Southern Green Builders
While business is booming, the flooded Houston residential market is no easy one to stay afloat in for area homebuilders. Competing with the energy industry for labor and striving to meet all-time high buyer demand means sink or swim for many companies. However, that is not the case for custom contractor Southern Green Builders (SGB).
With more than 20 years of collective building experience between founding partners Drew Ondrey, Aaron Davis and Sam Seidel, SGB has emerged as the city’s premier custom homebuilder and award-winning historic renovator. In fact, SGB is growing so rapidly that the company recently ranked No. 284 on Inc. Magazine’s annual 500, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.
The list represents a comprehensive look at one of the most important segments of the economy – America’s independent entrepreneurs; of which Ondrey, Davis and Seidel are a prime example.
“We are honored to be named among the 500 fastest growing companies in America,” shares Seidel, head of business development for SGB and sister company GSD Construction (GSD). “We’ve experienced exponential growth of more than 1,610 percent within the past few years.”
A friendly start
While much of that growth can be attributed to an exceptional economy and housing market in Houston, Seidel says its time-honored building traditions, integrity, high-quality craftsmanship, professional service and timely completions that set SGB out in the crowd. Building on collective experience, the three partners and college friends formed SGB in 2009.
“We all graduated from Texas A&M together,” tells Seidel. “Drew and Aaron were working for a production homebuilder in 2007 after Hurricane Ike came through. They did residential and commercial repair work under the name General Structural Development; that was effectively the start of both companies simultaneously.”
In 2009, Seidel ran into his two college friends at a friend’s wedding. “We started talking about the Houston market and a vision to create two separate companies, but GSD needed a business development guy,” he recalls.
Seidel was the man for the job; so he rented his Dallas home and immediately moved to Houston where he slept on Davis’ couch. “We knew the insurance claim work after the hurricane was going to dry up and it was mid-recession,” he says. “In 2009, we decided to establish SGB and GSD as individual entities focusing on the commercial and residential market.”
Reaching new heights
With industry know-how and a little bit of luck, the partners went to work to establish SGB in the crowded residential market. “Our first sizable project was in the Heights, a great, livable neighborhood where a lot of working-class people made home when the city started,” recalls Seidel. “These 1,200-square-foot bungalow-type homes were constructed in the early stages of Houston, so they’re considered part of the historic market.”
Developing this real estate area turned out to be a gold mine for SGB. “It sold very quickly as we finished the development – the neighborhood just took off,” recounts Seidel. “That is one reason for our rapid growth.”
Seidel adds another considerable factor in SGB’s consistent progression is catering to the custom market. “We do remodels, quick deliveries and spec homebuilding, but we have special teams complete focused on custom building,” he explains. “Our approach to construction is far more advanced than our competition, as well.”
“Some of our competitors are still using fax machines,” he compares. “SGB uses software systems that enable us to operate paperless. Our organization and documentation allow us to make quick and accurate decisions – that’s what has really fueled our growth.”
Combating high energy bills
Buyers today are looking for a more complete residence from an energy standpoint and SGB is also filling that need. “As native Texans, we recognized that the climate in Houston can equate to sky-high energy bills, but we want to show homeowners it doesn’t have to be this way,” says Seidel.
SGB is committed to keeping pace with the latest advances in green technology. “We recommend features that reduce your impact on the environment and give you the greatest return on your investment,” says Seidel. This includes everything from improved insulation to LED lighting, radiant barrier heat and tank less water heaters and more up to date mechanical systems. A prime example of SGB’s high performance homes is the company’s Porch Street on Adele development. “Our goal was to create high energy efficiency homes with low maintenance,” adds Seidel.
SGB’s commitment to high-tech delivery and project management coupled with custom, higher performing homes has given the company a leg up in a saturated residential market. “We were recently named No. 1 in the city on the Houston Business Journal’s Fast 100 Companies list,” reveals Seidel.
Still, survival isn’t easy. “There’s the challenge of acquiring land when there’s less available,” says Seidel. “The demand for homes is high and there are simply not enough lots to keep up with the demand.”
Yet Southern Green Builders has risen to the top in a survival of the fittest, cut-throat market by focusing on superior project management, delivery and exceptional performance.
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