Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Todd Shraiberg, project manager for HousingZone, taught me the word stickiness, among many other things useful. Stickiness in his world is the equivalent to readership in mine.
Todd Shraiberg, project manager for HousingZone, taught me the word stickiness, among many other things useful. Stickiness in his world is the equivalent to readership in mine. It is a shorthand term that describes how useful a Web site is and thus how much time users spend on it.
Stickiness seems to me the perfect term to apply to Steve Bauman, developer/builder of The Villas at Mia Tia Circle in Austin, Texas, the project explained in this month’s cover feature. While this unique development and its extraordinary homes certainly have a lot of lessons for other builders, Bauman’s most remarkable achievement is his stickiness. He had an idea on how to build communities and how to build homes that few around him believed were viable. Even those in his corner challenged what he believed was achievable.
Through it all Bauman stuck to his beliefs and his vision. He believed in the long-term value — both economic and aesthetic — of preserving the natural features of the site. He held firm that it is possible to design and build a house — even in Austin — that wouldn’t require mechanical cooling every day during the hot Texas summers. He never doubted that he could fashion a comfortable home interior that is pleasing to the eye and free of the gases, dust and moisture that cause respiratory illness for more and more Americans each year.
When there were no bankers or builders, Bauman stuck to his mission. After 40 noes from lenders, he kept presenting until he finally got a yes. He didn’t fare as well with builders — no one ever said yes to building the homes he designed — so he took on the role.
Now, in return for this stickiness, for his unwavering belief in his vision, Steve Bauman can point to a community as proof that another way of building is possible — and profitable. In fact, Bauman’s company, The Millennia Group, just received Austin’s highest environmental award “in recognition of outstanding environmental service” for its accomplishments at Mia Tia Circle. It is the first time this award has been given to a residential developer.
The story of Steve Bauman, of The Millennia Group and of Mia Tia Circle is unique in some ways and so common in others. The building science embedded in the villas at Mia Tia Circle is a departure for most builders, but Bauman’s belief is really the story of green builders and green building.
The early practitioners believed in their cause long before the rest of the residential construction industry paid them any heed. They knew their construction methods, designs, product choices and land-development practices weren’t the only things sustainable; their concept was as well. In the face of an industry that at best ignored them and at worst mocked them, these developers, builders and architects stuck to it. One by one they developed lots, designed homes and built houses that challenged convention. They educated every buyer not on green building but on the benefits of the same: durable construction, lower energy costs and better indoor air quality, to name just a few.
When change occurs one home at a time, it is hard to stick with an idea, to stay enthused. But in doing so these green builders have changed the dialogue for the industry. To buyers, sustainable construction is synonymous with quality-built homes. To planning commissions and zoning boards, green building and development are an antidote to sprawl.
To those developers and builders who paid no heed to the message of those early adapters, it is time to listen. The lessons they offer — gleaned from years of learning the hard way — are more than just sound building science, good environmental stewardship, efficient design and effective land use. Theirs is a story of perseverance, of believing in an idea so passionately that staying the course is the only option. Theirs is a tale of obstacles stared down, hurdles overcome and ultimately one of success.