Leadership: The beginnings of marketing greatness

land and sonia
Gunter Lang and Sonia Zouari after the Passive House presentation

There are rare opportunities to see successful marketing well ahead of the trends. Yesterday, I observed one of these circumstances in action — yet we won’t be able to report on whether the success really happened for quite some time, perhaps a year to three.

Yet, the story behind CSV Architects, the Salus Ottawa project, and the Passive House movement may provide inspiration and some ideas for your own business, if you wish to get ahead of the curve and truly become a market leader.

The background: Last night, Gunter Lang, an Austrian-based leader of the Passive House (Passivehaus) movement, gave a presentation in Ottawa, under the auspices of the Ottawa Construction Specifications Canada chapter (of which I am the current voluntary chair.)

When our chapter vice-chair, Sonia Zouari, a CSV architect?who?has contributed to the Salus project, a residence for mentally challenged people in Ottawa,proposed that we pay $1600 in speaking fees to bring Lang to Ottawa, and he would only be available on Friday, Sept. 26, I initially?balked. ?I didn’t know Lang, anything about the Passive House movement, and thought trying to set up an educational speaking program with a non-English language native speaker on a September Friday evening would be folly.

Sonia persisted. Lang, who had already planned a trip to Canada to speak in Toronto, agreed to a cancellation fee option if we couldn’t make the event work. I gave the go-ahead, skeptically. Sonia started work — and soon she lined up several sponsors, including CSV, several consultants, building supply organizations and the like. We started selling tickets.

By the time the event ended, we had achieved more than 200?guests, filling the hall to capacity.

Okay, that’s good, and I’ll write a story about the event for Ontario Construction Report and Ottawa Construction News.

But why the importance for marketing?

The guest speaker, with leaders at Salus and CSV, discussed these issues at a private dinner after the presentations. The consensus: ?There is risk in trying something different — in this case, in?designing one of Canada’s first?Passive House projects — in part because systems, material and processes haven’t caught up with the concept, which calls for the economical achievement of near-zero energy consumption, without exotic techniques, or efforts to generate electricity (so this isn’t “net zero” building.). Add to the problems: Salus, as a non-profit, doesn’t have an unlimited risk budget as a non-profit social-service agency.

Nevertheless, we quickly agreed?that this project represents a potentially incredible marketing opportunity for the architect spearing the work, and for the non-profit willing to take the risks in going in a new direction.

There will undoubtedly be hitches and gaps , but CSV will, once the project is built within budget, have demonstration case study to prove leadership in designing within the Passive House model.?And Salus will have dramatically reduced operating?costs, achieving sustainability in budget-restraint era.

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