Going “green” was a natural progression for Michael Kwiecien of Explorer Homes. He and his family have always recycled and composted, and he describes himself as an “old hippie,” although those days seem far away now as he dons a traditional military hair cut.
“I hated to see waste. And the more I see and learn, the more green I feel and the more it makes sense to me,” explained Kwiecien.
Kwiecien started in construction young, at 13. He eventually was building from the ground up and learned a lot about the construction industry. After graduating college, he joined the Army, where he had a boxing career and worked for the 1st Infantry Division commander and command sergeant-major. After returning home, Kwiecien played semi-pro football with the New Jersey Broncos, winning the Mason-Dixon Football League title.
He and his wife moved to Delaware in 2001, where he has worked for area builders and developers before recently striking out on his own.
He wants to bring that colorful background to his new career as a general contractor and Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Bethany Beach. Currently, he is a member of the Delaware Home Builder’s Association and the newly formed Green Building council for Delaware, whose main goals are to provide educational assistance to the membership; to assist state and local governments to provide and enact proactive, voluntary, market-driven building guidelines; and to increase general consumer awareness of green building.
“I’m excited. The biggest decision people make is their home. Right now, I’m offering a home performance module that allows people to see how their home is performing,” he said.
According to Kwiecien a “typical” Explorer Homes customer would be someone who is informed, someone who knows what can go into green building and the costs involved.
That’s not to say that green building has to be out of reach, for even the most cost-conscious buyer, as many things that people can do to maximize their homes efficiency start at the beginning — with lot placement and siting of the home, and other things that cost little more than some education and pre-planning. As a young man with a family, he sees the struggles families are faced with when home prices and land prices rise as salaries stay stagnant.
Kwiecien has found that the lack of waste in modular building and the ability to customize them mark modular homes as something of the future. Working with modulars allows him to be able to offer green building to people on a budget, as well as to people for whom the sky is the limit. His goals are to be competitive while being true to what is important to him and his clients. He offers some models for less than $100 per square foot — something unheard of for a custom builder.
“I could do it for $88 a square foot and certify it green, and try to squeeze as much in as I could,” he said.
Green certification by the National Home Builder’s Association comes in levels: bronze, silver and gold. Of course, if a customer wanted to go above and beyond and install solar panels or wind power, or geothermal, the price would rise, but Kwiecien is committed to being able to provide green homes affordably, even if that means less profit for him.
“As long as I can support my family, I’m not looking to get wealthy,” proclaimed Kwiecien.
He said he is constantly looking for ways to grow and for the next thing in green building and remodeling, which changes constantly. He credits much of his interests in sustainability and practical re-use for things with reading William McDonough & Michael Braungart’s manifesto “Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things.” He is constantly studying to try and be on top of what the newest and most sustainable practices are.
For instance, there is much discussion in the industry about whether vinyl siding is the “greenest” way to go, considering everything that goes into producing it, its lifespan, ways to re-use it, etc.
“I’ve found at least two places in New Jersey that will take post-consumer vinyl, [as opposed to brand new scraps that have never been used] so that makes me a little more comfortable with the theory that it can be ‘green,’” said Kwiecien.
His long-term goals are to eventually get a doctorate in a green home building-related discipline and write a book about his research of the industry. The thought of starting his business based on his values both excites him and acts as the force behind his inevitable success.
“It’s a leap of faith,” declared Kwiecien. “I’m not settled on my subs and vendors. I want to do my research, do good by the customer and stay true to my values. That’s how I want to do business. It’s 24/7. Every day, it’s, ‘What else can I do today?’
For more information on Explorer Homes, visit www.explorerhomes.com online or call Mike Kwiecien directly at (302) 853-2728.