Gregor Homes Ltd.: Custom-crafting a Green Building Niche

Summer 2010 - James Bazely was not a founder of Gregor Homes Ltd. – a custom-home builder operating in and around Barrie, Ontario – but he has been with the company for more than 20 years. And, after a final transaction in January of 2009, Bazely became the company’s owner and president. “I was an employee prior to purchasing the company. There was a group of employees that bought it and then I bought them out. Now we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2011 and we’re going to do something grandiose,” Bazely says.

Grandiose is something Gregor Homes can handle, as it offers complex and beautiful detailing. For the past three decades Gregor Homes has been building in Simcoe County, and it has expanded beyond its traditional work in single-family homes. Gregor Homes now includes additional services through subsidiaries operating as two separate entities: Outdoor Living Landscapes plus Renovations and Additions by Gregor Homes. The company is equipped to walk buyers through any concept to suit personal tastes and needs, whether varying the number of bedrooms to upgrading flooring to planning a dream kitchen.

Visiting the company’s website allows prospective homeowners to peruse through sketches and floor plans for endlessly adaptable home styles, exhibited by 11 bungalows and seven two-storey models available in Alcona, and three bungalows plus three two-storey models in Pineview and Carson Ridge Estates. From these customers can launch a conversation as to what’s possible, and if they visit the Gregor Homes sales office in Midland or Midhurst they will experience an actual model home.

Maintaining Quality

In addition to its comprehensive, award-winning range of services, Bazely attributes Gregor Homes’ success to its quality control. “We’re unique because through the boom we restricted our numbers to 50 units per year in order to maintain consistency and customer service. Obviously, those numbers are down a little bit now with the market being what it is,” he says.

In addition to its consciously controlled project number, Bazely is proud of the company’s involvement in the green movement. “The other thing that sets us apart is we are an Energy Star builder and that’s standard construction for us. We’ve built a GreenHouse-certified home and LEED-certified home, just so that we could gain the experience in it,” says Bazely.

From its commitment to green construction, Gregor Homes’ buildings are 30- to 40-percent more energy efficient than homes built to Ontario Building Code standards’ minimum requirements. But they don’t sacrifice the luxury upgrades, what Gregor Homes considers “standards,” including brick exteriors, fully sodded lots and oversized garages.

Still, even with these added features, Gregor Homes faces recent challenges. “The biggest challenge is land availability in Barrie. So what we’ve done is, with many others, lobbied the government to expand the boundaries of Barrie. That was successful, so we will have more land available within five years. Couple that with the economy and those are the biggest challenges we’ve had,” says Bazely.

While Gregor Homes can't control certain factors of the industry, what the company can do is maintain its high standards of quality through its concentrated in-house efforts and its conscientious partnerships. “We have a large staff of 27, and some of them work in landscape, some work in renovation, and we still have quite a few in new homes. We do our own back framing, customizing, and other certain things, while we typically subcontract foundations, electrical, plumbing, framing, shingling, brick stone and exterior finishes,” Bazely explains.

Managing its subcontractors has “not been an issue. We have trades that have been working with us for more than 20 years,” Bazely says proudly.

Building Energy-efficient Communities

Currently, Gregor Homes and its subcontractors are building several infills in the city of Barrie and subdivisions in Alcona, Springwater and Midland. “Our most recent project is an estate subdivision near Midland, called Pineview subdivision, where we just had a ribbon cutting ceremony for a LEED-certified model home,” says Bazely. “It's LEED Silver … and there are 45 lots in the subdivision. I would say it will be three to four years until it’s completed,” says Bazely.

Prior to the Pineview subdivision Gregor Homes build its GreenHouse-certified home. “GreenHouse is Energy Star on steroids,” Bazely explains jokingly. “It deals with water conservation, and we have solar components in that house, as well as a stormwater recovery system. Those houses are certainly the newest and greatest in green technology.”

While some homeowners are impressed and interested in green construction, others are not, which poses a challenge to Gregor Homes. “Everyone wants to know what the payback is. Through this LEED-certified model home we know now what it costs to build it, and we should be able to monitor it and find out what it costs to heat and cool it, too. Then we will have hardcore numbers,” Bazely says. “If you do a survey of everyone in Ontario, they’re all interested in green initiatives, many would say they would pay for it, but when it comes time to cut a check, it’s a different story. It’s a slow process to continually educate the consumer on what’s the right thing to do and economically viable thing to do. These figures will help.”

As for future work, Bazely expects it to be “status quo for a while. We have to move the product we have and see if we can sell any LEED-certified homes,” he explains. Right now the economy is Bazely’s biggest concern. “I’m president of the Ontario Home Builders Association as well, so there’s lots of negotiating and meeting with political powers to make sure the industry is taken care of,” he says.

Looking toward the future, “we’d like to continue to grow the landscape and renovation divisions, and we’d like to build more multifamily products,” Bazely shares.

With this passionate, entrepreneurial spirit guiding the company, Gregor Homes Ltd. will certainly match its growth and green technology goals in the near future, building the finest, environmentally conscious houses that customers can make into homes.