For this year’s Women’s History Month, EEBA invited three knowledgeable women: founder of Younger Homes Danielle Younger, co-owner and Marketing Director of Lifestyle Homes, Karen Kicinski, and co-founder of Charis Homes, Glenna Wilson, to share with us how they entered the sustainable building industry. Following a discussion about how the industry has impacted them and how they’ve impacted the industry in return, they also discussed the sustainable technologies and innovations they have implemented and provide advice for women looking to enter the residential construction industry.
In this month's feature, we chose to highlight these three women to recognize the countless women that work courageously to advance equality and opportunities for women in the United States.
Aaron Smith: Tell us about the most challenging and rewarding aspects of day-to-day operations in this industry. In what ways do you feel you uniquely meet those challenges?
Karen Kicinski: The biggest challenge day to day is managing customer expectations. Home building is a long process, and we live in a time when instant gratification is expected. Something women might be a little bit better at is communication and understanding that customers need you to level with them.
Glenna Wilson: As we’ve grown, we’ve needed to add more trade partners and educate them on how we do things. For instance, the other day tape was coming off and this guy offered to just staple it, and my reaction was “No, no, no”. I then realized that the Lumber company sent the wrong tape but it’s important that we do not build to the minimum code. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that everyone buys into the vision of the company, understands our core values, and stays within that high standard of excellence. My dad always told me that “you never have to apologize for the quality and that the zero energy ready builders are 1% of the country and we build the best houses in the nation”.
Danielle Younger: As a business owner and as a woman I believe we are very good at establishing values, but the challenge is maintaining them. At Younger Homes, we have those values written on our walls so everyone can see them. We’re humble, we’re set apart, we’re servants, we’re creative, and we put God and family first. Thankfully we have employees that uphold those values.
AS: Are you able to find subcontractors who are women? Do you try and bring women into these new roles?
DY: The women on our team have been the most loyal and they’ve also been the ones we’ve trained into our team. I believe that it helped that we were able to create an environment where they could thrive. They were able to learn to be themselves, to be vulnerable, and to ask questions. Also, just have faith that even if someone like me, like Glenna, like Karen, didn’t have industry knowledge but we learned.
KK: With our production and sales team, we have quite a few women on our team. Some have started in one position and have grown into others. Also, our electrician and garage companies are women-owned companies.
GW: I agree with Karen and Danielle. You’re only as good as your trade partners and your team members.
AS: What areas in the industry do you believe need innovation?
KK: In Florida, we use a lot of concrete. We build a lot of houses with stem walls for when it floods. But as we head toward carbon neutrality, I wonder what innovation can be done in the way of carbon neutrality and concrete? I know there are some companies such as Cemex, but what can be done that can be trusted by homeowners and in turn is also carbon-neutral?
GW: We’re focusing on the Indoor air, adding ERVs, and adding in the Brome overture systems installed. You cannot fix human behavior so I’m trying to get people to use induction stovetops or electric, but this is a large natural gas area, so I can’t control that they’ll turn on the range hood. So, with the overture system, it will detect when they’re cooking and will turn on automatically, and when they’re showering it will help mitigate the humidity in the home. Lastly, if you have a large group over, the air exchange will occur more often allowing fresh air to enter. We are also looking for products with low VOC, the insulated concrete and we use fly ash. Most people don’t ask for it, but it makes the concrete stronger and it flows better.
DY: When I think of innovation, I just go back to what I was saying earlier about the importance of education. Coming from the public health sector a famous quote is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. And so, when I think of education and high performance home builders, we have to break the barrier for our clients. People don’t necessarily come to us for high performance homes but more so because the homes are pretty. However, it gives us the platform that we need to enact change.
AS: How has this industry impacted you and how have you sought to impact this industry?
KK: If somebody asked me 10 years ago where I see myself, I would not say here. It’s become such a big part of my life and I love it, it’s so fun. When I think about how I’ve impacted the industry, one of my main goals coming from a marketing background is to always boil it down for the customer and easily communicate how a high performance house can impact somebody's quality of life. That’s been my mission: finding an easy way to boil down the science.
GW: This industry has changed my life and how I look at things as far as housing and helping people with special needs. We’re building a house for a non-profit organization. This new project will be the first home in Ohio that has new technology for people with disabilities. There’s not enough universal design housing. People are living longer, and we need to build homes that people can stay in. That’s what fuels me, learning, technology, and building accessible housing.
DY: This has been more impactful in our life because it is so challenging. When you’re up on the stage you’re expected to know it all, which is not the case. As Glenna said, being a part of the EEBA community and being surrounded by like-minded people who just want to help is so empowering. Knowing and being vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know” and recognizing when you need to bring in the experts. You then can learn from them and that has been huge. Also, realize that even though you’re continuously learning, sometimes you know what you’re talking about. So, stand firm for your beliefs, your workers, and your company.
EEBA is excited to continue to work with and learn from these three incredible women and their companies as they continue to grow and evolve with the sustainable building community.
To learn more, visit their websites at: