One of the highlights of this issue is our 15th annual At Home section, so we wanted to pose a few questions to one of the most respected custom home builders in the area: Scott Lowell. Lowell began his career in construction in an unconventional way. Although he worked for builders throughout high school and college, he obtained a master’s degree in education and had plans to pursue a career in college administration. After completing graduate school, a visit to see friends in Lake Geneva changed everything. He was offered the opportunity to work in the commercial construction industry in places like Trinidad, Guyana and Haiti, and eventually spent six years in the Middle East rebuilding universities in Kuwait after Operation Desert Storm. After returning, he began developing property and building custom homes. Forty years and over 200 homes later, the company’s creations are some of the most iconic on the shores of Geneva Lake and in southeast Wisconsin.
Why should someone in the market for a new home or a remodeling project consider Lowell?
Whether it is the superintendents in the field or the office staff, the answer is always the same — we always always “do the right thing.” Our customers have very high expectations and our goal is to exceed them. Each client is assigned a tenured superintendent who is on-site daily to ensure quality control, schedules and safety for all. Many of our employees, as well as our subcontractors have been with us over 25 years and understand the exceptional quality that is expected in a Lowell home.
Your website indicates you far exceed building code requirements. Please explain.
Building to code is a bare minimum, which is not good enough for a Lowell home. Our mechanical systems are of the highest standards regarding technology and efficiency. Our sound and insulation systems exceed what others include in their homes and are evident as soon as you walk into a Lowell home. Our framing systems include enhanced floor and roof systems, double floors and the highest level of water protection.
How has your company evolved over the last 40 years?
Our customers are much more involved in the process than when we first started. They have done their homework and come to us with their idea books from Houzz and Pinterest. They are interested in products that are environmentally responsible and technology that is state-of-the-art. We love when our clients bring us new ideas to implement in their homes. We’ve had to scale up our processes and methods to be more responsive and knowledgeable to keep up with the times. The last 10 years we have concentrated on developing the programs and processes required to adjust to today’s world and client expectations.
What are the most popular features you’re incorporating in homes today?
Our homes are all about families, so bunk rooms are high on the wish list. We have built anywhere from four to eight bunks in a single room. This takes the sleepover to the next level. Elevators are also becoming a requirement as homeowners consider aging in place. Outdoor spaces are very important as people are spending more time at home. Screened porches with fireplaces create cozy outdoor spaces that can be used for three seasons. Security is of primary importance and we are seeing a lot of cameras throughout the home.
In light of the pandemic, what are some of the current challenges in home building?
The building industry has not been hit as hard as some segments of the economy, but we are having our own issues. The single greatest thing we can control is safety at our job sites. We have to limit the number of people at a project and how many can work on each floor. Our superintendents have taken on the role of health monitors by checking tradesmen as they come on the jobs. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is asked to stay away until they are better. We are also seeing spikes in material costs due to shortages relating to the virus, but I also believe there are opportunity increases in some segments. Production facilities are dealing with shutting down lines due to the spread of the virus. All of these factors have led to delays in our production. A project that used to take 11 months, may now take 13.
What is the most gratifying part of the home building process for you?
The most gratifying part is the relationships we form with our clients. We get to know the families and many times make lasting friendships. We have been in business long enough that we are now building homes for our clients’ children. It is also gratifying to work alongside the 28+ employees we have that are dedicated to making our clients’ experience the best it can be.