Founded in 1999 by Ken Smith and Rod Spence, Banister Homes has weathered two recessions as a custom homebuilder and remodeler with ingenuity and innovation. Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Banister is a family-run business that has set itself apart from the competition by utilizing new methods and materials, such as spray foam insulation, low-VOC paint and sealed crawlspaces. “Before LEED took the forefront of green building protocol, we tried a few programs such as Healthy Built Homes and EarthCraft House,” says Smith. “We landed a few jobs with people that were passionate about green building and that was really what sustained us through the recession and helped us to thrive.”
Through this process, Banister learned what methods and systems provided homeowners with the most value with their investments. In 2005, Banister began building third-party-verified, certified green homes under the NC State University Solar Center Healthy Built Homes program. “An advantage that we gained through the recession was the ability to show people that not only can they have a beautiful home that is in the typical marketplace, but that it can also be environmentally friendly and energy and water efficient,” says Kathy Spence, Director of marketing and sustainability for Banister.
Setting the bar
By taking the time to learn what works best in sustainable building practices, Banister has set an example of how to approach a client’s specifications for a green home. “If we had just dove in to green building without taking the proper steps, we might not have done it correctly,” says Kathy. “A house is a system and having that systemwide approach is what ensures that we do it properly.”
Since LEED has become a standard of measurement in sustainable building, Banister has become dedicated to building LEED homes. The company completed the first LEED for Homes house in Charlotte. By specializing in the creation of custom, green homes designed to meet the specifications and vision of its clients, Banister has incorporated the use of environmentally friendly products and features, including salvaged fixtures, recycled wood, marble and granite from historic estates, custom lighting and individually designed custom kitchens.
In the green building industry, Kathy says that one of the biggest challenges is convincing customers that a green home is actually well-built with high-quality materials. “Many people have the fear that because a house is green it must be not be built that well,” she says. “Most of our homes have a six-year return on investment for the upfront cost of going green.”
A majority of Banister’s business relies on referrals and word-of-mouth throughout the community. With a booming market in Charlotte, Banister completes between two and four spec projects per year while supplementing its revenue with additions, renovations and remodels. “The smaller projects that we do are often for a customer that wants us to come back and do some work on their home that we have previously built for them,” says Smith.
From start to finish
With experience in project management at his previous job for a local utility, Smith was inspired to enter the general contracting business after building his first home for him and his family. Before building the house, Smith enrolled in a course at the local community college in order to pass the general contractor’s licensing exam. “After completing it, my wife suggested that I call my brother-in-law and ask him if he was interested in starting a business,” he recalls. “He was reluctant at first, but ultimately decided to get on board. Our wives were very supportive while we got the business up and running and now 17 years later they work with us.”
In the residential market, Banister builds homes in the $750,000 to $1 million price range. Sticking to this sector allows the company to use and reuse templates and blueprints for the design of many of its homes. “We have a plan that we have built over 25 houses from,” says Smith. “It’s a rectangle 36-foot by 45-foot box. We’re able to still make modifications to it though, so it still looks different every time we build it.”
With the residential market in Charlotte on the rise, Banister shows no signs of slowing down. With the latest designs and materials, the highest energy-efficiency standards and exemplary construction standards, Banister Homes has the team in place to establish a scope of work to plan, build and complete an extensive home project on time and on budget.
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