Because Olivette is a different kind of community with a focus on sustainability, it’s always been important to us that we partner with builders who share that focus. Asheville-based Living Stone Design + Build is one such company whose vision aligns so closely with our own.
Their history is fascinating, especially because many of their ideas have proven to be so prescient. When Living Stone was first conceived over 23 years ago, green building wasn’t the focus; it wasn’t really something on many builders’ radar. Rather, Sean Sullivan started the company after seeing how frustrating the process of having a custom home built was for many buyers.
Much of that frustration was due to not having a builder involved from the beginning. People would buy a lot without realizing the incline would make it difficult to build on, or have an architect design a house they actually couldn’t afford, only to finally meet with Sean and learn they’d wasted a lot of time and money.
His idea was to have the builder involved from day one, consulting on lots and designs and streamlining everything. It was visionary and it worked, saving time and money and most importantly stress. Living Stone gained a reputation for being client-focused and the whole concept expanded from there.
It grew organically into offering increased energy efficiency, which led to participation in the Energy Star program. But Sean realized there were even more ways to increase energy efficiency beyond Energy Star standards, not to mention ways of minimizing the impact of building on the environment, and it became a real passion.
This was over 15 years ago, when the idea of green building was just catching on. Now all Living Stone homes are both Energy Star and NC Greenbuilt Certified – and green building in general has become a major force in the industry.
Even now they remain ahead of the curve, with a new focus on using building materials that don’t off-gas toxic fumes. This is terrible for the environment… The overall environment, of course, but also the smaller environment of a brand new house filled with people inhaling said toxic fumes.
It’s not an issue many people are aware of, but Living Stone designers are well-versed in alternative non-toxic building materials. In a way that’s part of their holistic view of what green building means, that it’s not just good for the environment but also for the client, resulting in an overall healthier home.
Another aspect of this is their emphasis on designing for “aging in place”, building homes people can live in even if their mobility deteriorates. From seemingly innocuous choices like minimizing or eliminating stairs leading to the front door and leaving room along a shower wall for someday installing a grab bar, to more blatant features like an actual elevator, Living Stone is very intentional with all aspects of their design – long before most people begin to think about these things.
As one might expect, all of these things that set Living Stone apart have not gone unnoticed. They’ve won numerous awards at both the local and national levels, including recognition for design, safety, humanitarian work, customer satisfaction, and just about anything else one might expect a building and design firm to win awards for.
We’re excited to see several Living Stone homes under construction at Olivette, and look forward to future projects together. Stay tuned for that!
Special thanks to Molly Sullivan-Reeves, sales manager and sister of founder Sean Sullivan, who filled me in on the history and future of Living Stone! Photo courtesy of the Living Stone website.