be changed.

“There is a big opportunity for builders to do better, to have better business outcomes,” Rashkin says. “To transition from a cost-focus business model to a consumer-focused business model. Across any industry, there are opportunities to do better, to improve product, or to improve the experience. The results in terms of business metrics can be crazy good.”

The workshops guide the way for each attendee to learn a new business model. Instead of being isolated in the industry, Rashkin proposes that we aggregate knowledge to help builders not reinvent the wheel. He’s breaking down the silos not only from a building perspective, but also by including manufacturers as part of the process.

Although it may be difficult to track attribution and exactly when inspiration occurs, attendees have found value in the discussions surrounding innovation at Rashkin’s workshops. Rashkin's goal for those attendees is for them to create networks to share lessons learned.

“One workshop is a great start, but innovation-minded builders continue to network,” Rashkin explains. “In the bootcamps, individual relationships are built that lead to innovation in the future.”

The next workshop is scheduled Nov. 3-4 at the Gainey Suites in Scottsdale, Ariz. The two-day workshop, "Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry Boot Camp," offers attendees insight on transformative business solutions. Other topics covered will include the 10 biggest construction defects, off-site production, construction quality issues, new innovations, and new business models.

Industry experts Mark LaLiberte and John Tooley will present at the workshop along with Rashkin. To reserve a spot and receive a detailed agenda, e-mail [email protected].