Allison Bailes, III, Ph.D.
It took me a while, but I've finally figured out how best to use my PhD in physics (University of Florida, 1998). I've always loved science, and I started off on the traditional academic path after graduate school, but that wasn't really enough for me. I loved teaching, but I needed to find a way to use my interest in energy and the environment as well as my love of buildings, especially houses.
A lot of little steps along the way brought me to where I am now:
- Reading The Integral Urban House in the '80s
- Buying the Real Goods compendium the Alternative Energy Sourcebook (now called the Solar Energy Sourcebook) in the early '90s
- Subscribing to Home Power magazine in 1994
- Building and using a solar cooker
- Serving on the Gainesville Energy Advisory Committee while in grad school
- Watching (and helping a little bit) my PhD thesis adviser build an off-the-grid solar house in Florida
What really started the ball rolling for my new career and the founding of Energy Vanguard, though, was when I built a house myself. In 2001, I bought a piece of land and spent the next two years building a green home that's beautiful, efficient, and comfortable. Having never built anything bigger than a bookcase prior to taking on this project, I had a steep learning curve in front of me—and I loved it!
After finishing the house in 2003, I became a home energy rater and left academia for my new career in the field of high performance homes. My first business was called ab3 energy, and I offered home energy ratings and building science consulting. When that turned out not to be enough to keep the business afloat, I started offering Manual J heating and cooling load calculations, and I even got into the contracting business. I did air-sealing, duct-sealing, insulation, and crawl space encapsulation to provide homeowners with a comprehensive package to improve their home's performance.
That business was going well when life threw some curve balls at me, so I ended up going to work for another home performance contractor (The Hoots Group) in Atlanta. I learned many new business and contracting skills, and then got the opportunity to work for one of the premier energy efficiency and green building organizations in the country—the Southface Energy Institute. At Southface, I started off as the regional manager for the EarthCraft House program and then also became the manager of Southface Energy Rated Homes, their HERS rating providership. Again, I learned a lot there that would have been much harder to learn on my own.
In 2008, I decided that I really wanted my own company again, so I left Southface and started Energy Vanguard. In some ways, this company is a continuation of ab3 energy, but it's also a lot more than that. Energy Vanguard is more about teaching and less about fixing, although we do offer HVAC design services. It's focused more on the big picture—creating markets, spreading the word (such as for Energy Efficient Mortgages), expanding networks—and less on individual components. I see this company as being on the forefront of change—the vanguard—in the way we see and use energy in our homes.
It's been a bit of a winding path, but I'm doing what I love now and feel that I've finally figured out how to combine my interests, skills, experience, and education in a way that lets me serve clients to the best of my ability. The fact that Energy Vanguard is growing in a down economy is testament that I've made good choices. It's also evidence that you can succeed in this field as well. There's plenty of room for growth here.
Please let me know how Energy Vanguard can help you, whether it's with training, as your HERS rating provider, or with some other building science related need you have.
-- Allison A. Bailes III, PhD
PS I do work a lot, but I like to have fun, too. My biggest avocation the past few years is juggling. The photo below shows me passing clubs with Jamie Kaye, one of the students in a HERS rater class in early 2010. (Jamie is now one of the HERS raters for whom we provide quality assurance.)