1. Why is sustainability such a core component of the company’s philosophies and how have your sustainable practices evolved over time?
When Dennis Allen started building in the 1970s, it was shortly after the first oil shortage. During that time, building energy efficient homes using passive solar strategies to heat and cool them, was his passion. That in conjunction with living in Santa Barbara in the early ’80s – known as the “the birthplace of the modern environmental movement” – inspired Dennis to start the company with a commitment to building homes with a minimal environmental footprint. Over the years, Dennis made it a priority to learn about and incorporate the latest in green building strategies into the way we build homes, including alternatives to traditional stick built homes; wise use of durable, sustainable building materials; reducing toxins and improving indoor air quality and the health of our clients; conserving water within the home and the landscape; construction waste management; and more. As a company, our goal is to continue to be innovative and stay on top of the latest sustainable building practices. We embrace sustainable building and aim to share this knowledge with our clients and the architects we work with. It is what sets us apart from our competition.
2. What is the most memorable project you’ve worked on and why?
We have so many projects that are memorable, whether it was rebuilding homes for over 25 clients who lost their home in local wildfires or constructing and shipping a fully furnished pre-built home to a family in Bay St Louis Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina or helping a young couple remodel their very first home. Building is about making relationships and fulfilling people’s dreams. Each project is unique and that’s what makes it so fun.
However, one project that really stands out was working with Bryan Cranston (the actor) to build his beach house in Ventura County. This project is memorable because Bryan was so passionate about making his home as sustainable as possible – with the goal of obtaining both LEED Platinum Home and Passive House certifications. We were able to achieve the LEED Platinum rating, but not the Passive House certification – due to the fact that the entire southern face of the first floor was a sliding glass door that wouldn’t seal tightly enough. We were also introduced to a number of new products and technologies during the course of the project. Bryan and his wife were very involved in the design and construction of the home, which made it an enjoyable process. I also had the opportunity to be a part of a panel with Bryan Cranston to talk about the vision, implementation and results of the project at two different Dwell on Design shows in Los Angeles. It was a great experience.
3. Tell us about your involvement in the Passive House market.
Passive House promotes homes that actually perform at the highest levels of energy efficiency. Not just on paper, but in reality. As a result, Allen Construction has been extremely interested in the Passive House market. The standards are very rigorous, but refreshing with its simple, hard-metric standards, from setting limits on the number of BTU’s a home uses to how airtight it can be. We have completed two Passive House projects. One of them was an affordable housing project for Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County and the first multifamily home to achieve Passive House in Southern California. We are currently working with more clients who are interested in achieving the Passive House standard.
4. What are some of the emerging innovations in sustainable building you hope to see go mainstream?
One of the emerging innovations in sustainable building we are excited about is Zero Net Energy (ZNE). By 2020, all new homes in California will be required to produce as much energy as they consume. With that deadline less than three years away, we are learning what it takes to build a Zero Net Energy home with the goal of achieving that standard well ahead of time for the homes we build. Based on our field experience, we are also helping our architect partners meet the challenge of designing a Zero Net Energy home by outlining the most cost effective, energy efficiency strategies and building techniques. Our goal is to help drive the industry towards successful implementation of Zero Net Energy.
5. What is the average amount of time it takes to complete a home from beginning to end?
That is difficult to answer. The length of time a project takes depends on whether you are talking about building a new home or completing a remodel. It also depends on the size of the project. The quickest project we have executed, was a two month completion of a small kitchen remodel. We also worked on a 10,000 sq. ft. remodel of an entire house that took over two years. Building a new home can run anywhere from ten months to three years, again based on the project’s size and complexity.
6. What are some of the ways the Allen Construction team gets to know its clients and understand their goals and wishes?
Whether you are building someone’s new home or remodeling an existing one, as the builder we become an integral part of our clients’ lives. Our clients are making a huge investment of time, money and emotions and we are responsible for guiding them through a very challenging experience. We are invading and reshaping their private space, and as a result have to earn their trust.
The best way for our team to get to know our clients is to listen to them. To ask lots of questions and listen to the answers that come back, either directly or indirectly. What is motivating them to start their construction project? What are their dreams for their home? How does your client make decisions? And is that an easy or hard thing for them to do? What are their fears related to the project (e.g., cost, time, so many decisions, etc.)? Have they ever been involved in a construction project before? We need to understand all of these components of our clients in order for the project to be a success.
It’s always fun when you get to spend time with the client outside of the construction project – whether that having dinner out, sharing an afternoon of sailing, or sitting at the end of the day over a glass of wine.
7. Which environmentally conscious celebrities would you love to design a dream home for?