Builder of the Year Acceptance Speech

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.

For us, these are a few of the characteristics of communities and homes that are culturally, environmentally, and economically self sustaining.

The Professional Builder article documents our processes and systems that lead to very strong profitability, so I'm not going to describe any of these tonight.

But, I think every builder in this room would be interested in two highly leveraged humanitarian activities we are involved in because they are a direct outgrowth of being a homebuilder.

Number 1. We are national and local supporters of Home Aid, which was created by the homebuilding industry. Home Aid leverages our contributions with those of our trade partners and other builders to create transitional homeless shelters. Remember, about 65% of the homeless are mothers and their children who have encountered domestic violence or temporary financial difficulty. Through Home Aid, builders and their trade partners have already participated in 80 transitional homeless shelters, and there are about 40 more in process now. We as builders have the unique resources, abilities, and networks to literally solve this problem in our country.

Number 2. We donate the net proceeds from one house sale each year to micro lending in developing countries through HOPE International, an organization founded by a builder for builders. A micro loan is a hand up not a handout.

Every year we donate one lot and our overhead and profit on a house built on that lot. Most of our trade partners donate their labor and materials.

Our first two Hope Houses resulted in a contribution of about $200,000 each when they were sold. In a developing country like the Ukraine, $200,000 generates over 5,000 small micro business loans, which generates about 6,000 jobs, which generates economic livelihood and stability for about 25,000 people - all of that is from one house. Now that is entrepreneurial leveraging beyond par excellance.

It is hard for me to comprehend that one small builder and its trade partners can provide economic revitalization and stability for 25,000 impoverished people each year from one house. Our out of pocket cost as a company is the cost of one lot.

We just completed construction on our third Hope House. This is our Tsunami Hope House. Its numbers will be better than the Ukraine Hope Houses.

You can give $25,000 or $30,000 to the Red Cross for temporary relief. That's good. Or, you can use the leverage of one lousy lot to create long term recovery and economic stability for tens of thousands of people who have been devastated by the Tsunami or some other cultural or natural disaster. That's incredible. All from one lousy, glorious lot!

Tell me where else can Bigelow Homes' work affect the lives of tens of thousands of people?

There are not words to express the pure joy and satisfaction that our leaders and employees receive from participating in HomeAid and HOPE International.

In closing, we in the homebuilding industry have a greater responsibility and opportunity then any other industry because we design and build most of the built environment. How we develop and build affects future generations. We must not view our houses and developments as market commodities whose primary purpose is to make money. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to build homes and communities that once again are true to human scale and human pace and that are culturally and environmentally sustaining to our great, great, great, great, great grandchildren.

Finally, I would be untrue to myself if I did not tell you what drives me personally. The Bible has been proven to be historically reliable and true. It tells me that God made me on purpose for a purpose, which can only be fulfilled by living in a loving, vital relationship with Jesus. According to the Bible, God's three great purposes for me are:
to love God,
to love my neighbor, and
to care for the garden.

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