Kit and Gerry Starr launched Starr Homes with the intent to deliver homes that just “feel right.”
KIT AND GERRY STARR never set out to start a green building company. However, because all green building practices inherently bring out the best in construction operations, Starr Homes naturally morphed into a sustainable building company focused on efficiency. “It is the integration of green design elements with space planning, flow, aesthetics and functionality that creates a lastingly beautiful home,” Kit Starr says.
Starr Homes’ roots date back to 1999 when Kit Starr built his first house for a family member. Gerry, his brother, joined the company in 2005.
In addition to being the owners of Starr Homes, Kit and Gerry also are designers and builders. “Starr Homes has remained at the forefront of new home construction in the greater Kansas City [Missouri] area since its inception, consistently incorporating innovative industry trends with cutting-edge technology,” Vice President Bob Osterlund says. “Starr Homes combines exceptional
design with the best practices of construction committed to building energy-efficient homes that just ‘feel right.’”
The Overland Park, Kansas, company specializes in new construction after setting out in 1999 with the primary intent of building high quality homes using only the most effective products, materials, and practices and dedicating itself to ongoing intensive industry research. It just happened that a rigorous dedication to every individual element of the building process has, in most cases, coincided with sustainability.
There are numerous energy-saving elements that define a Starr Home, including keeping the ductwork inside the conditioned space, the use of energy heel trusses and panelized wall construction methods.
The energy heel lifts the roof to allow the placement of full-depth insulation right to the perimeter of the exterior wall, where normally the space would be pinched by the rafter and greatly reduce effectiveness of the insulation.
“The panelized wall system is another example of a more effective process that ends up upholding sustainable practices. The systems are built in a factory to precise specifications,” Gerry Starr says. “The pieces are cut so that scrap pieces can be used elsewhere, considerably reducing waste.
“The walls also go up much more quickly, requiring fewer people to install, less time running machinery and less environment impact,” Gerry Starr adds.
Some companies might still believe green building is a passing fad, but not Starr Homes. In fact, the company continues to make new developments and innovations associated with energy-efficient homes to keep up with demand. For instance, all of the company’s homes are Home Energy Rating System- rated by an independent company.
“We have a lot of inquiries for solar, geothermal and other products that we can add to the house such as the ZIP systems for sheathing, energy heel truss systems and panelized construction for less waste,” Osterlund says. “Our clients are also demanding 95 percent energy-efficient heaters and hot water heaters, along with Eco-Seal.”
Aesthetically, Starr Homes’ clients have been demanding slider doors, which is new to the Kansas City, Kansas, market. Many customers also are going with a nano wall system for indoor/outdoor living from the kitchen to the lanai.
“Lately, we’ve had a lot of interest in contemporary/ modern architecture with free floating staircases, large amounts of windows, and even concrete floors on the main level,” Osterlund says.
Efficiency on Display
Starr Homes has many projects with unique aspects to them, but one home showed the company construction methods stack up to the competition. One specific project was a house built next door to another builder’s home so the typography of the land was very similar from one lot to the next. However, the competitor spent $70,000 for onsite costs while Starr Homes spent just $11,000.
“We were able to accomplish this by not taking a standard house and placing it on the lot, but by designing a specific house for that lot and were able to mitigate a lot of site costs,” Osterlund says. “The client was very happy that they got the house they wanted and for a lot less money.”
With the two identical lots, Starr Homes was able to show how it differs from other builders in the Overland Park region, especially when it comes to adaptability.
“Being a design/build firm, we are typically designing a house for a specific lot and take the lot’s topography into consideration when drawing up the plans, so that step was not uncommon for us,” Osterlund says. “But to be able to compare the site costs was a great way to put our design/build approach in perspective.”
To avoid budget overruns, Starr Homes gives a fixed price for its homes to maintain schedule and cost goals.
“The client does not have escalating costs during their build because we use an extensive estimating program that allows us to fix price homes versus other builders that can’t control costs and use a cost-plus method,” Osterlund says. “Since we are fixed-cost, we take on the risk of escalating prices, but for the client they know exactly what they are going to get.”
Through this model, the only thing that can drive the cost up is if the client adds additional allowances for selection items; such as flooring and appliances.
“Since we know our component costs, we can be very detailed in our estimate for each client, and since we never build the same house twice, each home has a very detailed set of standards and options that we estimate from,” Osterlund says.
No matter how much Starr Homes’ products are in demand, the company intends to stay its current size to keep its quality under control.
“Being that we are a design/build firm working with each client on their individual plans and lot, we are limited to the total number of houses we can build each year,” Osterlund says. “Our goals are to maintain our present size, but to do what we do better year after year.”