One of my college friends just embarked on a new career at—I hate to say it—the mid-point of his life. My friend Dan spent his entire career in sales and marketing for non-profits and private industry, most recently leading outreach services for a community college in eastern Iowa. Meanwhile, he has always been very talented at home improvement, completing upgrades and remodels in and around his own home and for friends and neighbors.

Dan’s “hobby”, which includes a passion for building science, grew into an after-work and weekend gig that was keeping him extremely busy, simply through word-of-mouth referrals and a few Facebook posts. Last year, a couple 100-year events put Dan’s skills in high-demand. First, COVID-19 lockdowns convinced many homeowners their homes needed upgrades. Second, a derecho (a long-lasting and widespread line of storms) hit eight Midwest states in August and, Dan’s locale of Cedar Rapids was especially hit hard. Straight-line winds damaged every part of the 75-square-mile city, and Dan found himself doing a lot of siding and window repairs and replacements.

By August of this year, Dan realized he already had made more money in 2021 with his side-gig than he had during the craziness of 2020, so he and his wife Amanda decided it was time for him to embark on a fulltime home-improvement career. (I’ve already called Dan to get on his schedule for some additional upgrades around our house; our kitchen remodel has snowballed! Learn more by reading “My Home Remodel” blog series.) Despite having a background in sales and marketing to help his new business, Dan is taking a leap of faith by changing careers. It takes vision and fortitude, both of which I know Dan has in plenty.

Dan is not unlike the visionaries who are winners of our third-annual Metamorphosis Awards. Each of the winning firms showcased in this issue saw possibilities where many would not. For example, the 1st Place Adaptive Reuse category winner, GBBN, transformed a decrepit 1887 building in Pittsburgh that serviced train engines and redirected cargo for the Monongahela Connecting Railroad. GBBN’s Principal Anne Chen didn’t see a disaster when she set to work on adapting the structure to become a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based business’ innovation center. Instead, she was thrilled. “You can envision the trains, and there’s a beauty in the functionality of moving the trains that informed the building’s curved geometry. It’s actually awe-inspiring,” she says in the story.

Another creative vision transformed a 120-foot-long, oddly proportioned corridor that felt like an afterthought though it was the primary entrance for a San Francisco office building. The design team at Gensler turned the uninspired corridor into a digital art gallery, which reveals itself only when viewed axially and walking directly through the lobby. The hallway now interacts with tenants and visitors as they pass through it, never presenting the same experience twice. Read about this 1st Place winner in the Interior category.

With a new year approaching, we at retrofit look forward to continuing to cover these creative renovation stories for the betterment of our communities, businesses and the environment. Cheers to peace, health and success in 2022!

Better Buildings

Check out another edition of retrofit’s “Better Buildings” content: Contributing Editor Allan Barry examines the benefits of using cover boards in low-slope roofing, including durability, resilience and long-term cost savings.

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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