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Meet Tom Decker of Chicago Green Insulation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Decker.

Tom has spent his 30 year career working in various capacities from human rights work with inmates on death row in Oklahoma, where he is from, to direct service work running after school programs in public housing in NYC to serving in various roles for inner city kids in residential summer camps in upstate New York.. Additionally he has served as Camp Assistant Director at Ramapo Anchorage Camp and Camp Director of NYC Coalition for the Homeless Camp and Vacation Camp for the Blind and Wellspring Camp all in upstate New York.

His work on death row started at 20 years of age after suffering a loss 14 years earlier when his Godfather Garland McKinney was killed for being openly gay. The judge sentenced the individual who killed Garland to 20 years for justifiable homicide saying, “The world is a better place without him.”, the judge went on to say that “he had committed a crime against humanity for being gay.”

In 1985, he founded the Amnesty International chapter at the University of Oklahoma. In the years following Tom became a regular visitor to Scotty Moore on death row in McAlister, Ok. He joined the board of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and began his work with The Innocence Project, collaborating with many dedicated professionals to help get two innocent men off death row, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz. Both were dead of drugs within 18 months of being released due to lack of ability to adjust and a need for employment. Tom and others started the largest and longest running Human Rights Music festival in history, still running 31 years later.

For 15 years he as a direct service professional working with kids, young adults and seniors in various direct service roles always dedicated to helping people with special needs or issues related to social justice.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
“Smooth Road”? No, certainly not! I am not an entrepreneur by nature but some would argue I have been entrepreneur my whole life. “A Day In the Life” by the Beatles, there are “four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire”.

The struggles are simply a manifestation of the human experience, life is a struggle! I am learning the role managing budgets and sales pipelines. I am also learning the manor in which one can be successful in negotiating with multinational chemical companies while competing against much larger spray foam installers locally. I struggle with the cost of covering our employees with outrageously priced Workers Comp Insurance. I struggle with the price pressures due to cheap Chinese chemical in our market that cuts down the material costs for others in the spray foam installation business in Chicago by as much as 50%. I struggle with clients, I want more of them. I struggle with letting go of the clients who demand too much for too little in return. I struggle with mild winters. I struggle with the cheap cost of heating and cooling in our market. I struggle with code officials who don’t understand and cannot enforce the statewide energy code. I struggle to be better tomorrow than I was today. I struggle getting heat into an unheated construction project on a cold winter day.

I am a small business owner who appreciates learning from my mistakes and that I have a fairly unique service that all homes and businesses will use in the very near future, when they are under construction.

As a Camp Director, I was taught by my mentor Mike Kunin that “you are allowed to make 1000 mistakes a day. You are just not allowed to make the same one twice.” That is something that I teach my guys everyday. Is it a struggle, YES! If it was easy, then anyone could do it!

Four years in I can safely say that we are on the road to getting past the pot holes and focused on the future growth that foam offers.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Chicago Green Insulation – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Let’s start with the basics: Spray polyurethane foam is made by mixing and reacting chemicals to create a foam that insulates, seals to prevent air leaks and in some cases, provides a moisture barrier.

The spray foam chemical starts on our truck as a liquid in a 500-lb. drum and is mixed 1:1 with a second 500-lb. drum using about $50,000 worth of the latest and most efficient American-made manufacturing equipment.

Depending on the spray foam formula, the chemicals contain recycled plastic (including soda bottles) and renewable resources like soy and other agricultural oils. The processing of the liquid turns it into an inert solid in 7-10 seconds after leaving tip of the spray foam gun.

When this solid foam is applied to the walls or roof, it insulates from the elements, seals every crack or gap, and reduces the amount of cooling and heating you need to keep your home comfortable year round.

What Types of Spray Foam are There?
There are two types of spray foam insulation: open and closed cell.

Closed cell – This offers the highest R-value, or insulating power, per inch. It’s four times as dense as open cell spray foam and is waterproof when sprayed applied at a thickness of more than 1.5 inches. This means it can be applied to the exterior of a foundation, to dirt in a crawl space, the walls of a basement from the inside or outside, and to gravel before you pour your basement floor. Additionally, closed cell foam increases the structural integrity by 200 percent.

Open cell – This was invented 50 years ago to solve the issue of cold floors under rooms built over garages in Toronto and to make the cost of super energy-efficient homes affordable for all owners. Open cell spray foam will allow moisture to pass through it without impacting the ability of the foam to do its job—making open cell the preferred product for roof insulation, as long as the space is available to get the appropriate depth of foam. The limitation of open cell spray foam is that you cannot apply it to brick or masonry construction or any part of a dwelling below grade level.

Is Spray Foam Right for You?
Kermit the Frog said “it’s not easy being green.” But at Chicago Green Insulation, we want everyone to be GREEN, comfortable and HAPPY.

If you’re building a new home, expanding with an addition, or renovating, call us early on in the project. We will consider your insulation needs and give you the straight scoop. If spray foam is right for you, we’ll explain why. If it isn’t, we’ll explain that, too, and refer you to someone who better fits your needs.

What sets us apart is our knowledge of foam and all avenues of construction and how they fit together. Contractors love hiring us because we help you get the next 10 jobs, not just serving your existing contracts.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Our company mission statement is: To make Chicago the safest and most energy efficient city in the world by 2027!

Yes, we are going to push the envelope on employment and energy-efficient construction. If I get my way, we will be doing training with a variety of outreach and collaborating with not for profits, communities of faith and the Obama Foundation to take vacant homes and make them owner occupied single family homes that are affordable and will be owned by people working for me and for other small businesses, changing the future of that family and the current situation for neighborhoods littered with poor quality, expensive rental units. To me, this is a direct assault on decades of economic discrimination to families without means.

I am looking to get into more work educating people about foam insulation, energy efficiency and why these kinds of upgrades cost you LESS and not MORE!

I am working on developing a call center for foam insulation here in Chicago that would serve consumers, contractors, code officials nationwide while creating jobs for people with good heads on their shoulders that are “spray foam experts”!

I would keep your eyes pealed to our YouTube channel for more interesting educational content.

In February, I am planning the next event in our series of work on Building Science. This will be a live event with an expert in Building Science taking and demonstrating how not to build like an idiot and how to build like a rock star!

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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