“I went in as a doubter,” Brendan said. Lots of people came through after the North Bay fires, many from out of state, suddenly wanting to help people rebuild. According to Howard, people were driving up and down the road soliciting business for cleanup, excavation, construction, and not all of them were perfectly trustworthy. Brendan said developers might have been wanting to acquire cheap lots for development, taking advantage of the situation and grief -ridden homeowners wanting to move on.
“I was hard on BONE,” Brendan said. “This was not a genteel Canadian conversation,” he says joking about BONE’s roots in Quebec. But the more he listened to Charles Bovet, BONE’s VP of business development, talk about BONE Structure’s net-zero-energy-ready approach, using pre-cut panels in a grid, the more it seemed a good fit. “I’m kind of a prefab geek. I have flirted many times with prefab,” says Brendan.
BONE, which launched a California office in 2016, uses an approach that is a variation on pre-fab. The BONE team measures and cuts all materials in its steel construction system in advance of building and delivers them to the site. This minimizes waste and cuts way down on the amount of time it takes to build. All BONE Structure homes are set up to become net zero energy—with the collaboration of the designers, qualified builders and subs —if the owner is interested in pursuing net zero, and the Boosters were interested.
Merritt, Brendan, Howard and Ray, all Stanford grads, were also intrigued by BONE’s connection to Stanford engineering. Many of BONE’s team are also grads of Stanford and when the Boosters went to visit the zero energy BONE Structure home of Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson in Palo Alto, BONE seemed more and more like the right fit for their new home.
Howard spent his career as an engineer in the Test and Measurement Group (T&M) of HP. High frequency microwave technology was used in telecommunications and the department evolved into the fiber optics/light wave division, a small group of very technical engineers. HP eventually spun T&M as a new company: Agilent. Howard left Agilent in 2008. From there he went to a solar startup that tested instruments for the solar industry for four years. “I’ve always been non-mainstream,” Howard says.
Ray, who at 97 years old drove away from the Santa Rosa fire in his Tesla, is also an early adopter. “Ray’s had an electric car for 25 years,” says Brendan.
Brendan says the Booster house was always going to be a zero-energy house with a charging station even before they met up with BONE. “They [The Boosters] had solar all over their old house,” he says. “When we went to visit Mark’s place and he told us that after a year and two Teslas plugged in, it was still producing more energy than consumed with only 300 square feet of solar, these early solar adopters almost didn’t believe it could be done with so little solar. It was another reason BONE was a good fit.”