By Pat Rediger
Take a wellsite geologist and combine his skills set with a marketing manager and what do you get? In the case of Adam Putz and Luke Piller, the result is an innovative home construction company in Regina named Piller & Putz Construction.
“We started in 2014,” said Putz. “Luke was actually a marketing manager and I was doing geological consulting work at the time and carpentry was an interest for both of us. We started doing some jobs on the side and eventually decided to do it full-time.”
The combination seems to have struck the right balance. Today the company employs a dozen staff and works on approximately 50 projects a year. Piller & Putz also established Contour Cabinets & Millwork in 2018 which manufactures and installs custom cabinets, stairs, railings and other millwork.
The duo began by doing small home renovation projects in the evenings and weekends. Putz took an interest in energy efficiency and before long he began building his own “net zero” house. He wanted a home that was energy efficient, comfortable and a good investment.
Putz originally wanted to develop a Passive House—a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency, which reduces the building's ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. However, after taking into consideration Saskatchewan’s climate he opted for a home that was net zero: it produces as much clean energy as it consumes.
The exterior of his home is finished in a modern farmhouse style and the interior is finished in a mid-century modern style. Some of the unique features that were incorporated into his home include tripleglazed windows, radiant heating panels, and a 16 kilowatt (kW) SolarEdge solar system for power. Excess energy from the solar system is used to heat the garage.
Putz’s experience with his own home helped propel him and the company to become an industry leader in residential energy-efficient construction. Piller & Putz Construction joined Passive House Canada so they could specialize in all phases of a net zero and passive design and construction.
“Passive House is pretty much the highest standard in the world for construction and energy efficiency,” explained Putz. “I took a couple of courses in it for construction and design. We now do our own energy modeling before we start construction.”
As the company became better known for their experience, they hired more staff and started to construct their own custom builds. Their expertise enabled them to design practical homes that meet the stringent requirements required by both Passive House and Net Zero Programs. Their custom built homes not only showcase energy efficiency and durability, but also cost-effectiveness and comfort.
Although their office is based in Regina, they service a fairly wide geographic area. They’ve built or renovated homes in the Echo Lake and Katepwa Lake areas as well as the White City area. While they are passionate about energy-efficient homes, the bulk of their projects involve renovations.
“The renovation side still represents the largest portion of our business especially since we started our cabinet company. We started Contour Cabinets & Millwork because we have always done cabinets for our own jobs and now we can provide cabinets and millwork for other builds and clients. It’s a separate company,” said Putz.
Even during the renovation projects, energy efficiency can still play a major role. Depending upon the job, they will incorporate energy efficiency into the construction, especially on projects that involve exterior finishing. Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly discussed by clients before projects begin since people are becoming more educated about sustainable options, and the overall costs of energy efficiency continues to decrease.
Since Putz’s own home is net zero, many people are interested in his ideas for their own home renovation projects. To assist these people, he has created videos to demonstrate the technology and provided tours for those who want to learn more. He’s in the process of creating a blog that will provide advice to those interested in the subject.
Although some people may be concerned about the cost of incorporating energy efficiency, Putz said prices are coming down and there are other benefits as well.
“If you are buying an older house that needs new windows, doors, roof, exterior and all that, then there’s quite a bit of potential to do it cost effectively. If you are replacing it all anyways, then it really isn’t that expensive. The savings and benefits far outweigh any negatives. Cost savings are nice, but you also get a much quieter home which is really nice in the city, and the ventilation is better so your overall quality of life improves.”
One of the company’s current projects that stands out for Putz is the restoration of a 100-year-old home along College Avenue in Regina. The company has been working closely with the owner and architects to keep the house as close to the original design as possible. It’s not often they get to work with such a variety of tools and carpentry techniques on a project.
“We’ve rebuilt a lot of the original features so it still looks original and maintains its heritage. It’s all shake exterior, has a nice bell roof, and it’s very large and interesting inside. It’s important for us to maintain the style throughout the house.”
It’s these types of projects that have helped build the company’s reputation and word-of-mouth advertising serves as their primary marketing tool. They purchase a small amount of advertising and maintain a website but most of their work is through referrals. Their marketing efforts received a boost last year when the company received the Green Build of the Year Award from the Regina and Region Home Builders Association. The award recognized their commitment for sustainable development and in creating a new home that is above industry leading standards in the marketplace.
Saskatchewan is an ideal location for such a company to thrive since it offers plenty of opportunities and economic growth. Putz said he appreciates working with clients from diverse backgrounds and interests, and they have the chance to work on projects in the city, on acreages and near the lakes. The province is also home to a great talent pool, so they don’t have trouble finding skilled labour.
“Luke and I enjoy the entire process, from sales to design to hand-over. We design, work with customers, build it, work onsite ourselves and sell it. We keep the majority of finishing work in-house to ensure a quality product at the end. At any point during your renovation you can find Luke or I onsite working. We also like to work very closely with the clients so they can make informed decisions and be happy with the finished product in the end.”