Builder of the Year Acceptance Speech

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Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability Professional Builder's 2005 Builder of the Year Award Presentation, National Association of Home Builders 2005 International Builders' Show - January 12, 2005

We thank Professional Builder Magazine. We thank Heather McCune, Bill Lurz and Laura Butalla for such a straightforward presentation of who we are. You guys are really great writers.

Thank you, Jamie and Scott - I can think of no greater joy than spending my days working with my sons.

Thank you, Shari and Becky, my daughters. They are home schooling the next generation of Bigelow Homes' leaders, who are all here this evening.

Thank you, Nancy, without you there would be no children or grandchildren.

Thanks to our Leadership Team. Most of us have worked together for more than 10 years. We have failed and flourished together. We trust each other. Our leadership team consists of our vice presidents who function as a Board of Directors. We make all major decisions consensually as a team on Thursday mornings. Thank you Jim, Tony, David and Mike.

Thanks to our Employees. We respect and accept each other in all our diversity. Every employee (no matter where they work) - not just every manager - every employee has a standing invitation to lunch at the main office every Wednesday. We have a great time harassing each other, celebrating birthdays and just enjoying each other's company. All of our employees, their spouses, and their children are flying to Disney World tomorrow to celebrate this award for four days. That's what champions do, right - celebrate at Disney World. So our employees and their families really want to thank Professional Builder.

We thank our consultants: Lee Evans, Martin Freedland, Chuck Shinn, Joe Lstiburek, Scott Sedam, John Woodland, Kevin Pfeifer, Carson Looney and many others. Good consultants level the playing field for a small builder.

About five years ago we were invited to join the National Benchmark Group by Bernie Glieberman and John Osborne. Our performance and profits have risen dramatically as a result of sharing best practices in this group. So we thank the National Benchmark Group.

Finally, we are the recipients of 30 years of wisdom of builders around the country - many are in this room tonight. Many are past Builders of the Year. So we say thanks to you. I only hope that we can give back as much to our industry as we have received.

We have been known as environmentalists since we started guaranteeing heating costs on every house we built in the late 70's.

In the late 80's, we came to realize that we could not have environmental sustainability without cultural sustainability - the two are Siamese twins.

The best snapshot I can give you of a community that is culturally sustaining is found in the Bible where the Jewish prophet Zechariah says:
Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets and squares - each with cane in hand because of his age. And the city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.

That, by the way, is a realistic picture of HomeTown. We have all ages of people, and children can play throughout HomeTown because the streets are safe - cars can't go faster than about 15mph.

Post World War II development patterns emphasizing automobile speed and convenience have dehumanized the public realm and made residential streets unsafe for children.

Christopher Alexander, in Pattern Language, taught us that there are archetypal spatial patterns deeply rooted in nature and human nature that are timeless. These patterns are based on human scale and human pace, and when a plethora of these patterns are used in the built environment, they create what Alexander calls "profound, dense space" which is ennobling and uplifting to the human spirit.

In HomeTown Aurora we have used over 80 patterns from Pattern Language. We have also used human scaled and human paced patterns from child friendly design, co-housing, and Traditional Neighborhood Design.

About the only post WWII patterns we use in HomeTown are Traffic Calming techniques to make our streets pedestrian friendly and child safe.

Bigelow Homes has gone back to building communities like pre World War II Midwestern towns in which the built environment encourages neighborliness and a vibrant civic life.

In Midwestern towns, every economic strata lived in town from the janitor to the banker. In HomeTown we have $150,000 to $300,000 homes on the same street in the same neighborhood.

In Midwestern towns, the entire town was a "natural prop for spontaneous play for kids." Children were not banished to chain-link, fenced in unimaginative playgrounds that transform play into physical activity devoid of fantasy and experimentation. All of HomeTown is usable as a playground.

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