Impact of the COVID-19 on the Green Building Industry

Q&A with Jerry Berman

Sustainability and Green Building
Jerry Berman
Jerry Berman is executive vice president of The Christopher Companies, who builds NGBS Green Certified custom single-family homes and 55+ multifamily complexes in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Charlottesville, Va., and Delaware.

We initially spoke to Berman on March 25 about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the company’s business. We checked in again on April 13 to see how/if conditions had changed.

Have you seen a change in demand thus far?

Fortunately for us, we have not, and other builders in the area I have spoken to have not either — not yet. But that may change. We don’t know.

The Northern Virginia market was very active prior to this crisis, which is likely helping. We’re also hopeful the protocols we put in place across our business will allow us to keep building and selling. We have not been impacted by inspection delays, but that may happen as this goes on. We shall see.

[April 13 update: We are seeing a slight slowdown in buyer inquiries and sales in the past week. I spoke with several colleagues at other companies and found they are having the same experience.]

How is the outbreak impacting how you do business?

We have changed our practices across the business in different ways, depending on the activity:

  • Jobsite: We have enacted protocols to protect our workers so that we can keep building, albeit at a slower pace. No more than one trade partner is in a home under construction at a time; if we have multiple floors in the home, we may allow two trades at most, keeping them on different floors.
    We communicate proper protocol such as hand-washing, social distancing and staying home if not feeling well to both our employees and to our trade partners who would normally be on-site.
    On the customer side, we are restricting the home buyer from being at the job site except for the initial and punch list completion walkthroughs and scheduling those accompanied by only one manager. We encourage our home buyers to do virtual walkthroughs, but if they are on-site, we wipe down the home prior to and afterward to protect all involved.
  • Sales and Marketing: We have shifted both to an online platform. We have virtual tours posted on our site, our sales managers are doing video chats with customers and conducting ‘live’ tours through our spec homes, and we are even doing sales online.
  • Office: We began encouraging our office staff to work remotely as this developed, and at this time, we are 100% working from home.

[April 13 update: We have not changed any of these protocols.]

Any advice for other builders during this time?

Sharing information is critical — reaching out to other builders in the area and to trade partners — to see how they are doing and to exchange ideas to help keep everyone up and running to the extent they are allowed in their area. Communication is always important, but it is critical right now to help keep our employees, trade partners and customers safe. Safety first, business second.

This content originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of Green Intersects eNews. To sign up for the newsletter, contact Linda Wade.