Sienna Building Co. ensures total satisfaction and energy-efficient structures for clients in the Bend, Oregon area.
WHETHER SELLING SOFTWARE systems or affordable homes, Steven Mc-Dowell always has put the customer first. These days, he brings that philosophy to Sienna Building Co. as part of the husband- and-wife ownership duo who operates the custom homebuilding business in Bend, Oregon.
“Our company is designed from the ground up to benefit the customer,” says McDowell, who runs the two-person operation with his wife, Justine McDowell.
“From our design services, preconstruction planning and web-based construction management systems, to our open-book philosophy, we try to remove any obstructions that could cause anxiety for our clients. Building is fun, and we want our customers to feel the same
McDowell joined the construction industry about 20 years ago in Portland, Oregon, as a side job to complement hiscareer in software sales.
Once he was laid off from his sales position, he launched his first building company. McDowell’s first project was building 14 townhomes, which was followed by developing two 10-lot subdivisions. The company soon evolved into a high-end speculative builder, but the Great Recession and the downturn in the real estate market took McDowell’s first building company out of the market.
He returned to the software industry for a couple of years until he was named the executive director of the Clackamas Community Land Trust (CCLT), an affordable housing nonprofit, where he already served on the board of directors. McDowell and his team built a LEED Platinum project – Juneberry Lane – that earned the designation of most outstanding affordable housing project in 2011 from the U.S. Green Building Council.
While working at the CCLT, McDowell planned to start a new building company in Bend.
“With our first building company we started as a builder of entry-level homes and evolved into a development company building mid-priced homes,” McDowell says. “With my greater interest in green building and design aesthetics, Sienna Building Co. evolved into a custom homebuilder who focuses on value and efficiency in both energy use and construction practices.”
Sienna Building Co. thrives by utilizing the newest methodologies to save clients time and money.
“Fortunately for us, we find much of our competition is still doing things the same old way,” McDowell says. “What I mean by that is, they continue to build to the lowest code in energy efficiency, they still provide meaningless dollars-per-square-foot pricing to their clients, keeping homeowners in the dark when it comes to where their money is being spent.”
Sienna Building Co. prides itself on relying on its process, value and the customer experience to set itself apart from the competition.
Through the preconstruction planning and design process, McDowell says the company is paid a small consulting fee to offer line-item budgeting and specification development so homebuyers know Sienna Building is working with their best interests in mind.
“During this phase, we earn their trust, provide them a design that can be built for their budget, and provide open books with no markups,” McDowell says. “Removing these sources of potential customer anxiety allows them to enjoy the construction of their home.”
Practice What You Preach
The McDowells used these tried-and-true practices on their own house, a custom-designed contemporary home located in Bend’s Awbrey Park neighborhood. The home occupies 3,150 square feet and features four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a three-car garage.
According to McDowell, the structure represents the most energy-efficient home he has built thus far. The house features advanced framing for a staggered-stud, 8-inch-thick wall with hybrid insulation of closed-cell spray foam and blown-in blanket.
The house also sits on a hydronic-heated slab and utilizes a zone-controlled HVAC system and LED lighting.
“This is our own residence, but we design and build our own homes and any spec homes just the same as we would any custom home,” McDowell says. “With proper planning, we build very efficiently with no gaps between trades. We have vetted our trades so we are getting the best quality and price in town.
“We use our web-based system [BuilderTrend] to manage all of our projects from bidding and selections through scheduling and warranty,” McDowell adds. “Using this platform allows increased visibility for every phase of the project for our clients.”
Sienna Building Co. has its sights set on additional growth down the road, but customer service and value remain at the forefront of that strategy for the McDowells.
“We do not plan on growing to a point where we cannot enjoy the quality of life that so many people seek when they move to Bend,” McDowell says. “Five years from now, we hope to have a long list of clients whom we call friends. We hope to continue to provide great value and adopt anything that helps us build better, faster, and with greater efficiency that allows our customers to see their dreams come true.”