Evolving Society, One House at a Time

Evolve Builders

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 15. Life on Land

Overview

When Evolve Builders was founded in 2000 and started building houses out of bales of straw, their goals were to create sustainable communities and set the precedent for responsible consumption and production in the construction industry. Since then, they have expanded their innovation, now using locally-sourced natural building materials, attracting gifted tradespeople through Even Flow Management, assessing the true cost of building green, and researching more about sustainable building.

Author

Andrew Stonehouse

Andrew Stonehouse

School

Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders

Professors

Mike Parsons

Mike Parsons

Matthew Mulhern

Matthew Mulhern

Innovation

Although sustainable building is currently a small field with few players, it is quickly growing and Evolve Builders is leading the way. Evolve uses locally sourced, plant-based materials. Not only are their homes more energy efficient than any other company, they sequester carbon into the materials making Evolve Homes carbon positive. This is a process and product that is unmatched by anyone else in the industry. Evolve also innovates in a less traditional way. They are pioneering a new management strategy that focuses on having higher concentrations of skilled tradesman rather than a large number of labourers being ordered around by one skilled person. This alternative workforce configuration creates a cooperative environment and encourages more productive work. Evolve has done something quite unique. They have found a way of doing business that supports strong profit margins while remaining aligned with their personal values and beliefs. Not only do they build beautiful homes, but through their forward thinking and innovation, are doing good things for the environment and leaving a positive mark on their community.

Evolving Society, One House at a Time

Inspiration

The inspiration behind Evolve started when Ben Polley participated in a sustainability workshop at Hillside Music Festival in Guelph, Ontario. He had a vision of constructing homes using plant based, sustainable materials. With the help of over 100 volunteers, Ben’s vision was carried out in “the home that thinks, drinks, and breaths”. This project was Ben’s first. It was on display at the Toronto convention center and now lives permanently in Erin, Ontario at a farming education center. Ben feels he has an obligation to the environment, not only to limit his impact on it, but to be proactive in helping repair it. This philosophy has been the inspiration behind Evolve since their first project and will continue to be a staple of their business.

Overall impact

Evolve has made a tremendous impact environmentally and socially. Their homes save unimaginable amounts of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. They do this by making their homes carbon neutral and carbon positive, sequestering carbon in the materials themselves. This has a huge impact environmentally, but it isn’t the only area they are making an impact. They are pushing for more government support of sustainable businesses like themselves. Ben mentioned in our interview that although there is no policy in place holding them back, there is equally little policy that helps support sustainability. Evolve is trying to change that, yet another area they are making waves and having a positive impact on their community.

Business benefit

In the beginning, demand for services like Evolve’s was greater than the supply, which, in combination with low intensity of competition, made it easy for them to enter the market. In fact, other businesses in the same market helped Ben start and grow Evolve, when in another market that would have never happened since they would be direct competition. Ben called it “co-opetition” (cooperation with would-be competition), and he paid that forward to others who came to him looking to start and grow their own sustainable construction businesses. As time went on, Evolve progressed into a market that was much more climate-conscious, which meant that they were getting more clients who wanted what was best both for people and for the planet. Thus, their customers will likely be willing to pay the extra cost that may come with building sustainably. Overall, Evolve’s innovation provides benefit to their business by granting them access to a niche market in which demand is greater than supply, allowing them to capitalize on a unique demographic of consumers who care more about making a difference.

Social and environmental benefit

When we asked Ben what he thinks separates Evolve from other businesses in the same industry and in others, it didn’t take him long to respond. Some companies win awards for elements of their business that are a good example for a Triple Bottom Line or sustainable operations, but Evolve represents and encapsulates everything that those businesses win those awards for. In terms of social benefit, Evolve is certified by the Living Wage Program of Ontario, which recognizes employers (both public and private) that commit to pay their staff and contracted service staff a Living Wage based on the locally calculated rate. Environmentally, Evolve is changing the fundamentals of construction, striving to replace petro-chemical-based materials with plant-based ones. Their projects have no ongoing carbon emissions, and most are actually carbon-positive by completion, meaning they have sequestered more carbon than they have released during building. Ben said that at the end of the day, their business benefits all, and it isn’t hard to see how: Evolve sets an attainable precedent for other companies, providing benefits both environmentally and socially.

Interview

Ben Polley, Founder & President

Photo of interviewee

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Evolve Builders

Evolve Builders

Guelph, Ontario, CA

Business Website: https://evolvebuilders.ca/

Year Founded: 2000

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Specializing in green construction and eco-friendly renovations, Evolve Builders Group is a full-service general contractor and homebuilder, registered with Ontario Tarion New Home Warranty. More than that, they are craftspeople, combining leading-edge skills with absolute integrity and impeccable quality, striving to be among industry leaders in all of their service offerings. With bases of operation in Guelph, Harriston and Orillia they service much of southern-Ontario, Grey-Bruce and Georgian Bay, Simcoe County and Muskoka.