January 13, 2017

What’s 475 About – Reflections for a New Year


When people ask what do we do, one abbreviated response is: “We sell tape.” Though “we sell tape” describes a simple act, it is one with a potentially huge impact. We sell air-sealing tape as a specialized and critical component in a complete building enclosure airtightness system, which is the foundation of a low-energy building. And low-energy buildings are essential to realizing our post-carbon future – mitigating the worst effects of climate change. So at our core, we are activists for a sustainable environment.  

And today, at the start of 2017, with the forces of climate change denial ascendant, we must redouble our efforts. So here, we briefly reexamine what we’re about and what will inform our next steps forward.

475 began with architect and building scientist founders who were alarmed by the climate crisis, and recognized Passive House* technology as an urgently necessary response. The founders were working to make Passive House buildings in New York City and realized American industry lacked information and components to serve the emerging high-performance market. So the founders started 475 to provide missing knowledge and components to other professionals. The 475 HQ team is housed in a converted garage near the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site, and appreciate the benefits of environmental protection near and far.

475_logo_master475’s mission is to provide essential knowledge and components that will lead a transformation of the North American construction industry toward making durable high-performance, Passive House and zero-energy buildings. This in turn can help mitigate the climate crisis and support a sustainable environment.

To fulfill its mission, 475’s values have developed around a number of ideas:

  1. Rebellion: We use commerce in rebellion against the construction industry status quo** – to make a sustainable construction economy that protects our planet’s ecosystems for future generations of animals, plants and people. Our rebellion is informed by building science, technology, economics, and environmental and social conditions.  
  2. Quality: We provide products essential to building durable high performance (airtightness, ventilation, insulation, daylighting).  The products should have best-in-class performance and should be responsibly made by us or our manufacturing partners. The products should lead to a healthy, high performance built environment, that offers comfort to its users (construction trades included) while minimizing harm to the planet.  The products should be provided with exemplary service, meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations
  3. Collaboration: Our core customers are intelligent and trusted professionals – architects, engineers, consultants, developers and contractors.  Because the founders and many 475 employees are also construction professionals – we are, in a way working with, and selling to, ourselves.  We enjoy working closely with our customers figuring out the details and solutions – improving all our work.    
  4. Learning: We produce blogs, books, videos and trainings, to provide continuous education for our customers, for our employees and for the broader public. The sharing of free vetted information is essential to building trust and enabling industry adoption of advanced construction methods. Education is our marketing.
  5. Teamwork: Our employees have a passion for building science, sustainable material use and Passive House; for making the world a better place and for protecting the environment.  We encourage a diversity of perspectives, interests and activities related to sustainability and good living.  We want to question, debate, and build consensus. We incorporate flexible schedules to enable time for outside passions. Teamwork brings fun. But we also work together, with urgency, to get the job done.  
  6. Activism:  Standing at the crossroads in the climate fight, we prioritize efforts to make a robust company that can affect meaningful change toward a sustainable society. We’re building the Passive House market through grassroots organizing and effecting public policy changes.  We support activism through employee participation or direct financial support in organizations and efforts addressing sustainability and underlying causes. Activism builds our core customer base, our collaborative community – and as such, it is critical to realizing the transformation we seek.

So while we can’t predict what lies ahead, as we start 2017, based on these values, 475 is committed to working with others in the construction industry and across the entire social and political landscape – to accelerate durable low-energy building, climate change mitigation and the wider battle for a sustainable environment.

With planetary regards,

The 475 Team

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*Passive House construction can result in a 90% reduction in heating and cooling energy, facilitating resilient zero-energy buildings and a transition to a 100% renewable green energy power supply. Passive House is uniquely informative, disruptive and useful, while wonderfully combining science, commerce and activism.

**The status quo is an industry avoiding quantum leaps in efficiency and performance that Passive House can provide, and is also reliant on toxic shortcuts like spray foam – ultimately working against a sustainable environment.

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