How Women Builders Are Shaping Their Own Paths in the Industry
Women constitute only about 11% of the construction workforce in the United States, yet some female home builders are finding ways to make their mark on the industry in key specialty areas.
Heather Laminack is a fourth-generation builder from Fort Worth, Texas, who grew up learning about sustainability and energy efficiency through the family business. At Ferrier Builders in Fort Worth, general manager Laminack works hard to build sustainable and affordable homes, or to retrofit existing homes with the latest innovations in building.
Over the past several years, residents in North Central Texas have experienced extreme weather events, driving Laminack’s new and existing customers to be more mindful of energy self-sufficiency. “Customers who may have forgone a generator or solar panels are now contacting us to see what can be done,” Laminack says.
A large section of the company’s customer demographic lands in one of two key – yet opposite – groups: baby boomers or young families. Boomers in her area are looking to build retirement homes that are durable, have predictable maintenance and potentially be net-zero energy or removed from the Texas power grid altogether. They are also considering pre-wiring homes for solar to be phased in as their incomes become fixed as they age.
The young families Laminack has as customers “see home ownership as an extension of their values,” she says. “They want to support local craftsman, be good citizens of their community by being environmentally friendly and are also aware of allergens and toxic chemicals in materials.”
Laminack says demand is growing every rear. “Customers can’t control the weather, but we are here to help them with what they can control,” she says. “Ferrier Builders continues to evolve as new innovations in technology are developed to build sustainable homes at a price point that more customers can afford.”
A Focus on Housing Affordability
Lisa Campfield, co-owner and design leader of Homeworks of Alabama, Inc., is also focused on affordability. Her company has been successfully building quality custom homes for more than 15 years, yet she was concerned that many people didn’t realize how owning a home helps to build personal wealth. Recently, Homeworks launched a new community called Creekside Village with the goal of giving more people the opportunity to purchase a quality, affordable home. Creekside Village offers low-maintenance, brick homes featuring granite or quartz counter tops and stainless-steel appliances. Campfield has made it her mission to talk with anyone she can about the importance of homeownership and building wealth.
Recently, a vendor that came to Campfield’s office for non-building related business conveyed that homeownership in the area seemed out of reach. The woman had recently relocated to Lee County with her family and had become accustom to renting. Campfield shared a recommendation for a mortgage lender and within hours received a call that the woman had been pre-approved and would be meeting with the realtor to look at Creekside Village properties in the next few days.
“I don’t know if she will purchase from us, but I know that I have planted a seed that will benefit this family for years to come. To hear the excitement and joy in their voice let me know that providing quality, affordable housing in our market is critical,” Campfield shared.
Historic Preservation with a Modern Twist
As founder and principal of JR Capital Build in Frederick, Md., Jessica Underwood is as committed to encouraging more women and minorities to enter the building trades and real estate development as she is at creating affordable housing for her community. Five years ago, Underwood, a single mother with three small children, owned two building lots and launched her dream.
Underwood first became familiar with historic preservation as an Historic Preservation Commissioner in the City of Frederick. Still living and working solely in the same community, Underwood builds new construction with a bold vision, maintaining the architectural integrity of the neighborhood and still being an appropriate reflection of what’s currently happening there. From apartment renovations of historic buildings to new construction townhouses in historic neighborhoods, Underwood uses her fascination with history and architecture in what she says is a niche in urban building.
“Individuals that decide to buy an historic property are driven by the location, the original builder, the smaller lot, and also the history of the previous families from every lock, every pane of glass, or gable,” Underwood said. The historic preservation committee, whose members change every year, must approve every detail of a property Underwood and her company are working on. She remains committed to working with them and to being there to scrutinize every square foot of a property as she leaves her artistic expression for the homeowner.
As part of NAHB’s PWB Week 2021, sponsored by Lowe’s For Pros, we are recognizing and celebrating the important contributions of women in residential construction and work that is being done to promote, train, advance and add more women in the field
Check out nahb.org/pwbweek for details on how to get the most out of the week.