Archive for December 2011


Lessons Learned From a Year of Extreme Weather

Posted on December 31, 2011 by Nora DePalma

It’s been a record-breaking year for horror. Extreme weather in 2011 resulted in 12 events exceeding the billion-dollar mark in damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),

The previous record was nine events in 2008, as evidenced in the chart below.

“In my weather career of four decades, I’ve never seen a year quite like 2011,” says Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service, on a video posted on the NOAA Extreme Weather 2011 microsite. “I can’t remember a year in which we experienced record-breaking extremes of nearly every conceivable type of weather.”

Climate change?  Hayes says we need to gear up for more extreme weather and I choose to believe him:

NOAA Billion Dollar Weather Disasters 1980 - 2011

I was spooked by the late April tornadoes that destroyed homes and lives an hour north of us in Georgia, as well as Hurricane Irene, making landfall just south of my hometown on the Jersey Shore. John noted that 2011 was the second wettest year on record for Chicago, which had its two wettest years on record over the past four: 2008 with 50.86 inches, 2011 with 49.41, including that 20-inch snowstorm last February that stranded many of our industry friends at the AHR Expo in Las Vegas.

But the record-breaker I can’t get out of my mind is the Joplin, MO tornado. Who can fathom an EF5 tornado—the highest wind speeds known to man—so large and moving so slowly that some survivors experienced the calm of the eye.  That awful day in May resulted in more than $6.5 billion insured losses, with total losses greater than $9.1 billion, NOAA reports.

That’s just in losses that can be rebuilt. The Joplin tornado eventually caused about 160 fatalities, adding to the tally of more than 600 lives lost to natural disasters in the US this year.  One of the first Joplin fatalities was a teen driving home from his high school graduation. In a Hummer.  The single greatest loss of life in one location was at a Joplin nursing home. The Joplin Globe newspaper later editorialized that such facilities really should have safe rooms.

Agreed.  Also agreed that similar investments “behind-the-walls” is money well-spent, whether it is for safe rooms, home fire sprinklers, fire-resistant roofing, secured garage doors, flexible gas and water line connections and pretty much any of the suggestions the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends to protect homes and buildings as part of its Building Science Branch.

It’s a case of pay now, or pay later. Hitting 12 billion-dollar-plus disasters is not a record we want to break. Our industry New Year’s resolution: build safer and more sustainable homes and buildings.


Best New Tools for Pros

Posted on December 28, 2011 by Joel Williams

Editors at This Old House Magazine selected two Uponor products for their “Best New Building Products Tools for Pros” 2011 annual compilation.   Of the 14 “professional grade” tools highlighted, editors were impressed with Uponor’s Self-Contained Radiant-Heat System or Radiant Ready 30E Radiant mechanical room in-a-box launched earlier this year.  TOH editors also gave high marks to a new cordless PEX expander tool from Milwaukee Tools, rating it a “must have.”  The compact tool offers an extremely fast, precise way to make watertight connections in Uponor ProPEX tubing.  Plus, it’s really cool to see in action.  Kudos to Uponor engineering.



GreenTown Joplin – Building Hope

Posted on December 22, 2011 by Nora DePalma


2011 was quite a year for natural disasters.  Everyone at O’Reilly-DePalma and at our clients stayed safe, although there were some close calls. For people whose lives have been upended, who have lost homes, towns and loved ones, we wonder how they find hope again.

Then we met a great organization that is delivering hope on a daily basis: GreenTown Joplin. An offshoot of Greensburg GreenTown, GreenTown Joplin is helping the Missouri town that was devastated by a tornado last May to rebuild sustainable and durable new homes and buildings.

We met GreenTown founder Daniel Wallach and his wife, Catherine Hart, when he was invited to speak at a Green Builder Media event this summer.  Wallach lives about a half hour away from Greensburg, KS and was moved to take action after witnessing the aftermath of a similarly-horrific tornado in 2007. Together with city and county officials, business owners and local residents, GreenTown set up a system for residents to source unbiased research on how to build high-performance, healthy homes.

Greensburg not only rebuilt, but created jobs through a new industry, attracting eco-tourism groups from all over the world to study emerging environmental technologies. Or as Wallach calls it, a permanent trade show.

What could be a better investment for building, home and architectural brands than a permanent exhibit demonstrating the real-world performance of environmental products?

For Joplin, Wallach and his team are in a race to secure financing from individual and corporate sponsors to fund the estimated 60 percent of projects waiting in the wings for financing before public interest wanes.

O’Reilly-DePalma and the Green Earth PR Network selected to financially and materially support GreenTown Joplin as a gift to our valued clients this year. Wallach’s story of hope was amazing, and resonated with us as the building industry begins its own rebuilding from disaster.

Can you help Joplin? Here’s how:

1. Make an individual donation (via PayPal) and become a member here.

2. Join as a corporate member here.

3. For product donations and more, call Daniel and the GreenTown team at 620-723-2790. ORDP_card.indd



Social Media for Brands and Builders Todd Vendituoli

Posted on December 9, 2011 by Nora DePalma

Todd VendituoliBuilder and blogger Todd Vendituoli notes that first dates can be hard. Especially between bloggers and brands.

The owner of both Todd Vendituoli Construction L.L.C. based out of West Burke, VT and KV Construction Company Ltd, based out of Eleuthera, Bahamas, has taken a deep dive into social media, blogging for his own company at The Building Blox, and helping builders learn social media through the new blog:  SocialMedia4Builders.

“I’ve heard of some friction between brands and bloggers, and this really should not be the case,” Vendituoli told us. “The reason, it seems, is that some brands want to control the message put out by bloggers and this isn’t how social media works at its best.

Vendituoli notes that a true return on relationships between brands and bloggers works much like any good dialogue.  “The relationship should be a give and take,” he says, and one of mutual benefit. Before the “first date” between bloggers and brands, Vendituoli said brands need to plan for a mutually beneficial relationship. “Remember, if you have a great product or service, it will come out as such, but not by blasting it.”

The Mating Game Between Bloggers and Brands

How does that first date get started and progress beyond the awkward first hello so that everyone is still smiling? Vendituoli’s tips for brands:

1. Send out a promotional kit or letter showing what you have to offer.  What are the benefits of your product or service?

2. Offer to send product samples that can be seen and touched, if that’s applicable.

3. Even better, arrange a factory tour.

4. Set up a meeting or call via Skype to discuss what you are hoping to accomplish.

5. Enable interviews with customers and employees that will offer another glimpse of how you operate towards others.

What criteria does Vendituoli use in deciding what brand information to report on his blogs and through his social network?

1. Is it going to be interesting to my readers? What does the brand offer? How does the brand treat its community and employees? What products/initiatives does the brand have in the pipeline?

2. Will it be informative?

3. Is there potential for a conversation to develop around the topic?

4. Would I want to read this topic?

“Readers want good, clean informative topics that aren’t biased,” Vendituoli says.

“Brands have unique products or services that could be highlighted by bloggers for their mutual benefit. Now I said could because if your brand is 100 percent what you say it is, it will be a wonderful relationship. However if it isn’t, there is a problem right off. I can’t and won’t tell people what I don’t honestly know and believe to be truthful about a brand, product or service. Just not happening, so don’t even ask. No spin.”

Is There a Cost?

At a minimum, brands need to invest time in building a relationship with Vendituoli.  Blasting out useless news has been the bane of journalists since the craft of public relations has existed. Bloggers feel no differently. Get to know them. Read and subscribe to their blog, and react to their posts. Follow them on social media and have discussions.  Focus more on what the blogger—or journalist wants—rather than on what you want in return (That’s relationships 101, right?).

There is a time investment on the blogger’s side to build their social community. Vendituoli is an active engager on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.  “Bloggers’ spend a great amount of time developing content, connecting with contacts and resources, and promoting their work across the various social media platforms to make sure content is read,” Venditouli said. “That has a monetary value in my opinion.”

No publisher or producer would say otherwise. No brand could either, having financially supported content-based communities for years with a tactic called advertising.  This is simply a new model of reaching an audience, but even better in some ways. Bloggers such as Venditouli are forming tight new communities where personal recommendations offer highly sought after credibility and endorsement.

Follow Venditouli on any of these platforms:

On Twitter @TALV58

On Facebook at Todd Vendituoli Construction L.L.C.

On Google+

On his blogs, The Building Blox and SocialMedia4Builders.


Byline: Steam Showers Boost Commercial Spaces

Posted on December 5, 2011 by Joel Williams

A growing number of owners and managers of commercial and institutional properties have embraced steamtherapy for its health and wellness benefits.  Learn more about the guidelines for proper equipment selection in this byline article from Mr. Steam that is featured in this month’s Construction Canada magazine.

Bart Gorelik, regional sales director for Mr. Steam, explains that commercial steam rooms are a relatively straightforward affair, “but only if one avoids two major pitfalls — improper generator sizing before the room is constructed and improper maintenance once it is finished.”

National Kitchen and Bath Association Public Relations Society of America: Georgia Green Earth PR Network