Penny Tralau & Ashley Easterby – The IAQ Market Down Under – Highlights of the Aussies’ learning tour of US restoration firms and job sites

Air Date: 3-23-2018|Episode 498

This week we talk to Australian restoration and IAQ veterans Penny Tralau and Ashley Easterby about their experiences and insights after attending the recent RIA Convention and their extensive tour of southern US restoration projects, labs and facilities. Their tour guide was none other than IAQ Radio contributor and “Restoration Industry Global Watchdog” Pete Consigli. All three will be joining us today to talk about what they learned, how our IAQ/restoration industry looks from the outside, how that affects the Aussie market and most importantly what we can learn from each other.

Full Description:
This week we talk to Australian restoration and IAQ veterans Penny Tralau and Ashley Easterby about their experiences and insights after attending the recent RIA Convention and their extensive tour of southern US restoration projects, labs and facilities. Their tour guide was none other than IAQ Radio contributor and “Restoration Industry Global Watchdog” Pete Consigli. All three will be joining us today to talk about what they learned, how our IAQ/restoration industry looks from the outside, how that affects the Aussie market and most importantly what we can learn from each other.
Penny and Ashley based their road trip in Fort Lauderdale and then visited sites around the South. Their tour included stops at microbiology lab, a high end water/mould intrusion site visit, and a visit with a pro that specializes in real estate inspections. Their tour also included stops at a high profile restoration companies offices/plant, visits with equipment rental companies and concluded a site visit to a 70 plus condo project in Key West.
Ashley Easterby has over 38 years’ experience in owner/operator small business in Australia and an extensive understanding of the need to build and maintain successful relationships and strategic alliances to ensure a successful business. In 2002 he was instrumental in the formation of a group of like minded Water Damage Restoration companies into the leading independent restoration network in Australia. This network provides restoration services with national coverage for the needs of Corporate Clients & Insurance Companies via a transparent, local and cost effective service.
Penny Tralau has a background of 9 years in Restoration and Remediation Services. In the beginning, the work was primarily water loss but very quickly became interested in and specialised in Mould. Penny has a unique approach to mould, providing unbiased assessments to homeowners, builders and insurance companies. Penny is also a founding member and secretary of the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) of Australia and a Council member of the Restoration Industry Association.
Z-Man’s Blog:

It takes more than an ocean to keep us apart

Today’s guests on IAQradio, Penny Tralau and Ashley Easterby made a special effort to join us getting up at 3 AM and 2 AM respectfully. Ashley runs Network Group the leading restoration network in Australia. Penny is an Australian remediator and IAQ consultant.

There was prior interest in IAQ and mold years back, did it wane and why the seeming resurgence now?

  • Penny- The interest in mold and IAQ has not waned, it’s just not been completely understood in terms of building, maintenance, proper clean up etc.
  • What we are finding is the abundance of information (too much) available to us now, but of course it takes time to make sense of how to apply it.
  • Ashley- Also the craziness of the US market confused our market and now that things have settled down so that the facts can be dealt with.
  • The government and regulatory agencies focus on whatever is in the news.

What are the characteristics of the majority of Aussie housing stock?

  • Ashley-We appear to have stable stock as new houses here tend to be tile or tin roofed, brick veneer, more lowset, concrete floors, carpet and or vinyl floor coverings.
  • It’s buyer beware on most real estate transactions.

Energy in Australia?

  • Ashley- There is no nuclear power in Australia. Australia has abundant oil and gas reserves. These areas are a great distance away from Australia’s high population areas.
  • Elon Musk built the world’s largest battery to supply power when windmills aren’t turning.

What country’s are the major influences on the Australian: cleaning, disaster restoration and IAQ industries?  

  • Penny- Most definitely USA, some influence by UK, some equipment from Germany.
  • Ashley- Electric voltage is a challenge, equipment from the US and China.

What brought you to the states? 

  • Penny-A core group ofAussies have been traveling to the US to partake in advance certification training courses by the IICRC, RIA and IAQA.
  • The RIA conference. I was getting pinned for received my third RIA designation of WLS.
  • Originally it was the environmental sciences forum but when that was cancelled we decided to make the most of our time and connect with some our RIA mates in the states.
  • Ashley- RIA Conference in Austin, Texas then over to Florida.

What was the most memorable part of your trip?

  • Penny- It was a great privilege that the RIA people we connected took time out of their day to spend time with us.
  • Ashley-Always is the RIA and associated family.
  • Crystal ball gazing- a premonition of what is coming.
  • The drive to Key West was amazing.
  • Dinner, Lunch & Dinner & Lunch with Pete Consigli.
  • Penny- Oh yes, there was PLENTY of food.

What is similar and what is different about restoration in Australia and the US?

  • Penny- That’s a big question. There are definitely similarities about the process and commitment to doing a good job.
  • The biggest difference I can see is about the process of being engaged and the way the insurance carriers and TPA’S work.
  • Ashley- Your market is more mature, and has evolved more than ours.
  • Marketing services to the property owner is new here.
  • In the US, Property owners are more involved in any damage repairs or IAQ issues by that I mean they are more active in deciding what is done in their property.

Program work and TPAs in Australia?

  • Ashley- Program work is big in Australia, with many restoration firms relying on programs for 70%-80% of their work.
  • Penny- I don’t do work for TPAs.

How does the general public in Australia see IAQ? Is it a common topic or an afterthought?

  • Penny- IAQ is talked about widely among the IAQ community and more advanced restoration companies but the general public tend to be a little overwhelmed and confused by it. Improving awareness of where people are living and working.
  • Ashley- Neither – IAQ is less understood but is catching up quickly as the locals watch and hear American TV with news and documentaries.

What is the most common IAQ Complaint in your experience?

  • Penny- Common things like smells and complaints like colds and minor irritations. Many of these things are lumped into “mould contamination” when in actual fact there are many things within any home or building that can be the cause.

What are your thoughts on the state of the Australian restoration industry?

Is Australia ahead or behind the US when it comes to equipment, techniques, education etc for restoration? What about IAQ?

  • Penny-The Australian Restoration industry has been going through quite an unsettling period of change in the last couple of years and
  • Ashley- but with product and services released here very soon after acceptance the up take is happening as a faster rate.
  • The US is ahead in many ways but we are also close behind with things like equipment used.
  • There is no 10%/10% in Australia, 10%/10% is a race to the bottom!
  • Penny- We tend to look to the US for leadership in some of those aspects but we are agile and catching up fast.
  • Penny- we are a few years behind.

Lets go through some of the visits you made while here, what did you see and why did you choose to see those things?

  • Penny- It was a real privilege to be shown around RIA member facilities and job sites.
  • Ashley- We based ourselves in Fort Lauderdale and did day trips:
    • Ron Mazurfrom AEML labs – lab tour. – Dave Mason from Atlantic Restoration –tour of West Palm Beach command center and high end water/mould intrusion site visit.
    • Gene Raffafrom Before you buy Real Estate Inspections – meeting on what he does for clients. He really cares about his clients. In Australia the home inspector has a “tick & flick list” where they list “evidence of” and hand back to the homeowners whose responsible for the fix.
    • Daniel Vargas from Super Restoration – office/plant tour in Miami. A young and vibrant company. Positive vibe, the staff was upbeat.
    • Rolyn Companies – job site with 70 plus condos affected in Key West after the Hurricane.
    • Ken Rothmelfrom Sunbelt Rentals (visited 2 sites). The number of generators they have is incredible. No resource like this currently exists in Australia.
  • Penny- AEML Has 16 microscopists.
  • In Australia there is often a rush to get things moving and projects completed.
  • On Atlantic Restoration’s high-end project there was no hurry, rather a purposeful attention to detail ensuring that each step was properly completed before the next step was undertaken.
  • Super Restoration was immaculate. They stay in their lane. They don’t do any program work. Huge focus on education.
  • She conducts mold inspections for clients prior to real estate purchase.

What are your thoughts on the state of the US restoration industry?

  • Ashley- I see the big question as “Who am I working for? The Insurance Company or the Property Owner”. It difficult to do both
  • Getting paid for your work
  • “Overhead & Profit’’ this is totally alien to us. Both must be built into your charges and you should be paid for this. I know of no other business that does this.

Does the government get very involved in IAQ and restoration?

  • Ashley- Not really in the licencing areas in IAQ & Restoration
  • But they do big time with laws and standards like building/construction, asbestos, lead, OHS. It’s mandated on new commercial construction that the exterior of the building being constructed is encased with scaffolding. So much so, that what was being built isn’t visible until the scaffolding is removed.
  • There is a building trend towards sustainable energy efficient commercial buildings using building ratings systems like Nabers or Leed. With this comes more awareness about IAQ in general.

I see a lot of articles about asbestos issues in Australia why does that seem to be a hot topic?

  • Ashley- Asbestos was used hugely up until the late 80’s and put into everything.
  • Several class actions here heightened public awareness.
  • State governments have set up training and licencing for testing, removal, disposal
  • Penny- We still have to be very aware of asbestos in the older homes, if there has been a storm or fire there is still potential for fibres floating around.


  • I have great concerns about the loss of generational memory in the US especially in fire restoration.
  • Contractors have abdicated calling the shots on projects to following what’s outlined in prescriptive industry standards.
  • I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest when the contractor trusted by the property owner acts as both consultant and remediator on the project. Due to overwhelming dominance by consultants in the IICRC S-520 standard writing process, S-520 is really the “IEP full employment Act”.
  • Why does the same standards organization in our industry want to write the standards for everything, methinks 2 reasons:1) power /industry influence, 2) money.

Pete Consigli

  • Joe Lstiburek, PhD, PE says that every 20 years the generation needs to relearn what the generation before already knew.
  • The origin of Building Science Corporation’s Summer Camp event was to preserve generational memory.
  • In Australia they aren’t as on top of fire restoration as they once were. They have the equipment and chemicals. Insurance companies, restoration contractors and consumers don’t have a real handle on salvageability and money is spent on replacing things that were salvageable.
  • There is a new focus on education in Australia. In June RIA and IAQA are partnering in holding an event in Australia.
  • He dislikes 10%/10% and feels that it is a crutch. He is a strong advocate of net pricing. Only public sector construction work is done with profit and overhead add-ons. Opines that if we got away from 10% and 10% the market would grow faster and endure.
  • It takes more than an ocean to keep us apart.

Z-man signing off

Trivia Question:

Why were the Emu and the Kangaroo chosen to hold the shield on Australia’s coat of arms?

Trivia Answer:

Because neither can walk backwards.