When Stefan Hamed graduated with a background in engineering and real estate, he felt he could do anything. Whereas many people lose that can-do attitude, Hamed funnelled it into his two passions: environmental sustainability and creating dream homes.
Ashlar Homes was founded in 2007 on the premise that environmentally sound construction practices need not compromise luxury; quite the opposite, it turns out. In a relatively short period, Ashlar Homes has worked on exemplary projects in and around the Ottawa region doing progressive and pioneering work.
Only, you might not know it. Hamed’s personal dedication to environmentally sound construction practices take a back seat to the craftsmanship and quality of his homes. Not the primary selling point, Hamed is happy to quietly change the construction industry in the background, and let his homes speak for themselves.
“I was trying to figure out a way to be a little bit different,” says Hamed. “Aside from the houses being energy efficient after construction, I thought, how energy efficient can they be in during construction?”
In terms of its branding, the environmentally friendly side of things went a little bit into the background. Instead, Ashlar Homes are built to gently modify the owners’ lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly.
“If they don’t have recycling built into their cabinets, they might be less inclined to recycle,” says Hamed. “If they don’t have a rain barrel at the beginning, chances are they won’t go out and buy one, so we just put it there so there is one less obstacle.”
Hamed believes no action is too small, and is always finding other ways to divert from landfills. “One of the things that astounded me being on construction sites is the waste,” notes Hamed. “We try to divert from landfills as much as we can. Leftover framing wood, ideally I give it to someone with a wood burning stove, for instance. We always have a little site on each construction site for the cardboard, because so much of what we use comes in packaging—we take all of that stuff and bring it over to Metro Waste and they recycle all the cardboard.”
One of Ashlar’s first projects was in a small town called Merrickville. The artistic town with tonnes of character was a perfect match for Ashlar, whose outside-the-box thinking contributed to the town’s environmental goals. “The sub-division kind of found me because of the environmental lean I have. They donated a lot of resources for conservation of the wetlands and were very particular about the builders that come into the sub-division.”
A full-service provider, Ashlar Homes takes care of land acquisition, finance, purchasing, sales, inventory houses, and are on site all the time doing quality assurance, project management, scheduling, payroll, A to Z,” says Hamed.
Hamed’s philosophy of doing this better infuses his works sites as well. “I have found our biggest asset is everybody that we hire and do work with, we get along with wonderfully. Always a good rapport, good energy on the sites, good synergy, everybody gets along, a good workflow. Having everybody working and being happy shows in the quality of the work. They take better care of their tools, their workmanship is a lot better and when people have come to me to do work for them, and I always try to be the buffer between the buyers, the clients, and the trades.”
It’s a grand responsibility to build a home tailored to a client’s wishes, to which Ashlar Homes is devoted. “My previous customers seem to be really happy with how well we translate their priorities just though good communication with the trades, a clear understanding of the vision and keeping them in the loop. If there are any ambiguities, we will clarify it with the client.”
For now, Hamed derives great joy from providing customers with their dream homes. “Doing all the custom orders and spec homes now is great. Ashlar is looking into a medium-term product—a sub-division of 40 houses so we would be doing the land development and the sales.”
Corporate social responsibility
The success of Ashlar Homes notwithstanding, Hamed believes that a dream home can come in many different forms, and has also focused his resources on community housing initiatives. “Being on the construction side of things, I see how housing can be expensive. Labour and materials are extremely expensive.
Whether because of unions or oil has gone up, general costs and operations are going up, houses are getting further out of reach of individuals. So working closely with the housing organization and community housing here in Ottawa I see us being more involved in generating affordable housing in the city, helping them transition from renters to first time home owners, which is the foundation of wealth building. And it really is something that I identify with because I see it as an integral part for anyone who wants to be financially independent.
Hamed says Ashlar Homes’ corporate social responsibility is “neck-in-neck” with its commitment to quality and that the company is “grateful” to be able to give back to its community and industry. For every home that Ashlar sells, a $500 donation is made to charities such as Multifaith Housing Initiative, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
Ashlar Homes represents the future of business by being a company that does not compromise on its ethics or bottom line. With its roster tripling in three years, there will be a lot more good news coming from Ashlar Homes.
“I definitely see Ashlar doing both sides of that, helping with people who are established and want to build their dream home,” says Hamed. “That is definitely where I see us going.”