Michael Chandler, Designer and Builder
In addition to running a design-build firm with this wife, Michael Chandler enjoys teaching others about green building.
“It was really just kind of fun to go out and spread the gospel of green building.”
–Michael Chandler, Designer and Builder, Orange County, N.C.
Every year, Michael Chandler gives a talk on green building at a local music festival near where he calls home in North Carolina. This year, he plans to talk about applying Pretty Good House standards to the weather and climate conditions particular to that region. This event seems like a far cry from the more high-profile opportunities he’s had—such as speaking for the NAHB University of Housing, influencing the ICC hearings, or being invited to advise the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on creating a building resiliency standard. But in talking with Michael you get the impression that teaching at a local music festival is just as rewarding. As he says, “I like being proud of what I do. I’ve worked jobs that prioritize expediency over quality, and it’s just not as much fun as taking the time to really do it well.”
Michael started Chandler Design-Build in 1987, which he now runs with his wife, Beth—herself an accomplished designer—in addition to working with another design-build company, BuildSense. Reaching this point was a journey with a lot of unpredictable turns that included sketching designs while working at a dairy farm in the summer, teaching dance classes at night while working for a design-build firm, and turning an old railroad car into an office.
After Michael started getting involved in green building, he was able to travel with the NAHB University of Housing, holding classes primarily for owners of construction companies. Recognizing the amount of time and money people were giving up for this training, Michael sought to make it as enjoyable as possible. “The key to this audience was to keep them laughing,” Michael says. “If I could keep them awake, they were great students who asked really great questions.”
Michael lives with Beth in the same type of house that they have designed for others, which he describes as a “permanent summer camp,” in which the inside is connected to the outside with multiple window walls. It’s the same house they built and got married in over two decades ago.
—Lana Melonakos-Harrison, digital editor
Photo: courtesy of Michael Chandler
From Fine Homebuilding #320
STORIES BY MICHAEL CHANDLER