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.
Editorial Director Paul Deffenbaugh Explains the Selection Behind the 2010 Builder of the Year, Ideal Homes
There is a scene in the eminently forgettable Robert Redford movie, “Jeremiah Johnson,” that is imminently memorable. When Johnson moves to the Rockies to escape memories of the Mexican-American War, he encounters a wily old mountain man who takes him under his wing. In this scene, the mountain man presses Johnson on his wilderness abilities by asking him, “You know how to skin griz?” Johnson assures him he can handle the job. Moments later, after much yellin' and whoopin,' the wily Mountain Man delivers to the snow-bound log cabin a very live, angry Grizzly bear. Jumping out the window, he yells at Johnson who is still in the cabin, “Skin that one, pilgrim, and I'll get you another.” Ah, the wacky fun of Mountain Man humor.
What's this got to do with home building? When the sales staff starts selling energy efficiency, they are delivering a live, angry bear to the production staff to skin. Energy efficient homes require so much tighter control over the production process that just handing off the requirements of the construction to the production staff will not get the job done. There need to be other controls in place, such as training and strong relations with the trades.
The Professional Builder Builder of the Year, Ideal Homes of Norman, Okla., has been constructing energy efficient homes for nearly two decades. What began as a simple differentiator of putting in SEER 10 systems against the competition's SEER 8, has grown into a sophisticated construction process that includes clear scopes of work, and strong support and communication for the trades doing the work. The insulation contractor knows exactly what and how to insulate the home according to Ideal Homes standards. They have spent countless resources and hours over many years to get to the point where the building envelopes are tight and tidy.
Home builders who can deliver energy-efficient homes have a huge competitive advantage.
What I see happening in the industry today is that the demand for energy efficiency is increasing and home builders who have been delivering the goods for years, such as Ideal Homes, have a huge competitive advantage. That edge comes at a time when builders are desperate for any bit of sparkle to catch a buyer's eye. The sparkle of energy-efficient housing though, doesn't just fall out of the sky over night.
Developing the systems, writing the detailed scopes of work, learning how to sell the product, all require years of development to ensure success. At a time when we desperately need to enact these changes in our industry, we need leading companies such as the wily Mountain Men of Ideal Homes to help show the way.