MyGreenBuildings (MGB) is a general contractor specializing in sustainable construction projects out of a single office in Sarasota, Fla. “We opened our doors in 2006,” says Stephen Ellis, cofounder of MGB. “The economy at the time was the worst it has been here in a very long time, but here we are – and we’re still growing.”
Ellis and Grant Castilow, the other cofounder of MGB, are keeping the company on track, with a little help. MGB’s highly experienced team of 11 boasts several LEED Accredited Professionals, ensuring the small crew is capable of providing timely, high-efficiency and LEED-certified projects of varying sizes and specifications. The team specializes in managing the construction of energy-efficient structures, mainly residential and commercial buildings.
All of the labor is subbed out to qualified contractors, many of which are repeat partners for MGB projects. “We work with the top architect on each project,” says Ellis. “We do the scheduling, sourcing, purchasing, project management and quality control. We operate primarily as the general contractor on these projects.”
Building a Business
Ellis grew up in the construction industry and worked with other contractors for years before deciding to branch out and offer something different. “My partner and I got together after I sold a prior company, in a different industry, which I had run from 1994 until 2006,” Ellis elaborates. “I wanted to start a new business. My father was the founder of the largest publicly traded development company of the 1970s, North American Development. The company used to take run-down old structures and rebuild them into artist’s lofts, residential buildings and low-income housing.
“My brother has been building custom homes up in Vermont for over 30 years,” continues Ellis. “I’ve been in and around the business for a long time, and when I moved from Boston to Florida I was buying properties and hiring contractors. I hired, and fired, many different builders in Sarasota. One day I hired Grant Castilow and his team, who constructed the first green-certified rebuilt home in Florida.”
After the projects success, Ellis decided to found his new business with Castilow. MGB began performing renovations and retrofits, which grew to new construction. Soon after the partners created a commercial division, and the company has been building upon snowballing successes since its inception.
The team also contributed to a green roof project at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and has worked on projects with the local Florida House Committee. The team’s work has not gone unnoticed, as MGB was highlighted in Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 List in both 2011 and 2012. MGB also achieved a small business award through the local Chamber of Commerce.
The team is involved in several local initiatives to improve the quality of living for local families and children, therefore was awarded the Sarasota EDC for MGB’s entrepreneurial success and community involvement. The company also teamed up with the Warren Backpack Program, helping children bring home healthy meals through the efforts of local elementary schools. The company also contributes money and human resources to a variety of local 501(c)(3) resources and causes through MGB’s Community Support for Local Resources (CSLR) program. The company recently announced a CSLR version 2.0, where Ellis and Castilow will pay each employee one day per month to volunteer in the community for a desired cause.
A Diverse Project Portfolio
It is clear that MGB has made a green impact in the industry, and the team doesn’t plan to slow down. MGB has completed new construction and retrofit projects all over the region, from luxury beach houses to medical offices. “We recently finished a fast-track, design-build project,” says Ellis. “We did 40,000 square feet in three months.” The team completed the rapid-paced project in early fall 2012, which consisted of a new corporate headquarters for Enzymedica, a digestive health specialties company in nearby Venice.
Such an ambitious undertaking was aided by a partnership with trusted strategic partner Del Vescovo Design Group, a full-service detail-oriented architecture and interior design consultancy firm. The group’s principal, Timothy Del Vescovo, led the firm’s design-build relationship with MGB, which flourished thanks to continually open lines of communication between the design team and the contractor from the very outset of the competitively priced, aggressively enacted project.
“Our LEED-certified projects really set us apart from the competition,” says Ellis. The team’s projects have been recognized for green features and, as Ellis says, “Were even awarded the lofty position of most sustainable buildings in the state.”
“We’re doing a lot of high-end building in our residential division,” Ellis continues. “Folks who buy into what we do want something unique and utterly custom, and [they] don’t want to build McMansions. So we’re constructing higher quality, superior performance custom homes in a broad mix of styles, which are built for a coastal environment, either directly on or near the water.”
Ellis and his team are seeing greater geographic reach than when the company started, and he hopes to continue on that trend. “We want to take smaller custom builders across the country and help them rebrand,” Ellis explains. “We’re not talking about a franchise, but a network where we can share clients back and forth. We’re working on planting our flag in other parts of the country.”
Like most companies in the construction industry, MGB is still dealing with obstacles left by the recent recession. “Especially with green building, there’s a lot of downward price pressure,” says Ellis. “There are lots of builders trying to make ends meet by selling clients on unrealistic expectations. We don’t play that game. We focus on value and longevity instead of just price. We’re selling multigenerational homes that will last a lifetime. They’re fortified for the storms we face in this region, but we use healthy materials to build a good living space.”
Quality is key, and MGB offers value to customers on every project in which the team embarks. In return, many of MGB’s clients have offered referrals, and commercial clients return for more work, often retrofits and tenant improvements. Ellis and his team are helping to move sustainable construction toward greater popularity. MGB packs environmentally friendly techniques into a chic and sought after package, making MyGreenBuildings not only one of the fastest-growing general contractors in Florida, but in the United States.
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