By Joseph F. Schuler Jr.. Neil Kelly Co. partnered with its local utility company to promote the restoration of a 1928 English cottage using sustainable remodeling and energy efficient practices. A September open house drew 3,700 visitors. And Better Homes and Gardens is set to profile the project next year.
Tom Kelly, president of the Portland, Ore., remodeling company, says although the goal of "The Legacy House" was to win business, the company sees the "green" remodeling market as a growing one -- and as a great differentiator. Kelly cites a BUILDER magazine survey of 25- to 34-year-olds: A full 75% said they'd pay for environmentally friendly features in a home. In the Northwest, two-thirds of consumers agree homes should be built to green building concepts; 91% are willing to pay more, Kelly says.
Kelly's company volume is about $13 million, with less than 10% of it "green." "We want it to be more," he says. "We're interested in sustainability for overall branding."
The Legacy House promotion was made possible through Kelly's long-term relationships, notably with Portland General Electric and its Earth Advantage program, which mandates such features as increased energy efficiency.
The Better Homes and Gardens feature will celebrate the home's 75th anniversary -- a follow-up of sorts to original 1928 coverage when the home won the West Coast Woods Architectural Competition. Getting a "pre-publication" agreement with Better Homes and Gardens enabled promoters to garner support from companies like Marvin Windows.
Kelly says he expected a good immediate return, and he got one: The company received 105 additional leads in September, 30 over Kelly's goal for the project of 75. But he saw the long-term impact of the endeavor as most important. "If our normal closing rates and average job size prevail, we'll realize 10 jobs and/or $400,000 in business," he says.
Sustainable materials used during the remodel included high school bleacher seats turned into wainscoting, FSC Certified and reclaimed framing lumber, Neil Kelly Cabinets made of natural wheat board and sustainable Madrone wood, and high efficiency windows and appliances.
The $118,000 promotional budget included a brochure, a Web site, and a benefit for a nonprofit organization. Neil Kelly Co. put up $20,000, plus about $10,000 in donated staff time. Kelly says he spent 20 hours marshalling co-sponsors.