More than a year after an F5 tornado ripped through Pratt City, residents are starting to see more shades of “green” emerge across the landscape than they might otherwise expect. Yet amid the many companies working to re-develop Pratt City, Innovative Home Builders (IHB) stands apart for its strong commitment to building homes that are not only affordable, but also sustainable, energy efficient, and green in almost every way imaginable.
It’s been said that from tragedy, often comes opportunity. Dirk Forbes, CEO and President of Innovative Home Builders, says he’s choosing to look at the situation in Pratt City as chance to bring a more sustainable way of life to an entire community. “It’s the ideal platform to help Birmingham become more involved in the green movement.” In the days after Pratt City was devastated so badly, Forbes says it became clear to him that rebuilding this community needed to become a huge priority. Yet, for him, it meant much more than just lending a hand with rebuilding efforts, it also meant doing so by utilizing the most innovative and green building practices available. “We want to be a part of doing something great for this community,” says Forbes. “We’re working with residents to understand their needs, and we’re reaching far to make sure we deliver that.” IHB has since committed to building more than 20 LEED certified homes for residents in Pratt City.
IHB aims to integrate proven, cost-effective Green Building practices into area home construction efforts. The company’s Pratt City Project is an ideal example of that implementation. Another equally important goal for Forbes and his company is to help stimulate the local economy and to reduce unemployment. To do this, IHB and its partners have set aside time and funding to actually teach green building skills to many of Pratt City’s unemployed laborers, which is helping to provide ample job opportunities in the future. “We’re seeking to help create a workforce made of individuals who may have been unemployed for a while,” explains Forbes. “We’re training people who have little to no experience in construction, and they’re starting out building green. They won’t know any other way to do it.”
He believes many new builders don’t try to make the leap from traditional home construction to green building because it’s often challenging to visualize the benefits of the unknown. “Our goal is to step out and lead the frontier in this area of building green to the point where a homeowner can actually see the value associated with what we do. We want to continue improving the process that many other green builders out there have already worked hard to put into place.” Forbes says the combination of green building practices and green products IHB installs in homes aim to accomplish three primary benefits for the homeowner:
- products with higher efficiency
- reduced utility bills
- maintained reduction in overall annual costs associated with running a home
Forbes says IHB works hard to bring homeowners energy efficiency products, building materials and practices in an affordable manner. He adds, however, that he’d like to see more of this available to everyone across the board. “The whole concept for us is to take the company to the next level of construction-which is sustainability.”
The 1471 sq.ft LEED certified homes built for the Pratt City Project use a variety of recycled building materials, and among the wide range of green amenities, feature Energy Star rated appliances, tank-less water heaters, and high-efficiency air conditioning systems. Future Pratt City Project homeowners can also expect to benefit from savings related to energy-efficient windows and R-30 ceiling insulation, which is proven to significantly impact comfort and costs associated with home heating and cooling.
Forbes holds an MBA and a Masters degree in Engineering with a concentration in construction management. “I knew that before I could succeed in this business, I had to lay a strong foundation for myself,” he says regarding the years he spent gaining valuable education and life experience. The culmination has provided him with an ideal skill set to lead IHB, yet, you won’t find him managing his team from behind a desk. Forbes’ true passion remains working on-site, side by side with his construction crew. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve always liked building things,” he says. “I was always taking things apart and rebuilding them.”
He admits that passion can often drive him to become too involved in his work. In fact, he jokes about the many times he’s found himself working on a house all through the night. “I’m learning to create a good balance though,” he says.
Forbes talks about this project in terms of an idea coming to life, one that some people weren’t sure would materialize. “It’s great to take a chance on something when others may have doubted what we’re doing. Now to see that this isn’t all just an idea anymore, it’s actually being implemented. It’s really exciting.”
On Saturday, September 8th, in partnership with the City of Birmingham and Alagasco, Innovative Home Builders (IHB) will showcase the first of more than 20 single family LEED Certified homes to be built as part of its Pratt City Project. The 2012 Pratt City Green Home Experience, will include free residential energy and rainwater barrel workshops, along with food, music, and more. Registered visitors will also have the opportunity to win an Energy Star television, and other prizes.
Written by Kate Agliata