Healthy Home Series: Builder/Architect Net Zero Partnership

Healthy Home Series: Builder/Architect Net Zero Partnership

Relationships are crucial to a seamless homebuilding process, and one builder is leveraging a partnership to offer healthier homes.

TecHome Builder spoke with net zero homebuilder Bright Built Home and architecture firm Kaplan Thompson Architects to get their “hot take” on how they successfully work together.

Kaplan Thompson Architects got its start in 2004 with an interest in green building techniques and LEED certification. This led to the creation of the Bright Built Barn in 2004, which was nationally recognized and focused on the home’s envelope, indoor air quality (IAQ) and sustainability.

The Bright Built Barn led to Kaplan Thompson receiving countless requests for greener homes, and that’s when the architecture firm decided to invest in net zero.  

“We quickly realized there was a tremendous thirst for this kind of building, and then the recession hit, and we got even more interest from people looking to save energy costs,” says Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson and Bright Built Homes. And while Kaplan Thompson didn’t build another home to the same technical specifications during the impending recession, Bright Built Barn started the conversation with clients borrowing concepts and ideas.

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Eventually, with the concept’s popularity, Bright Built Homes was born from Kaplan Thompson. While the two companies operate separately, today, they often work with each other during the architecture and design phases.

Bright Built has constructed or is in the process of constructing 50 net zero homes.

Built Out of Clients’ Green Demands

Bright Built Homes was built out of homebuyer awareness and interest in green building and sustainability, but according to Kaplan the decision to launch Bright Built from Kaplan also came down to budget.

“Bright Built Homes really started by taking some of our Kaplan Thompson clients who wanted these sustainable designs but didn’t have the budget to go full-custom,” says Kaplan. By working with the architecture firm, Bright Built has been able to understand the budget concerns and preferences of their incoming clients. This allows both companies to succeed.

Solar can be added to bring the home closer to net-positive.
Solar can be added to bring the home closer to net positive.

Bright Built has succeeded by carving out a niche among middle income homebuyers, while Kaplan Thompson has found success by attracting higher income homebuyers looking for designs that match their budgets.

Working with an architecture firm has also allowed the builder to be in a sort of early-adopter role when it comes to green, efficient homebuilding. This role has allowed both partners to identify trends before they become demands. According to Kaplan, the builder is seeing more requests from homebuyers looking to go a step further with efficiency with passive homes.

The passive house concept is a rigorous energy-efficiency standard that aims to develop buildings that require extremely small levels of energy to heat and cool the house. The shift toward even higher efficiencies is a key driver in the energy-efficiency market, where green-minded homebuyers are always looking for the next way to conserve and give back.

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Building the Relationship

The Great Diamond is one of nine Bright Built designs homebuyers can choose from.
The Great Diamond is one of nine Bright Built designs homebuyers can choose.

Through collaboration, Kaplan Thompson and Bright Built are able to share techniques and leverage information to better suit their homebuyers. For example, Bright Built works with the modular industry frequently and it has been able to share its knowledge with Kaplan Thompson regarding improving efficiency during construction.

“We believe there is a big push for off-site construction. There used to be a big stigma against the modular, prefab industry, but we really feel like this is going to be the future of homebuilding,” says Kaplan.

And as an architecture firm, Kaplan Thompson has learned a lot from Bright Built on how to overcome cost and marketing challenges when marketing to skeptical homebuyers.

“Green building has allowed us to talk to our clients about costs in a very different way.

We talk about “true costs” and sometimes it’s a paradigm shift. But it really makes a lot of sense to people when they hear it and see that while the initial cost is more expensive, your monthly out-of-pocket costs are much less in a home like this.”

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The partnership between Kaplan Thompson and Bright Built was built out of a sharp eye for homebuyer demands and necessity. But all builders should consider striking a similar partnership with architects in your market, because collaboration offers checks and balances and different perspectives that can lead to increased appeal and improved building techniques.

RELATED: Part 1, Healthy Home Series: Tips for Traditional Builders to Go Healthy

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About The Author

Michael Black is a staff writer and content coordinator at TecHome Builder. He has a particular interest in new solar developments and smart energy systems and is always looking for the next smart home trend to cover. As the youngest member of the TecHome team, Michael brings a passion that keeps the team energized. He also is instrumental in leading our social media efforts.

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