Back in 2003, four friends, Dave Brogan, Ross Grier, Tim Smith, and Brian Forth, with years of experience in building, woodworking and timber framing became interested in the idea of starting a worker’s cooperative. In 2004, that idea became Bellingham Bay Builders.

The four of us shared all the functions of running the business, made decisions democratically, and divided losses and profits according to the hours each worked. Founded as a timber framing contractor, Bellingham Bay Builders, was grounded in a centuries old tradition of handed down knowledge and rigorous attention to detail. With challenging installations on inaccessible islands in the San Juan Islands and as far away as Japan, we developed a robust operational system that is the foundation of our modern project management system today. With our many years in the building trades, tradition of fine craftsmanship, and rigorous project management; it was an obvious step to start offering full service general contracting.

In 2006, we extended our services to start offering full service general contracting in addition to our timber framing. It proved to be a popular move. Our schedule quickly filled with interesting and challenging projects from historically accurate remodels to commercial TI’s to new homes. With all the extra work Bellingham Bay Builders doubled in size, and uniquely, welcomed in one of its first employee’s as its first non-founding owner.

dave working on trellisAs a values-based company and a workers’ cooperative, Bellingham Bay Builders was founded to be more than the sum of its owners. It was founded to support its owners and future owners in their creative journey into building excellence and be an everlasting example of a business model that treats all its staff with the dignity and respect that we all deserve.

Starting in early 2007, following the passions of its owners, we joined with a young highly effective local non-profit, Sustainable Connections, (an excellent advocate for local, living economies) in support of their new Green Building and Smart Growth Program. In so many ways it spoke to our hearts and continues to, to this day.

Around this same time we decided to make an active effort to deepen our understanding and application of building science while making better high performance buildings. By sending two staff members, Dave Brogan and Dave Ghan, through the US Green Building Council’s rigorous LEED Accredited Professional training and credentialing process we quickly updated our best practices for “typical” buildings and identified ways to push the high performance envelope. Just a year and a half later as the great recession came crashing in, we started construction on our first LEED for Homes gold-certified project. Building beautiful homes with attention to energy efficiency, durability, and healthy indoor environments proved to make better spaces and as a bonus seemed to be recession-proof. Bellingham Bay Builders continued to grow responsibly; hiring more future owners and strengthening partnerships with the excellent local design community.

In 2010, through a dynamic revisioning process, we reaffirmed our commitment to our cooperative structure and our focus on values before profit. The benefits of our cooperative structure continue to be many; for the company, its families, and especially its clients. During this process, with a consensus driven approach, we retooled our Mission Statement and Guiding Principles

The following year brought two important changes and continued growth. First with the awarding of a state grant of a blower door and other energy auditing tools as well as the opportunity to send, Jeff Mack, through the Building Performance Institute’s Building Analyst training. We were and are delighted to be able to offer comprehensive building envelope testing and whole house energy efficiency assessments. In combination with our work and passion for high performance building, the testing equipment has given us the ability to test the effectiveness of envelope assemblies and our air sealing efforts. Secondly, and notably one of the most rewarding, was moving our office and home base into the Alley District neighborhood of Downtown Bellingham. Besides eliminating many wasted hours driving between our old county office and our typical Bellingham projects, it placed us in the heart of the community we love and call home.

In the intervening years we have continued to responsibly grow to serve our clients’ needs, take on more interesting and challenging projects, further develop our project management systems, and support our staff in their personal development goals. In 2014, we were very excited to start our first net zero energy custom home, inspired by the principles of the passive house movement. We will be closely monitoring the performance of this house over the next couple years and will be incorporating many of the tricks we learn into our future practices.

Moving forward, the company’s goals are to keep pushing the standards and best practices, so that the term “green building” becomes obsolete, and high performance building becomes the rule. Continue to provide a path to business ownership for all of our dedicated future owners and enjoy the benefits of dedicated community of craftsman co-owners. And finally, continue to look for ways to push our creative edges by infusing art and beauty into each and every one of our projects.