How to Build a Green Home with Christy Howell of Align

Is a new home on the horizon for you? Or would you like to improve the efficiency of your existing home? This time, we’re gabbing with Christy Howell of Align, who provides suggestions to build a green home that meets you where you are and provides sustainability for the future.

What Is Sustainability?

At its core, sustainability means that it’s built to last. Anything can be sustainable, from your home to your lifestyle. If it lasts and continues to serve you, then it’s sustainable. To build a green home, you want it to work with you—and for you—instead of being a slave to it. You want to build it mindfully with intention in the choices you make.

Where to Start to Build a Green Home

When you’re ready to build a green home, look first to your building envelope. That’s your foundation, walls, windows, doors, and roof. They make up the main elements of the building. There are lots of choices for sustainability in the building envelope. You can do a stick build, which is traditional framing with lumber. Or you can choose a modular approach. If cost is an issue, you could opt for partially green. Maybe go for sustainable components in the doors and windows. Pick the things that are most important to you.

Follow the Standard

The National Green Building Standard lists up to six different categories to implement when you build a green home. They are 1. Energy efficiency 2. Water efficiency 3. Resource efficiency 4. Lot development 5. Operation and maintenance 6. Indoor environmental quality There are different levels of implementation and certification, and you can choose the one that fits best for you to build a green home. The four certification levels are bronze, silver, gold, and emerald, with emerald being the highest. While your goal may not be to obtain NGBS certification, their guides are definitely a good source of information for building.

What Makes a Home Green?

Green is a catch-all phrase and can mean different things to different people. Perhaps the most meaningful component of green is that the home is safer, healthier, and more comfortable. Health and wellness come from how you build a green home. If you can bring in slightly better components to your home, or even just switch out cleaning solutions, you’re taking steps in the right direction. And that will make a world of difference in the long run.

Subscribe on iTunes and get the show notes on The Green Gab Podcast. Get the gab with us as we share what we’ve done, as well as tips for greening up your home, your job, your family and your life! Get in on the gab for why green matters.

Resources

Get some great ideas for your own Green Home at EverydayGreenHome.com

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Marla:

Okay. You’re listening to the Green Gab this morning or today, whatever you are, with Marla the Green Home Coach. And my guest today is Christy Howell in Oklahoma City. And Christy is with Align. And I have known Christy for a while now in Oklahoma City, and I am so thrilled to have you on the podcast today.

Christy Howell:

Thank you. I’m happy to be here. This is my very first podcast, so forgive me if I do something-

Marla:

Uh huh. No. No. What happens in the podcast world goes everywhere.

Christy Howell:

So, just give me some grace then.

Marla:

Well, totally grace. Grace is a good thing, right?

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Well, I am so excited to have you here, ’cause you and I have been kinda working together. And then we also worked together on the Home Builders Association with our Professional Women in Building group. And it’s been so much fun to get to know not only you, but our whole gang there and really just to hear how you guys are all going about your businesses. We have in our Professional Women in Builders group, which if you all haven’t heard of this before, this is a counsel of the Home Builders Association. So wherever there’s a Home Builders Association in your neighborhood or your town, there may be a Professional Women in Builders Counsel as well. And we’re really all about being the voice of women in the building industry, especially the home building industry.

And so being new to Oklahoma City, one of the things I wanted to do when I came here was get this going again. ‘Cause I’m active nationally and I’ve loved, loved, loved it. So to all of my PWB sisters out there, hello! But Christy, you were one of the first people, you and Ashley, that came through the door that first day. And we just, oh my gosh we dreamed big that day, didn’t we?

Christy Howell:

Yes, we did. Oh my gosh. I remember good parts of it, and other parts I’m like, what did we talk about? ‘Cause we were just blowing all sorts of ideas in every way we could.

Marla:

Well and ironically enough, ’cause our group actually includes a lot of women in different parts of the building industry-

Christy Howell:

A large variety, yeah.

Marla:

But you and Ashley, the first two through the door, both build and contract.

Christy Howell:

Both build and contract. I think we’re both originally designers first, interior designers. And so that love for design, that love for function, that love for aesthetics, I think gives us another level of energy to put behind a green orientation home or green-focused build.

Marla:

Cool.

Christy Howell:

So, that’s kinda part of where I’m stepping up a little bit more, ’cause most of my history has been built off of new construction. So, it’s not necessarily the old school ways, it’s just the traditional ways. And so you don’t hear a lot about the green home building in Oklahoma City because it’s just not quite here yet, as extensively.

Marla:

We’re in the middle of the country. We are in a gas and oil and wheat and beef state. But, I’m amazed at what I have found.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. Well, I think you’ve brought several things to my attention that I was like, “That’s here? Are you serious?”

Marla:

Right. It’s like they’re all in the shade of the tree. And you know, we all see the tree and then we look in the shade and it’s like, “Oh, wait! But that’s here too?”

You know, a lot of what’s happening I think in a lot of cities, and Oklahoma City is no exception, is, as the revitalization of this city comes, it’s also attracting a younger and younger demographic, and with that comes different ways, and new ways of thinking.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

So, I’m finding a lot of what could be classified as green and sustainable kinds of ways of thinking. And you and I both know, this encompasses a huge variety of stuff.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

But I’m finding a lot of that in those areas that are being revitalized.

Christy Howell:

And I think we kind of also find that people are starting to get a wind of how valuable it could be for them in the future. So then, they ask more about it or they want to know about it, or they’re coming from other cities at the same time-

Marla:

That too.

Christy Howell:

… that has had it all ready. And then they come here and go, “Wait a minute! I remember having this.” That is another level I think that Oklahoma City is trying to kind of catch up to. Not completely now ’cause we’re … But I think that’s just … I’m excited to be, to hear more about it. I fill like I’m gonna learn so much from you over the next year.

Marla:

Oh, thank you. I hope so. But I learn a lot from you, too, so we’ll switch. How’s that?

Christy Howell:

That’s it. I love it.

Marla:

Because, you know, we’ve got a new mayor here who’s very young. We’ve got a lot of young energy in Oklahoma City right now. And, kind of ironically, most people kind of assume that green and sustainability is being spearheaded by the Millennial generation, and they’re definitely a strong component in it. But in the homes, the Millennial generation is still getting their foothold in homes.

Christy Howell:

Right.

Marla:

And a lot of the Millennial generation has, for various reasons, and a lot of student debt being part of it, among other things, have been a little bit slower than other demographics, generations, to get into buying their own homes. But the interesting thing that I find is that the other generation that’s been actually a fairly big push behind green homes is my generation, the Baby Boomers. A lot of us are a lot more practically–, we’re more action oriented. Whereas more the Millennial demographic is more, they want to embrace it in processes, or where they buy.

Christy Howell:

It’s an experience.

Marla:

It is an experience. That’s perfect. That’s perfect, yeah. So it’s a different way, but it’s the same goal.

Christy Howell:

It’s an ultimate. We want to be pleased and happy with the end product, and we want to feel like we’re getting a good value. I’m not a Millennial, but I can understand kind of where they’re coming from. I’m in that middle range. I’m kind of on the cusp of, okay, I do want to have some solutions and know that this is done and I can establish a good, I can have a home or apartment or something that’s going to be economically good for me and my carbon footprint, and all this kind of stuff for the future. But at the same time I love the old traditional ways about things. And so it’s kind of like, you’ve got to build that gap. You’ve got to bridge that gap.

Marla:

Like what kind of ways traditionally?

Christy Howell:

Oh, gosh. Of course you would ask me that.

Marla:

No, but that’s a great, that’s a really good tie in. Because I feel what you’re saying, but I’m trying to think of an example.

Christy Howell:

So, I don’t know.

Marla:

Oh, I have one too. Okay, go.

Christy Howell:

No, you go first.

Marla:

Well, gardening.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

So we’re learning that the more we go back to the ways we’ve been gardening for thousands of years, using natural things and compost and seeds that have been passed down generation to generation, is actually a very sustainable, in the meaning of it will last a long time. By the way, that’s what sustainable really means, folks, is it lasts a long time.

Christy Howell:

Longevity.

Marla:

But that’s a really good way to garden, versus using a lot of chemicals.

Christy Howell:

Chemicals and pesticides and all those sort of sprays and things like that.

Marla:

Right. Right. So is that kind of what you’re thinking?

Christy Howell:

Yeah. What’s interesting is that we are, there’s probably a lot more of us on every demographic level, that we’re doing sustainable things and we don’t even know that we’re doing them.

Marla:

So true.

Christy Howell:

And that’s kind of where you and I talk about this a bit more and more often, that, you know, like, well, you know, there’s something that I think you’ve asked me in the past. Well, what do you think you do that’s green or sustainable. And we’ve had these conversations and you’re like, well, you’re already doing that. And I’m like, huh? Oh, what? Cool.

Marla:

That is the biggest surprise to most people.

Christy Howell:

Uh huh.

Marla:

So one of my big beefs is how many companies, and companies, if you’re listening I’d love to help you with this, how many companies don’t talk about the extended attributes, the sustainability, the green, the low toxins, the efficiencies of their products. Which is great that it’s just baked in. But we’re not helping just everyday people, the people who are buyers of our–

Christy Howell:

We’re not educating them on our level.

Marla:

Exactly.

Christy Howell:

Yeah, that’s kind of where–

Marla:

We’re not telling them.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. And I think it’s just educating them, not to make them feel like they don’t know what they’re talking, they don’t know anything. It’s just to say, hey, you could introduce this in, like what you’re trying to say, very minor ways, very simple ways, and gradually over time you increase your sustainability because you’ve taken baby steps.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

And it’s just like you learn to walk baby steps. You learn to be sustainable baby steps.

Marla:

And that’s my whole thing, is just do it a little bit at a time. It’s like we’ve been talking this new home you’re working on. Every time we have a conversation about it we keep thinking, okay, what other places can we do?

Christy Howell:

How can we make this better for my parents’ home? It’s their forever home. This is the first home they’ve every built.

Marla:

Oh, that’s so exciting.

Christy Howell:

This is very exciting, and probably going to be very challenging.

Marla:

And you are brave.

Christy Howell:

But, you know, my parents have given me a lot in my life, and I can’t thank them enough for it. So this is something I want to give back in a way for them, and just kind of provide this for them. And then when I see the success behind it, have this like a new profound energy to promote it for even more people, and outside of just them. So I’m– There’s some phenomenal things coming down the road, and I’m just excited to include a sustainability behind it too.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

Because that’s what makes it timeless.

Marla:

Timeless. And see that’s so perfect. Because one of the very key cores of having a building or a structure or a home that’s green and sustainable, I’m saying that with air quotes, people, because that gets kind of overly used, but one of the very first keys to that is being something that will last.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

And that’s what sustainability really means, is something that will last into the future. Is it sustainable? Is your job sustainable? Is your lifestyle sustainable? Is your home sustainable? Will it last and continue to serve you. I know, I remember growing up and feeling like we were always working on stuff in the house, and around the house, and around the yard, and it was, you had to work hard to keep the house going. And it’s like, wow, I want a house that works with me, or for me, and I don’t have to be a slave to.

Christy Howell:

Somewhat.

Marla:

And building it mindfully, with some intentionality about the choices that you make can give that. Your parents are probably, this is probably going to be their forever home, I’m guessing.

Christy Howell:

It is. This is their final home. They will not buy another home. I mean, they will pass this home on to either my brother or I, which I’ll fight for that one.

Marla:

So it serving them well is really important.

Christy Howell:

Absolutely. I mean, that’s the–, that along with the budget. And so this is the–

Marla:

Right. And this is the balancing act.

Christy Howell:

The balancing act. I think, you know, there’s good compromises that I think we can find and do well. We just have to think about them. We just have to be proactive for them, and ask a lot of questions, in my opinion, that help us understand that lifestyle. You know, every person has a different lifestyle. And so what might work for my parents aren’t going to work for the next five homes I build after them, in some fashion. So it’s just, you know, I’m a big, so old school, kind of back to that whole old school thing. We have our iPads, and they have Apple pencils. So you can make that like paper. But, you know, going back to the list making. I like the old school lists and stuff. And that’s not sustainable in any green building, but it’s an old school ways.

Marla:

What’s old is new again. I will never live without my lists.

Christy Howell:

Right? So I think that’s just kind of, you know, not to mention when you write something it impregnates your brain.

Marla:

It’s sticks.

Christy Howell:

More than when you just type it. But that’s a whole nuther podcast that’s not even in building.

Marla:

I know. We’ll do that one next time. Okay, well, take a deep breath here. We’re going to take a break here and we’ll be right back.

Marla:

Well, we’re back gabbing today with Christy with Align here in Oklahoma City. How do you like this podcast studio? Isn’t it fun?

Christy Howell:

This is a really cool spot. This is a very cool spot.

Marla:

Total shout out to Vault 405 in downtown Edmond, Oklahoma. It is a co-working space.

Christy Howell:

It is a fabulous space.

Marla:

It is so cool.

Christy Howell:

Like I have an office space and I’m like, I want to get rid of that and come here.

Marla:

And it has a podcast studio, which is awesome! Awesome. I know everybody I bring out here, they’re like, this is here? So it hasn’t been here a year yet, so it’s still pretty new. So if you have a co-working space in your city, check it out, because there’s some really cool ones around the country they’re seeing.

Christy Howell:

Yes.

Marla:

Very cool.

Christy Howell:

I agree.

Marla:

So, let’s see here. I’ve been knowing you now, I guess about a couple years now.

Christy Howell:

Has it really been that long?

Marla:

I think so. Close to it. I moved over two years ago, and then it was, well, we started PWB in like–

Christy Howell:

We did start PWB in 2017.

Marla:

December-ish of 2017, and then all last year, yeah.

Christy Howell:

All last year, yeah.

Marla:

So we’ve got to be coming up on at least a year and a half, two years.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s kind of crazy. Time flies.

Marla:

I know. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Although I think 2018 was a crazy year.

Christy Howell:

Well, yeah. I would agree. I’m totally kind of glad it’s over.

Marla:

Um, yeah. I can go with you on that one.

Christy Howell:

2019 is going to be just a whole nuther level of greatness.

Marla:

I agree. Finally got fun stuff going on. Our Professional Women in Building group.

Christy Howell:

Yes, we do.

Marla:

We’ve got all kinds of things we’re cooking up. Ha ha ha ha. Stayed tuned.

Christy Howell:

And the city’s growing.

Marla:

Yeah.

Christy Howell:

The city is just growing. It’s just totally growing. It’s frustrating at times because of all the construction, but–

Marla:

I was going to say, there’s a lot out by me.

Christy Howell:

It’s just, you know, it’s all for a phenomenal reason, to just attract more people here.

Marla:

So one of the things I’ve heard our mayor, David Holt, talk about a lot is that really looking to fill the gaps with the city so that we are more attractive to companies, and to families, and to people. But I’m amazed at how many younger people I find coming into the city. I keep running into people from Portland, Oregon, of all places.

Christy Howell:

Really?

Marla:

I know. Is that not weird? And talk about kind of day and night.

Christy Howell:

Uh huh.

Marla:

Very different ways of life. Yeah, different ways of life. But yeah, I’m running into a lot of people here who have moved here from somewhere else.

Christy Howell:

You ask them why they, what jobs–

Marla:

Brought them here? Usually jobs. Okay. But there’s a company here in Oklahoma City, I’m going to give them a shout out here, Malarky Roofing, who makes roof shingles here in Oklahoma City, in South Oklahoma City, and they’re actually headquartered out of Portland.

Christy Howell:

Ha! Really?

Marla:

So I’m like, okay, I keep running into this tie here. This is kind of weird.

Christy Howell:

What is this?

Marla:

Wow. It’s kind of strange.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

So there you go, my shout out for the day. Okay, so there you go, that crazy one. But one thing I love, love, love to ask my guests is, tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know. It’s got to be appropriate for a podcast though.

Christy Howell:

It’s totally appropriate for the podcast. But I did an internship back after graduating college. I got my bachelors in fine arts, focusing in interior design. And I decided to go and apply for an internship with Disney to do theme park design.

Marla:

Whoa.

Christy Howell:

I thought that was going to be fab– I mean, I still think it’s fabulous. I still think, you know, they get to be so creative, and they get to make these just, like, amazing theme parks. So I thought, well, that would be fun, and you know, I could really enjoy my job, and so I went to an internship for that. Well, during the interview process they asked me, would you like to audition? And I’m like, audition? Audition for what? I’m like, okay. Because they had seen on my resume that I was in show choir, and I did music, and I did scholarship pageants, and all those little fun things, so there’s a few extra things.

Marla:

Yeah, so a little dance too.

Christy Howell:

And I love dancing. But they said, okay, well, we’ve got, in some place in Texas, I can’t remember the town, you need to go there, audition, and then we’ll call you in about three weeks to see if you got the internship. And I’m like, okay. They labeled it as a character friend audition. And I said, okay, well then sure, I’ll go. I thought I would be like dancing on the stages wearing costumes with, you know, like with the other people, you know, and just whatever you’d be doing. I was like, okay, cool. I’ll learn about theme park design in the day, and then I’ll go do this in the evening, you know, fun job. I was always working, too.

I get there, audition, and we do this choreography, and they say, just be as animated as you can, and all this. I’m like, okay, cool. Three weeks later rolls around and I get a phone call. They say, hey, congratulations. We are inviting you to be an intern, but as a character friend. And I go, oh, that sounds cool. So what will I be doing? And basically I became Minnie and Mickey, and Lilo and Stitch, and so many other cool characters, like wore the costume and everything. I hope there aren’t a bunch of children listening to this, because I don’t want to ruin their–

Marla:

No, I don’t think we have a lot of kids, well, not young– Okay, young at heart, yes.

Christy Howell:

Yeah, young at heart. They already know. So that, I can say, what was, and I have to–

Marla:

How fun is that?

Christy Howell:

Isn’t that not fun? One thing I do have to say is you take pictures. That’s all you do is you just stand and you take pictures with people. But you smile like your face is in that picture, but you’re not really in that picture. You are the character, and you have a head on.

Marla:

Oh, wow.

Christy Howell:

And you are smiling ear to ear like you are the character inside. So I just thought that was, that was fun for me.

Marla:

I think having an experience like that has got to be a game changer.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Just something that you kind of just free–

Christy Howell:

Well, I felt lucky to get to say that I’d gotten to do that.

Marla:

Yeah.

Christy Howell:

Because in the internship, Disney puts you on their campuses, their internship campuses, which I’m not kidding, are like thousands of students deep.

Marla:

Oh, I bet.

Christy Howell:

They’re fabulous. They do a great job at keeping– They bus us from work and all that kind of stuff. I think they do a really good job at that. But it was a whole nuther experience that I’m super pleased and blessed that I got to enjoy.

Marla:

That is so cool. And so from there you went into design.

Christy Howell:

Well, I went into design in high school. I took a housing class my senior year.

Marla:

So you went back to design.

Christy Howell:

So I went back to, I did.

Marla:

Oh, that’s right. You did.

Christy Howell:

Yeah, in my senior year in high school I took a housing class and got to draw hand drawn, never had taken a drafting class before, I hand drew like a 5,000 square foot home. Legitimately I drew it off of the Sound of Music. You know that house? That house in the Sound of Music? I was like, that’s gonna be my home. I loved it. And it wasn’t the big mansion, but that main entry, where the stairs went up on the sides and you had this beautiful catwalk in the back. Oh my gosh, yeah. It was– I drew that up and I knew from that point on, it was like, I have got to find myself in this industry.

Marla:

And so now you’re looking to make another leaf of the bloom come on out.

Christy Howell:

Yep. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

That was a not great analogy. Sorry about that folks.

Christy Howell:

A little bloom of the tree.

Marla:

The next bloom. To be able to move more into building, not just design.

Christy Howell:

Not just design anymore.

Marla:

So what’s the biggest leap you think you’re going to have to take with this?

Christy Howell:

Oh, gosh. You know, I’m really confident. I feel pretty confident when it comes to the interior sides, than like some of the structural sides. I think it’s just feeling more sound and more confident that the trades that we have in our industry are providing an accountable product and labor. Other than that, I think it’s going to be just fine. I think the only challenge is going to be finding my trades, you know. Just finding the right trade to produce the project on a reasonable level.

Marla:

Well, you’ve already got so much scheduling and project management experience from what you’ve been doing with your design projects. Because you general contract a lot of your design projects, correct?

Christy Howell:

Absolutely, yes.

Marla:

And explain what that means to our listeners.

Christy Howell:

So I basically take the job from beginning to end. I start with the consultation and we do design work. I get all your measurements. I meet you at your house. We talk. We have about a 2, 2-1/2 hour meeting. And we really just talk about what you want. Your budget, your style, everything else. And if you like what I say, you like kind of what we present, then we kind of sign a contract and we move forward. And I take you to showrooms around locally to pick your selections. I have vendors of my own that I am a wholesale dealer for. And so part of my program that I give to the customers is that you can kind of get a little bit better price point when you can go through some of my lines.

Marla:

Because it’s in your kind of package.

Christy Howell:

It’s within my package. Right. And just facilitate and try to communicate as much as we can of the project and its progress and what we’re doing and who we’re using and how we’re doing this. Because part of the, I know, and it’s not probably spoken very apparently, but our customers, our clients, want to know what’s going on. I think a lot of them probably just don’t want to ask because they don’t want to appear like they’re micromanaging or doing things like that.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

But I think if you open up and you just educate them without them even asking, it’s a whole nuther level of value.

Marla:

Oh, I’ve had so many people on this podcast that have said that, that it’s over-communicate.

Christy Howell:

And you know, when you can tell that they’re glazed over because you’re over-communicating, you just stop.

Marla:

Okay, enough said.

Christy Howell:

Yeah, so I think part of that– So general contracting, for me, is taking you from the beginning to end on the project, and being there for you when and if, because we do live in an imperfect world, when something goes a little bit south, you know, we can take care of it for you. We don’t just leave you hanging.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

And you got to know these expectations. You got to know that– That’s just kind of one of my levels of what I– It’s not just the general contracting. It’s the level of communications, level of expectation that I put up front for the projects.

Marla:

Right. So in essence, even though you come at it from quote unquote the design side, I mean, in many ways you’re a remodeler.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Really.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. I’ve been doing probably more remodels in the last two or three years than I’ve done in– And OMG I’ve learned a lot. Holy cannoli, I have learned gobs and gobs of information. You can overthink things when it could be so simple. And you can, you know, so there’s just–

Marla:

True.

Christy Howell:

And it’s just part of our industry. Because in a remodel there’s so many unknowns.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

And that’s, the remodels are much harder, in my opinion.

Marla:

I think you have to have a lot more knowledge, and you have to be able to address it on your feet.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. You got to be on your toes. You got to be able to kind of like, what’s the terminology when you–

Marla:

Think on your feet?

Christy Howell:

Yeah, think on your feet, but you’re– Under pressure.

Marla:

Oh, yeah.

Christy Howell:

You just, you know, you can do it under pressure.

Marla:

And these days it’s Instant Pot pressure. Wow.

Christy Howell:

But yeah, so it’s a value.

Marla:

So you’re definitely just a next step to go with a complete new build.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I got, I was really blessed to be with one of the more timeless home builders of our time here back in ’06 through ’09, ’10, ’12, I guess you could say. I’ll just shout out. Can I do a shout out?

Marla:

Absolutely.

Christy Howell:

Absolutely. So Allenton Homes was where I got a lot of my new construction experience. Steve Allen, the builder there, was a really cool mentor. He had such a good style and presence and poise about him that I just felt like I learned a lot. And, you know, he’s been a supporter of me ever since I left, you know? And you know, it’s just– and I still, I’d love to do more jobs with him in the future, though I’m a builder. I don’t want to be competition, because I don’t like that word.

Marla:

Oh, I’m a big believer in coopetition.

Christy Howell:

Oh, coopetition. That is a cool word. Did you make that up?

Marla:

Of course I did. I don’t know. Maybe somebody made it up first. Tony and I, who do some of our podcasts together, we come up with all crazy words when we’re together.

Christy Howell:

I could join that podcast, ’cause I could help.

Marla:

Well, you are. You’re just this half of it. But yeah, coopetition’s a good one. And I think a lot of the home building industry is that way, because it’s made up of so many smaller companies, and family companies. You pretty much have to rely on other people in the industry to teach you a lot of this.

Christy Howell:

Oh, absolutely. If you don’t rely on others, how are we all ever going to positively grow?

Marla:

Exactly.

Christy Howell:

One of my big things, I had a business coach about two years ago, and he taught me the word kaizen. So I have legitimately tattooed it on my body.

Marla:

I can vouch for that, folks.

Christy Howell:

It’s on my wrist, so I see it every day.

Marla:

On her wrist.

Christy Howell:

And so that’s just kind of one of my things.

Marla:

But tell everybody what kaizen means.

Christy Howell:

Kaizen means positive growth.

Marla:

Yeah.

Christy Howell:

It means just to continue thinking that, you know, we’ll all make mistakes, but as long as we grow positively from those mistakes, no one can beat us down. No one can take that away from us.

Marla:

Yep. Okay, hang tight folks. We’ll be right back.

Christy Howell:

Yay.

Marla:

You just keep going if you’re good. Let’s launch into a little bit more of what you’re planning to do with getting in a little bit more to the green side.

Christy Howell:

So what I wrote on here, okay, I’ll just read it right quick. My first, to your first question, said, I’m not as educated as I’d like to be on a full green home building remodeling, but I find that I implement applications already in some small aspects. Therefore I’m eager to engage further.

Another one is, the second question was, the process. Although our across the board industry processes are similarly established or implemented, the client, the project, and the outcome are always a little bit, or a lot, different. I enjoy the versatility and the relationships being built.

Then the last one is, I have a couple soft places in my heart for youth. Oh, that was like what I was going to do, so giving back to Pivot and Habitat. But that doesn’t talk about–

Marla:

How are you incorporating, I’m going to let you think about this ahead of time before we get back on air officially. Hang on, editors, we’ll be back. How are you already incorporating some elements of green and sustainability, and then how do you want to expand on those?

Christy Howell:

Well, see, I think that’s kind of where I am still finding out what I’m implementing, what I’m already doing. So right now with my mom’s plan, I have, we’ve talked about keeping the plumbing on all interior walls. Things like that. Kind of going over those more energy efficient–

Marla:

Just some of the design elements is a good baseline.

Christy Howell:

Design elements, that’s where I’ve started. So the next level is finding out what some of the building elements are, what the building materials are.

Marla:

Yeah, and then we get into selections and stuff. Are you already starting to watch more what kind of materials you put into your projects?

Christy Howell:

I am, because I recently started filtering out products.

Marla:

Based on?

Christy Howell:

Well, based on customer service, for one, because if a vendor can’t serve you very well, it’s part of, you know–

Marla:

But that’s part of it.

Christy Howell:

But also based on how accessible it is for me or for anyone else. Because if it’s accessible to everyone, it doesn’t make it very profitable or valuable to me. I can talk about it, can learn about it, and promote it. But products that I have, personally, under my wheelhouse, or my– I have not had the chance to select stuff out and say, hey, what products do you actually carry that are green, sustainable. Like I know TRI-KES. So I use TRI-KES.

Marla:

That may be a good place for you and me to start too, because I can help you with a lot of that.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

I’m not so good on the design side, but I can tell you what attributes you need to look for.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. That’s definitely going to be something that I need.

Marla:

Okay, so let’s do this on this last segment. Let’s tab this conversation and talk about how we plan to work together.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

And then how– Because I know I’m going to learn so much from you about the design side, because I am not good at that, but I wish I knew how to be more comfortable with it.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

And then how we’re going to help you start getting a better process for understanding and communicating attributes.

Christy Howell:

Yes.

Marla:

That are contributing to the health and the safety and the comfort of the people you’re building for.

Christy Howell:

Yes. I love that.

Marla:

Okay. Let’s do that. Okay.

Well, we’re still gabbing here. Christy, I know you and I could sit here all day.

Christy Howell:

Probably. With some wine too.

Marla:

Oops.

I’m really excited about where you’re going with your business, and I know you’ve been through a lot of transformation over the past year, year and a half, as have all of us, I think, as you were saying.

Christy Howell:

2018.

Marla:

Yep.

Christy Howell:

Go away.

Marla:

And now I’ve already forgotten what the–

Christy Howell:

Kaizen.

Marla:

Kaizen. I started to say kanzone, and I’m like, that’s not right. So part of what I know you have up your sleeve, and part of what we’ve been talking about together is you doing your first home, which I know you want to bring in green and sustainability elements. And so you and I are, we’ve been talking about working together on this. And I’m so excited because I’m not great at design. I can kind of like do my own stuff. So I love learning from you. And you’re, by the way, a very good teacher, just by your way of communicating.

Christy Howell:

Oh, thank you.

Marla:

And I know that there’s a lot of opportunity. Like even in the products that you select, even in your existing projects, where we can look at them and say, how do we find products that fit your clients’ needs, fit things that you’re comfortable designing with, but are still safer, more healthy, more comfortable for your clients.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

That’s kind of a win-win-win, right?

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

So if we kind of start from that space, how do you see that evolving into this whole home concept?

Christy Howell:

Well, I kind of, I definitely, I don’t have a good grasp on the product lines that I carry right now.

Marla:

Okay.

Christy Howell:

On how sustainable their items are within those brands.

Marla:

Okay.

Christy Howell:

So that’s gonna be one way that you and I are going to, first and foremost, be able to kind of hone in on what sort of brands I continue to move forward with. Then–

Marla:

You might be surprised. Because sometimes people don’t sell what is in their products.

Christy Howell:

What do you mean?

Marla:

Well, there may be a product that you’re carrying, or a whole line that you’re carrying, that has all kinds of green or sustainability elements, and they don’t talk about it.

Christy Howell:

Well, I do know, so I love, love, love, love, love wallpaper. I loved it when it was around back years ago, and I wish had never gone away.

Marla:

You really are a traditionalist.

Christy Howell:

Right? And I love that it’s back. Young people out there–

Marla:

As long as it’s not hard to strip.

Christy Howell:

If any one of you want to become a wallpaper installer, there’s not very many out there. So there’s some very good career opportunities and fashions in our trades. But wallpaper, I use a line called TRI-KES.

Marla:

Okay.

Christy Howell:

And they are a commercial line. So they’re gonna be my first and foremost, probably, vendor that I know for a fact would have green, sustainable things like that, because they have to do those things in hospitality locations, in, you know, commercial applications. That’s just kind of a, it’s got to have some sort of fire rating, or some sort of longevity.

Marla:

Right. Yeah, there’s a little bit more to it with the commercial side. You’re right.

Christy Howell:

So, I use, and I’ve gotten more towards using a commercial product that might have that in a residential setting, you know, and playroom, or something like that. So you’ve got kids. Okay, so your kids want to color on the wall. Let them go at it.

Marla:

Go at it.

Christy Howell:

You’re gonna wipe that right off, you know? It’s just one of those things. Like I said, I’m using little bits of it. I’m just not probably, I’m probably like 30%, maybe 20% using product, and to build that till a 70% and 80%, and then on more to maybe 100%. But that’s baby steps.

Marla:

Okay. So what other areas should we expand to. I know building envelope, as boring as that sounds, is where it all starts with any structure. In green building, you know, the better we build that the less we have to mess with it. Which I’m a no fuss, no hassle kind of girl. So I’m one of these people that would rather do it right the first time.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Especially on something big like my building envelope. So this is walls, roof, windows, doors, foundation. So I mean, really the stuff that makes up the elements of the building.

Christy Howell:

Right.

Marla:

And, oh my gosh, are there so many choices if you don’t want to stick build.

Christy Howell:

Oh my gosh.

Marla:

Stick build, by the way, folks, is just when you build with 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 framing or lumber, and then put in traditional, actually you can put in any kind of insulation. But your wall structures alone have become, I don’t know, five, six, seven different components to build a good wall structure now, depending on which way you go.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And what’s interesting is you can go, like we’re going to IBS in next month.

Marla:

And that’s not irritable bowel syndrome. Everybody asks me that when I say IBS. Like you’re going where? It is the International Building Show, folks.

Christy Howell:

Oh my gosh.

Marla:

Sorry, she just lost it.

Christy Howell:

I’m like, what? But they’re gonna put so many items in front of you that are so sustainable. Or they’ve upgraded their traditionally oriented items to be sustainable. So because this year is my new year for a new build and all that, I cannot wait to get to IBS so that I can–

Marla:

And I’ve already got a list for you.

Christy Howell:

I’m sure you do. I’m waiting for it. So, you know, that’s just, knowing those parts is what’s going to give me a much stronger confidence level of how to present, how to educate, and those sort of things. So, you know, but other things like you’ve been teaching me. You know, that envelope of keeping kind of in the foundation, and kind of doing an insulated border, you know, in those areas. I’ve heard you could do stuff like that, but I never knew, you know, how to establish that.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

You know, and then you had talked about, you know, that could be kind of a cost factor, a higher increased cost factor. But maybe you can revise it or compromise it to be just the door locations, or the window locations, or something, to keep it partially green or something. So I don’t know, you know. There’s ways where, I think, if it’s 100% green on one end, but budget can’t afford that 100% green, how do you meet in the middle?

Marla:

I want to know what 100% is. Shades of green. But here’s the thing that you are picking up on so well, and I’m a huge advocate of doing something is better than nothing. But you want to make sure that the things you pick are compatible, so that they don’t offset each other, or cause a health or safety issue. And you know what? Pick the things that are going to be most important. This is my opinion. Pick the things that are going to be most important to the values of your clients and you.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

So for instance, if somebody’s really concerned about health and wellness, that may mean you want to kind of major more in things that lean more towards health and wellness, and maybe just do what you need to do for a good, solid baseline.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

With your other things.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

Or you can do all of them. But one of the things I’ve learned so much working with the National Green Building Standard, and one of the things I love about it, is it breaks it up into six different categories of things that you can implement in a home. And one of those, by the way, is education and documentation. So it’s not a physical piece.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

But those five things, so it’s how the house sits on the land, the efficiencies for resources, water, energy, and then indoor air quality.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

So those kind of make up a house, right?

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

But what I love about the National Green Building Standards is it gives you tons and tons of practices to pursue to get there. But there can be anywhere from a baseline level, which they call bronze, or an entry level, to a super green home, closest thing to 100% we’re gonna know, probably.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

And those range, like, out of 1,100 points that are available to score that on, you can come in under 300 points, and you can hit the top level, I think it’s around 700 points, give or take. So there’s a big spread in there.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. Okay.

Marla:

So what that says is that you have a lot of flexibility.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

So a lot of people are saying, wow. They start looking at what that entry level is, and anybody that’s already building a home that has a decent home energy rating score on it. I didn’t say that right. Sorry, folks. It’s called a HERS index, and I forgot what the S stands for. I always forget the S. But nonetheless, it’s a temperature scale kind of looking thing. It goes from 0 to 100, and it says how energy efficient a home is. And we’re starting to see these pop up, even in Oklahoma City, a lot.

Christy Howell:

Good.

Marla:

And a lot of programs like Energy Star, or local energy efficiency programs oftentimes are built on this HERS scale.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

Since we are starting to get acclimated to that, we’re starting to go, okay, energy efficiency is in the homes. It’s in a lot more homes. We see it around more. We’re starting to get to know it. So anybody that’s building at that level already, going to what I call full green, or holistic green, usually means making tweaks, not huge, fundamental changes.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

Because we have to add it things for how it sits on the land, and how it interacts with the resources that it’s using. And then the indoor air quality piece, and the green piece.

Christy Howell:

Okay.

Marla:

But a lot of times, so many of those things can be in the selections or in the practices that you use, rather than having to think all over again. Does that make sense what I’m saying?

Christy Howell:

Yes. Yes.

Marla:

So what I love is because you’re already thinking in this way, and you’ve also got a community around you in Oklahoma City that’s, we have a lot of builders building at least with a HERS

Christy Howell:

Yes.

Marla:

Energy efficiency model in their homes. You see them all over Oklahoma City when you’re driving around. That means that base level knowledge is pretty well out there.

Christy Howell:

Good.

Marla:

Then turning the switch, and I have a lot of people say, why should I turn that switch to go from just being energy efficient to green. And I use the word green as a catch-all phrase, folks, because it means a lot of things to a lot of people. The things that I find the most meaningful in that terminology of green for a home is a home that’s safer, healthier, and more comfortable. That health and wellness comes from being mindful about how you build. So for instance, you wouldn’t want to build with wet materials, because that could trap moisture in your home, and you’d have mold and mildew, and that’s nasty stuff. Don’t want to go there. Or you may want to choose materials, and/or, you might want to do both. You might want to choose materials that are not going to mold or mildew.

Christy Howell:

Right.

Marla:

So maybe we choose less wood product. Or maybe termites are a big issue where you live. Not so much here. But my daughter was in New Orleans for a few years, and termites, ugh! Crazy down there. They build with a specific kind of wood that is resistant to moisture, and less resistant, or less attractive to termites. Or better yet, build with something besides wood. And it differs by locale, right? Because how you build in Minnesota’s going to really vary from how you build in Oklahoma, or how you build in South Texas, or Florida.

Christy Howell:

Exactly. Because your geography is different in many levels. But then also your elements are exceptionally different.

Marla:

So having that plan, just like everything else, you start, in my mind, you start with what’s most important to your clients.

Christy Howell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla:

And then obviously we’ve got parameters, budget, time, resources.

Christy Howell:

Style. Because styles a whole nuther– I mean, you can like Scandinavian style.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

You might not be able to find anything in that style that kind of provides you some of that.

Marla:

Correct.

Christy Howell:

And you might be able to find everything.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

You know? So it’s just kind of– Whereas farmhouse design is a reclaimed, sort of reused, can be considered kind of a green orientation. You know, you’re recycling it. Is it going to last you whole long time? You never know.

Marla:

It depends.

Christy Howell:

But at the same time, so style is another level that can kind of slightly limit you. Maybe not too–

Marla:

It’s a parameter, definitely.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

But when you take all that into effect, and you have, starting with the client’s values and what’s most important to them, that also gives you a place to start saying, okay, we’re going to have to play with this some and get, there may be some trade-offs here. That helps you to have kind of better knowledge of how to go about those trade-offs.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. And I think you have to do that even outside of a green home.

Marla:

Oh, you have to do it with anything.

Christy Howell:

With everything, yeah. Because I’m just, we’re talking about some of the exterior, just the elevations of my mother’s home this week. And she’s like, I don’t like this, and I like this, but I don’t want that. Isn’t that going to cost a lot. You know, and you have to evaluate all that. And so, yeah, you do that already. So that switch? Why not? You’re already doing these things.

Marla:

Right.

Christy Howell:

So it’s–

Marla:

It’s just introducing another set of variables that serve us as people, and I think that’s what ends up being most important in my book, is that I just want everybody to know more so they can have the best place for themselves.

Christy Howell:

Yeah.

Marla:

And yes, do I want people to do the right thing for the right reasons? Yep. But if I can just help anybody to know that they can do things that are a little bit better, or they can bring in slightly better stuff to their home, or they can switch out their cleaning solutions that you use in your home. Whatever it is that gets you started to understand that you have all these great options. And I find that once you get one or two of them going, they kind of get contagious and you keep going.

Christy Howell:

Yeah, it can.

Marla:

I know you’ve found that.

Christy Howell:

Oh, yeah. It kind of becomes like an addiction and you’re like, oh, well, I see how this worked.

Marla:

And then you keep going. But, well, so you need to come back when the house is underway.

Christy Howell:

Absolutely.

Marla:

And hopefully, once we get it underway, we’ll start doing some things online and keep people apprised of how it’s coming along.

Christy Howell:

Yeah. We will for sure. I’ll have my new website.

Marla:

And that is?

Christy Howell:

And that is Align Design Build, but it is align dot– Excuse me. Sorry friends. Here we go. It is www.aligndb.com. And that’s Align Design Build.

Marla:

Gotcha.

Christy Howell:

That’s what the DB stands for.

Marla:

And if people want to get ahold of you to pick your brain some more, how do they get you?

Christy Howell:

You can get ahold of me at my email, which is Christy@aligndb.com. You can also call up to our office. I’ve got a couple of amazing girls up there that help me implement everything and anything that my vision wants to produce. But Kisna and Merit can easily help you at 405-702-9735.

Marla:

Awesome. So parting shot. What do you want to leave people with?

Christy Howell:

Oh, gosh. Of course. I just want to leave people with the energy to– Something that has stuck with me, and I’ll just read it.

Marla:

Okay.

Christy Howell:

Because this is something that I think everyone should try to embrace in their life. And everyone has to hustle at some point in time in their life. You’ve got to hustle to make ends meet. You’ve got to hustle for work. You’ve got to hustle for your children. You’ve got to hustle for your parents. Whatever it might be. But you can hustle so much that you can lose track of your personal happiness or personal desires. So I let– This just embrace– I love this little saying.

Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and ultimately happy life.

That’s a line.

Marla:

Well said.

Christy Howell:

Thank you for having me.

Marla:

I’m so glad to have you in alignment.

Christy Howell:

Yay. Thank you.

Marla:

Hey, it’s been a ton of fun, and it’ll be fun to follow your progress this year.

Christy Howell:

I’m excited. I welcome everybody. Hit me up. Let’s talk. Let’s have some fun.

Marla:

Way to go. Well, hey, check back with us frequently here on the Green Gab, and keep on rockin it out, whatever you’re doing, and hopefully you’re doing a little green. Take care, y’all.

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