Women in Building Performance: Cindy Ojczyk
Cindy Ojczyk (pronounced o-check) is the owner of Simply Green Design, where she helps clients navigate the process of creating beautiful as well as energy and resource efficient homes. She also started morethanabeautifulhome.com, a website that’s “on a mission to improve the environment by empowering homeowners to create greener homes.”
Macie Melendez: How did you get started in the home performance industry?
Cindy Ojczyk: I was attending USGBC GreenBuild in 2004 when I heard about energy auditing as a tool for improving home remodeling and new construction. I started applying it to interior design projects in 2005. By 2006 I had created successful relationships with several home performance professionals. They were valuable assets that helped my interior design and consulting company, Simply Green Design, create the first silver-level LEED new home and the first certified Green Built Home remodel in Minnesota. The experience taught me that I could significantly improve a home by leaning on the expertise of the home performance professional. I have been hooked ever since.
MM: How has your career evolved?
Ojczyk: I began my interior design career with the hope that I could make homes more sustainable. I realized quickly that solving home problems with energy solutions was a way to connect homeowners to sustainability: It became a gateway to discuss even more green solutions. That led me down a path of sharing my experiences and knowledge with others so they can be successful as well. I became co-author of the GreenStar Certified Green Homes and Remodeling Program to create a tool specific to the needs of cold climate housing. I have been their principle trainer since 2007. I also do many professional and consumer outreach programs. Two years ago I launched www.morethanabeautifulhome.com as a site for beautiful, accessible, inspiring information on creating greener, energy efficient homes. Many posts promote home performance. I recently collaborated with the Minnesota Building Performance Association to write consumer-friendly content on home performance topics from ice dams to comfort, to insulation, to hiring an energy professional.
MM: When you started out, what was your biggest obstacle? How did you overcome it?
Ojczyk: Consumers are driven by beauty and the confidence they get from other peoples’ success. The lack of design/build/remodel professionals and the media promoting the value of home performance was, and is, a big obstacle. To overcome it, I just keep talking and writing about it.
I also see a continued reluctance of designers, remodelers and builders to work with home performance professionals and vice versa. I would like to see a wider bridge built between these industries.
MM: What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Ojczyk: There’s nothing better than watching the light bulb turn on when someone finally understands how she can have something extraordinary rather than ordinary by taking a few more steps—such as doing a home performance assessment. That someone can be a homeowner, but I am equally excited when a design or construction professionals gets it as well.
MM: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women in this industry?
Ojczyk: Women continue to be stereotyped as incapable by homeowners and professionals. Oddly enough, when a female client has worked with a woman energy professional, she is usually quite pleased with the results. As more women enter the industry, this will become less of an issue.
MM: What advice would you give to a woman starting out in the home performance industry?
Ojczyk: Follow your gut. If you believe in something, you will find ways to succeed.