Greenbilt Homes came from a confluence of events that culminated in the decision to form the company in early 2008.
Mike Manning, an experienced general contractor, was building a 4,000 square foot executive home in a leafy GTA west neighborhood. Just as he had on many projects over the years, he saw the garbage container quickly fill with wood and other recyclable material. “The waste really got to me, “ said Mr. Manning. “I was ready to find better construction practices.”
At the same time, partner Catherine Ann Marshall, who is a Director of the Canada Green Building Council GTA Chapter, was watching the growing success of certified green buildings in the commercial sector. “Green building was like a tsunami in commercial building as the tenants wanted it and landlords were reacting. When I looked at the lack of green construction in Mike’s world of residential development, where little green building was going on, I thought that something was needed to connect peoples' green values with sustainable new houses.”
But the catalyst came from Mike’s 10-year-old son Riley, who overheard the household conversations about green building. “My son told somebody that I was a green homebuilder, and that individual followed up with a call to ask about my services,” recalled Mike Manning. “I was very interested in green homes because I trained as an R-2000 builder in school, but when my partner heard that Riley was telling people I could build green houses, Catherine thought it was the go-ahead sign.”
Mr. Manning, with a 30-year building background, quickly signed up for green courses in Energy Star construction and LEED for Homes to augment his education as an architectural technologist. He also recently passed the exam as an Energy Advisor, qualified to do energy audits of Ontario homes.
Ms. Marshall, with a background in real estate research, began investigating green materials and technologies. “We realized that we needed information from the right suppliers, and we went across the province to find them.” What followed was two years of research and site visits to evaluate products and learn from green suppliers that occurred while both partners continued to work in Greenbilt’s sister company, Suntech Renovations.
The partners committed right from the start to build infill housing in pedestrian neighborhoods so that the location of Greenbilt’s homes would support a sustainable lifestyle. They identified Port Credit in Mississauga, Old Oakville, Bronte Village in Oakville, and the foot of Brant Street in Burlington as prime “new urbanism” locations. When they were ready to begin their first project incorporating their green ideas, they hunted in those neighborhoods for a lot with a derelict building on it. They finally found the right lot in 2009 in Bronte Village.
“There is an enormous willow tree in the back and when I saw it I thought it was so beautiful that I walked right up underneath it. Then I saw that two branches on the tree had grown together and fused into one. That is a graphic representation of green philosophy – that we are all connected and what we do affects others – so I took it as an omen that we had found the right place to build our green house,” said Ms. Marshall.
Their first project is being built under the Greenhouse™ Certified Construction program. Greenbilt is also qualified to build under the Energy Star™ and LEED for Homes certification programs.