Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955
net zero tiny house
Advanced Energy Studies Program at Western Washington University

Construction begins October 2019

Click HERE to download a set of plans to build your own…

We are a worker-owned cooperative.

A1 Builders and Adaptations Design is equally owned and democratically governed by the people who work here. Worker-owners also share equally in the profit of the company. When we converted our business model in 2017, we started with five worker-owners; ownership is available to all employees as they meet eligibility requirements. We shifted to this business model because we recognize that when all workers are invested in our success, it’s not just better for A1, it’s better for you, and our community too. Workers share a voice in the company, gain stability and a chance to build equity. With everyone thinking like owners, a more sustainable business emerges, and it shows in the quality of our decisions, workmanship, relationships and commitment.




Join Cascade Cooperatives for a free presentation on converting to a cooperative business model

On July 1 we became a worker-owned cooperative [WOC], with the leadership and ownership shifting from the prior company owners [Rick Dubrow and Cindi Landreth] to the new company’s co-owners, or ‘Kowners‘, as we nicknamed them [Patrick Martin, Maggie Bates, Justus Peterson, Bobbi Plata and Shawn Serdahl].  This transition ended years and years of study and collaboration between the buyers and sellers.

So what is a worker-owned cooperative?

Let’s first talk about cooperatives in general, because there are numerous specific types; five to be exact.  More on this later.

Our Founding Members [see their names in image below], former owners [Rick Dubrow [front & center] & Cindi Landreth [above & to the left of Rick]], and our principle business strategist Tom Dorr [upper right], of Dorr & Associates Consulting.

Generally speaking a co-op is a private business organization that is owned and controlled by the people who use its products, supplies or services. Although cooperatives vary in type and membership size, all were formed to meet the specific objectives of  it ‘members’, and are structured to adapt to ‘member’s’ changing needs.   A ‘Member‘, in co-op jargon, is a co-owner of the business.  Not all employees. Just those who become eligible and buy a share or shares of the business. 

No, this is not some radical idea.  Our WOC is an accepted form of business by the IRS; we’re a Subchapter-T corporation.   Same game; different rules.

Oh really?  Is it the same game?

We don’t think so.  The cooperative model is values driven, one tied predominantly to cooperation, as opposed to competition.  We think it is important and urgent to address the values towards which we’re orienteering. So allow us to share what are often considered the values set of a cooperative:

Co-ops are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. 

1. Open and Voluntary Membership
Membership in a cooperative is open to all persons who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic circumstances.

2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Elected representatives (directors/trustees) are elected from among the membership and are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote); cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative; setting up reserves; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control as well as their unique identity.

5. Education, Training, and Information
Education and training for members, elected representatives (directors/trustees), CEOs, and employees help them effectively contribute to the development of their cooperatives. Communications about the nature and benefits of cooperatives, particularly with the general public and opinion leaders, helps boost cooperative understanding.

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
By working together through local, national, regional, and international structures, cooperatives improve services, bolster local economies, and deal more effectively with social and community needs.

7. Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.

Another look at our founding co-owners, or ‘KOWNERS’, as we often refer to them [left to right: Bobbi Plata, Patrick Martin, Justus Peterson, Shawn Serdahl and Maggie Bates].

We believe that the cooperative business model is a subset of our vision of a cooperative economy.

cooperative economy is an economic system whereby those who employ its specific operating principles and embrace its explicit values can meet their basic needs in personally, socially, and environmentally responsible ways. Another way often used to describe such an economy is one driven by triple-bottom-line thinking… Profit, People and Planet… the three P’s . Basic needs met in personally, socially, and environmentally responsible ways.

Let’s  briefly discuss the 5 co-op types. Think about REI for a moment, since so many of us know about their  business model, which is a consumer cooperative.  You buy a lifetime membership for $20 [in September of 2017] and take advantage of numerous consumer benefits, including the ability to vote on their board of directors.  REI is owned by consumers who buy goods or services from their cooperative.

Three other types of cooperatives include:

  • Producer cooperatives: owned by producers of commodities or crafts who have joined forces to process and market their products
  • Purchasing cooperatives: owned by independent businesses or municipalities to improve their purchasing power
  • Hybrid cooperatives: a combination of co-op types, where people with common interests band together

Then there’s our type… the worker-owned model: owned and democratically governed by employees who become co-op ‘members.  Five employees became  the founding members, or Kowners.  Each of them worked here at least 5 years, one of our eligibility requirements. [In reality, the 5 Kowners worked here for over fifty combined years.]  Each of them purchased a share in the co-op.  Each Kowner has one vote.


Money cannot buy influence under this roof.  An individual who has worked here long enough [and continue to work at least 3/4 time], purchases a share, achieves other eligibility requirements [like knowing how to understand financial statements and the like] and resonates with the principles of cooperation and cooperatives… can become a Kowner, or member.  We’ve got 5 Kowners to start, and our  ultimate goal is to morph all of our employees into Kowners.  [Yes, a lofty goal, but, hey, we design and build lofts.]

We believe in a business, and in an economy, wherein workers with more skin in the game, embracing caring principles that bond a business to its clients, is a model worthy of our efforts.  And we promise to bring these values to your doorstep; to help you with your homework.

Succession came to pass on July 1st, 2017, ten weeks ago. A-1 Builders, Inc. is now A-1 Builders, A Design/Build, Worker-Owned Cooperative!  My former employees are now my bosses! For the time being I’m helping the new team deal with marketing on a part time basis; my hours worked per week since July 1st has been on the order of working 1/4 hour a week!  Can’t really call this ‘part time’; I think I’ll call it ‘microscopic time’.

Perhaps in other businesses or organizations my change from boss to employee would imply significant changes to the relationships in house, but this succession has felt so smooth, and I believe this is all about the word ‘cooperative’.  The fresh air of feeling like those around me care for this mother ship, at a time when our political climate is insanely divisive, allows me to know that our transition into a worker-owned cooperative has been, and is, the right path to travel.

Already the 5 new co-owners, or members, have blown through what used to define success around here.  They need help with marketing like I need a new fulltime job!  NOT! I adore watching this team rock ‘n roll.  And they’re already surpassing thresholds that it took decades for me and us to achieve.

Our founding co-owners, or ‘KOWNERS’. Left to right:  Bobbi Plata, Justus Peterson, Patrick Martin, Shaw Serdahl and Maggie Bates.

Some evidence of this:

Under my watch, during the past few years, our design team of 3 designers maintained a waiting list of perhaps 3 to 6 clients on our waiting list for design. Since July 1st this waiting list has grown to a high of 20 clients waiting for active design. And that’s with four designers now instead of the three during my watch… and one is a licensed architect, someone relatively new to our operation.

Because of this lag time in design, our client base tends to be better planners; they’ve got to wait! [Frankly, they’re willing to wait for the best.]  This strips away urgent projects, which, in any endeavor, promotes rushing and its first cousin:  Urgency in construction sucks. Let’s use our heads, take the right amount of time, and do it right the first time.

Here’s another important threshold we’ve utilized to help us know we’re on the right path: how many production hours are sold out ahead? In other words, how much actual construction work, in person-hours, is already sold but not yet underway?  Our imaginary ‘traffic light’ would turn yellow when this fell below 2,000 hours [simplistically, this is the productivity of one person working for one year].  Between 2,000 and 4,000 hours out ahead felt like third or fourth gear… we were coasting comfortably. And this 2,000 to 4,000 hour range best described the company during my last year.  Now, however, they’ve surpassed 7,000 pre-sold production hours, a number unheard of during my watch!

This… in ten weeks!  Proof that it was time for me to get out of their way.  Proof that I had hired and groomed the right team to pass and surpass my lead.

Most amazing amidst the changes goin’ on around here, though, is that the new co-owners [called ‘members’ in cooperative jargon] have normalized their compensation so that each of them make the same amount of dough.  Clearly, the 5 co-owners [or ‘Kowners’ as we’ve nicknamed them] have more fully embraced the cooperative model than I imagined after a mere ten weeks!

Evidently, it was time for me to step aside… for us to step aside.  Proudly, Cindi Landreth – my wonderful wife; co-owner of the prior company; manager of Adaptations, our design division; one of its designers – and I have left this team of Kowners a structure of cooperation that is already serving them well.  But it’s not just about them, defined as these 5 people. Their achievements will empower the other 17 employees here who are not yet eligible to earn the Kowner badge. The achievements of the entire staff will then empower other organizations in town to explore the cooperative model to perhaps surpass their own past thresholds of what it meant for them to be successful.

Said empowerment will then trickle down to help our community thrive, a community that includes our town, our county and beyond… encompassing our ultimate mother ship. Mother Earth needs new models because, frankly, what’s out there now is simply not working.  She’s hurting, big time, because of an infinite growth model disconnected from the reality of the natural world.

I feel like my career here has birthed a group of humans who may help to redefine what could work towards a healthier world.  Working together on a journey to align human law with natural law; designing and building structures with the future in mind; treating one another as peers, equitably, fairly. Where ‘one another’ includes everyone and everything.

I feel so proud to get out of their way. Letting go has felt so healthy because cooperation has served as our design intent.

Eleven work days until graduation. Most call it ‘retirement’.  Someone close to me called it ‘graduation’ and I instantly attached to that label, better representing my major leap into something so very new and different.  42 years at the helm of A-1 Builders feels sufficient. Time to pass the baton, but to whom?

Soon-to-be prior owners Rick Dubrow and Cindi Landreth

I started to think about this 10 years ago.  By my side, then and now, is Cindi Landreth, my wife, company VP, manager of Adaptations Design Studio and one of our designers.  Ten years ago the economy was tanking, we along with it.  Sure, survival was top of mind, but so was imagining a succession plan that fit our goals:

Selling our company to people who could embrace our vision of thinking long term; to people who share our journey towards sustainable building and business practices.

Awarding those who have helped us achieve our state of wellbeing. If workers created this wealth, why should others take it? Selling to an unknown buyer made little sense to us.

Passing along a business whose DNA includes resilience that can likely survive economic downturns and other potential, external shocks, be they natural or man-made.

The worker-owned cooperative model kept floating to the top. Owners [referred to as the cooperative’s Members] pool their resources to operate a member-owned and governed business, that is guided by a set of principles, for common benefit.  A model supported by our economy and legal system… a Subchapter -T Corporation. A model driven by a triple-bottom-line approach to commerce, recognizing the need to address profit, people and the planet.  Common benefit driven by a set of principles.

In August of 2010 Cindi and I attended the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives conference in Berkeley, CA.  From then on our vision had a blueprint. Design was done.  It was time to build.

The recession hammered us, but our expertise in deconstruction and renewal allowed us to survive.  This hardship empowered our key employees to make some hard choices, creating a hard core group who began to act like owners.  The economy helped train them and our vision for more democracy in the work place gathered momentum.

We soon learned that converting a Subchapter-S corporation into a Sub-T version doesn’t have a lot of case studies to choose from, especially here in the fourth corner.  So we sought to amass a team of players who could help us learn this dance.

Our soon-to-be Founding Members, former owners, and principle strategist Tom Dorr. [Left to right in front row: Member Justus Peterson, former owner Rick Dubrow, Member Patrick Martin; second row is former owner Cindi Landreth; 3rd row left to right: Members Maggie Bates & Bobbi Plata; top row left to right: Member Shawn Serdahl and Tom Dorr of Dorr & Associates Consulting].

Our dance teachers became:

Tom Dorr; Dorr and Associates Consulting; 360-303-3198;; our primary business strategist and transition quarterback

Eric Grimstead and CJ Seitz at the Small Business Development Center; 360-778-1762;; helped us focus upon our key performance indicators [KPIs]

Attorney Mike Jacobson in Seattle [] and CPA John Mackey in Pt. Townsend []; referrals from our friends at Bellingham Bay Builders, another worker-owned cooperative here in town

Dance training and practice is almost done.  The past two years have been instrumental in this readiness, getting everything down on paper that has resided in our brains… protocols for this, principles for that, refined policies.

So let’s get personal.  Who are the folks soon to carry the baton?

Patrick Martin, our General Manager, approaching 13 years here

Shawn Serdahl, Production Manager, approaching 10 years

Bobbi Plata, Office Manager, approaching 13 years

Maggie Bates, Design Manager, approaching 12 years

Justus Peterson, Estimator & Project Management, approaching 8 years

Our Founding Members. Left to right: Shawn Serdahl, Justus Peterson, Bobbi Plata, Maggie Bates and Patrick Martin

These awesome 5 represent 56 years of combined experience within our culture, dancing our dance. Ultimate policy decisions will be made by them once we formally become a cooperative, but our existing culture, policies and procedures are alive and well, to be managed by the same people who have been doing so for years and years.

We’re aiming for July 1st for this formal transition.  Our fingers are crossed for the dust to settle then and by all indications we’ll be able to reach this finish line, baton intact.

Finish line? Well, that depends upon whose perspective. It’s Cindi and my finish line, but their start line. Listen closely for the sound of the starting gun.

I am so proud and confident to pass our baton onto this team.  And, thankfully, we’re poised beautifully for this transition:

      1.  We now have 4 fabulous designers in house with 14 clients on our waiting list

      2.  Production work is sold through summer, with a next available start date of mid-Sept.

      3.  Our production team in the field is 11 strong, led by 5 of them as Project Managers

The time is ripe; the stage is set; I’m ready to move on. I’ve danced this dance sufficiently long.  Our cooperative’s Members are ready, willing and able to take this business to new and exciting heights and I so look forward to watching their evolution.  Succession is at hand..

A roadmap to manifest your dream

Here’s a fairly brief overview of our process:


We meet with you at your home, at no cost or obligation. At this one to two hour visit we want to:

Learn about your hopes and dreams

Get to know you and your home

Describe our design/build process in detail


Sutton Finals (22) resized & compressedA follow-up email includes more information about our company, your project in particular, and our Design Agreement.

Following an optional visit to our showroom and office, and any further discussions about us and our process, you sign our Design Agreement.

One of our three in-house Designers comes to your home and initiates these tasks:

Get to know you and your project, answering any further questions about the design process

Measure your house and then draw it, using our CAD 3D program [‘Chief Architect’]

Draft one or more design concepts

Meet with you in our showroom to review these conceptual designs

Draft the final concept based upon your input

Select materials, documenting these specifications for our Proposal

With our Estimator, create a ballpark price, or SWAG [scientific wild-ass guess], for your project

Review the SWAG with you, then decide how to proceed [sometimes the scope of work changes at this point; we refer to this as our ‘negotiated bidding’ process]

Complete the development of the design and specifications, getting them ready for estimating


Our Designer and Estimator price the refined design and specifications

Review our Proposal price with you

Assuming the price is right we proceed to the mutual acceptance of our Agreement, or contract

If the price is off the mark we work together, modifying the design and specifications until we agree upon the right design, specs and price

We convert the Proposal into an Agreement; you sign the Construction Agreement; we schedule construction and select one of our Project Managers for your project


Designer completes permit-ready plans

Apply for all necessary permits

Final ‘shop’ drawings are completed by Designer [drawings needed by tradespeople that weren’t necessary for estimating [e.g., cabinetry; counter tops, etc.

Access or confirm that all necessary financing is in place

Protect all surfaces and furnishings as needed

Plan location for dumpster, portable toilet and trailer



Site work and concrete


Exterior work [e.g. siding, roofing, decks, hardscaping]

Mechanical [e.g., electrical, plumbing, heating]


Drywall and balance of interior work [e.g., painting, flooring, trim, cabinets]

Finishing touches [e.g., punch list, professional cleaning]


In 2005 EnviroStars awarded us its highest rating — 5 Stars — and this 5-star certification continues to this day (2016). A-1 Builders is not only the first builder to receive the highest EnviroStars 5-star rating in Whatcom County, we were the second builder in the entire state to be certified as a 5-star EnviroStar!

In 2005 EnviroStars awarded us its highest rating — 5 Stars — and this 5-star certification continues to this day (2016). A-1 Builders is not only the first builder to receive the highest EnviroStars 5-star rating in Whatcom County, we were the second builder in the entire state to be certified as a 5-star EnviroStar!

That’s the short version, but since the devil is in the details, let’s dig deeper…

Most remodeling projects are unique, with variables such as:

How many decision makers are there and how quickly do you make decisions?

How will the construction project effect your ability to live at home?

How much of your home will be affected by the work?

How much of the work, if any, will you take on yourself?

Given so many variables, how can we describe what’s typical for that which is unique? It’s tough to achieve, but let’ give it a try. Roughly speaking it can typically take 3 to 12 months to get from your initial phone call to us, until the actual construction work can begin.  This 3 to 12 months involves design, estimating, permit acquisition and access to financing. But one of your initial questions, even before design begins, will probably be: “When can you start construction?” Answering this question accurately involves our ability to look into a crystal ball 3 to 12 months down the road to forecast which projects we’re already involved with will, or will not, come to fruition.

Sadly, we don’t own such a crystal ball. Happily, the best you can achieve is to find a transparent, experienced and ethical contractor who is right-sized for your project and will work as hard as they can to reach your stated goals. We will do just that.  Robert Kunzig shared this worthy metaphor:

“The late novelist E. L. Doctorow once described his writing process this way: “It’s like driving a car at night – you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  We don’t have to be able to see the whole road ahead to a happy end – but we have to believe that we can get there.” 

As important as ‘belief’ is ‘trust’.  You‘ve got to believe in, and trust, the team you’re assembling to achieve your goals and objectives.   Sprinkle in a liberal amount of ‘patience’ and your tool box is nearly complete!

So let’s start with assumptions, knowing that every specific project will yield its own unique tasks and timeline. Please don’t get hung up on assuming that everything you read here will affect your unique needs… you’re too special to be typical!  What’s they expression…”you’re so unique, just like everyone else!”

Bike Repair KioskASSUMPTIONS

Let’s imagine a project that involves a complete kitchen remodel [down to the framing, often referred to as a ‘gut remodel’].

Let’s further assume that this project requires design work, a wellness exam [say what? more about this later], permits, and financing.

The time frames described here are WAGs [wild-ass guesses] and they assume that the tasks are performed in a linear sequence. So, for example, seeking financing is assumed to occur after estimating, and permits are sought after estimating and financing are done.  That said, some of these tasks can occur simultaneously, thereby shortening the time frame, something usually driven by how risk averse you are.  Why? Because if you start down the permitting process before knowing your project ‘s price, and then find out the project costs too much, you may lose some of the dough you already paid to the permit center for initial plan review.


Someone from our company visits you at home. This free brainstorm session usually occurs within two weeks of your initial phone call or email to us.

In our follow-up email to you we include our two-part Design Agreement. Signing & returning Part 2, along with your $1,000 retainer, gets you into our design queue.  Our designers often have a waiting list.  Waiting time for active design varies from two to six months.


Our designer wants to get to know you early on, right? So an in depth version of our first visit with you will take place.

We first explore design constraints [e.g., setbacks; watershed issues; height restrictions; etc.] answering the obvious question: how are our hands tied?

Our designer reviews the images you’ve saved in or in Pinterest or wherever, so that she can start to see through your eyes

Our designer creates a conceptual design or two and then meets with you for feedback

Then, with a refined preliminary concept in hand, we typically create a ballpark price range, formally referred to as a SWAG, or Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.

We then refine the plan further [e.g., floor plan drawings, elevation drawings, cabinet schedule, electrical plan, etc.] and generate specifications [the narrative portion of your plans, which includes material selections]

Go Hawks' DanceWELLNESS EXAM or PRCE [Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation]

If you’ve lived in your home for many years, and if it’s been a while since an experienced set of eyes has studied your place, especially the attic and crawlspace, it usually makes sense to hire us to perform this PRCE, or wellness exam… something that typically costs on the order of $200 to $500. Our goal here is to be proactive about avoidable surprises, as well as to help you spend your dough wisely.  Sure, a modernized kitchen may make sense, but what if there are unknown crawlspace or attic issue that are critical to be addressed?  Perhaps some of this urgent work is included in our scope of work.


The PRCE typically adds no time to the Design Phase because it is typically performed simultaneously.


Once the drawings and specs are complete the project moves into the hands of our Estimators, Justus Peterson or Shawn Serdahl.  One of them will arrange a ‘marathon bid’… our term for when we meet at your house with relevant subcontractors (e.g., plumber, electrician, drywall, etc.) so they can see your home and generate their price for us.

In the meantime, we gather pricing for the rest of the story… concrete, framing, tile, cabinetry, countertops, hardware, etc.

We bring all of this information together into a Proposal we then submit to you, face to face. During the Proposal meeting our Estimator will typically provide you with a draft project schedule.

If our price hit the mark, we schedule your project for the next available construction start date and we turn the Proposal into a Construction Agreement.

If, instead, this first realistic Proposal price misses the mark, then we turn the team… you and us… into a cooperative bidding machine. Based upon your input about how far off the mark we are, we alter this and that, together, until, hopefully, a second or third Proposal hits home and you say “GO! Let’s build this!”


LOW: 1.5 weeks [not many subs needed; straight forward project]

TYPICAL: 2-3 weeks

HIGH: 4 weeks [complications encountered; some materials discontinued; some subs late in getting us numbers; more complicated and larger project]


Typically our clients ask us to take care of this process, for good reasons.  It’s usually a complex process with a steep learning curve.  And the turn-around time depends upon so much that is out of our hands. [Know that our relationship with the permit centers is such that when the City of Bellingham permit center did their own remodel years ago, they turned to us as their designer!]


LOW: no time at all because either:

We get the permit over the counter the same day, or

You gave us authority to apply for the permit while we were estimating

TYPICAL: 2 -3 weeks [numerous departments need to weigh in but the permit center isn’t slammed]

HIGH: 6 weeks [the permit center is slammed and/0r the process gets bogged down with unforeseen complications]


If you need a home equity loan the lender doesn’t really care what you do with the dough, nor who you plan to hire! Assuming your finances are in order, this process can be swift… or not [again, out of our hands].

If you need more dough than can be accessed via a home equity loan, the step up is a Construction Loan, whereby the lender takes into consideration the value of your place after To that end they require signed plans and a signed contract, or Agreement, with your contractor.


LOW: no time at all because either:

You have the cash on hand already, or

Your home equity loan is approved within days, or

You secured your financing while we were estimating

TYPICAL: 4 to 6 weeks [you shop around for a lender and run into a typical amount of speed bumps]

HIGH: 12 to 16 weeks for a construction loan which wasn’t applied for until you received and approved our Proposal price


Once you sign our Construction Agreement you will be put on our construction schedule, assigning you the next available start date along with your Project Manager, the person who will live and breathe your project.

Awaiting your start date, we order all special order items and schedule all relevant subcontractors.


LOW: 10 to 12 weeks [material choices install quickly [e.g. no templating required]; not many subs; relatively straight-forward plan

TYPICAL: 15 weeks

HIGH: 20 weeks [more complex plan; templating required; many subs]

TOTALS [from initial phone call to us until construction is completely done; rounded off some]

LOW [adding all of the ‘low’ numbers above]: 5 to 19.5 weeks, or 4 to 5 months

TYPICAL: 37 to 43 weeks, or 9 to 10 months

HIGH: 70 to 74 weeks, or 18 months

What a wide range, eh?  But until we can wrap our heads around your particular project, these projections are the best we can do.

Again… belief, trust and patience.  It’s what you need.  Bring them to our door and we’ll then apply over 6o years of experience to bring your dreams to fruition.

Our dream team is awaiting your challenge.

Job Title:                  Building & Interior Designer

Reports To:             Adaptation Design Studio’s Manager

Minimum Qualifications:

  1. Advanced computer-aided experience with either Chief Architect or other 3D professional modeling programs
  2. Excellent people skills with experience in direct client contact
  3. Ability to instill confidence during an initial phone call, or face-to-face interaction, with a potential client
  4. Ability to site-measure and draw accurate as-built drawings
  5. Ability to draw basic site, foundation, framing, floor and roof plans
  6. Ability to draw cross sections and elevations
  7. Ability to creatively space plan for new and existing structures
  8. Quick ‘on-your-feet’ ability to brainstorm and generate ideas
  9. Ability to help clients develop specifications for their projects
  10. Strong knowledge of construction materials and terminology
  11. Intermediate hand sketching skills for problems solving
  12. General grasp of the building code and the building permit process
  13. General grasp of structural components of a building and identifying when structural engineering is appropriate
  14. General grasp of electrical and HVAC systems
  15. General understanding and past experience with communicating and managing subcontractors
  16. Ability to estimate and purchase cabinets, countertops, tile and flooring
  17. 5 years of verifiable experience in the design development of significant remodels & custom homes
  18. Ability and desire to work as an effective and positive team player in our design/build culture
  19. Good working knowledge of Outlook, Excel and WORD
  20. Furnishing us with references, sample drawings and photographs, if possible
  21. Dependable, presentable transportation
  22. Valid driver’s license with an excellent record
  23. Ability to follow written and verbal instructions; ability to fill out forms legibly
  24. Verifiable references from previous employer(s) and client(s)

Preferred Qualifications:

  1. Ability to create permit ready drawings and documents.
  2. Excellent understanding of both structural and interior design principles.


  1. Wage level commensurate with qualifications and experience. Current wage range is between $28 and $34 per hour.
  2. Other benefits: see summary below.  A full description of our benefits is contained in our Company Policy Manual, which you will receive and sign if you are hired. This is simply a summary.

Summary of Current Benefits:

Personal Healthcare Account (PHA)

A-1 Builders provides you with a PHA after you have reached your 90 day eligibility requirement.  This is not a health insurance plan.  Instead, we contribute a specific monthly amount of money into your PHA based upon the age-dependent chart. This monthly contribution is aligned with the premium cost of a model health insurance plan described in our Company Policy Manual, and it requires that you have in place your own private health insurance plan.

Vacation Policy

Vacation time begins to accrue after 6 months of employment.  Between 6 months and 5 years of employment a fulltime employee accrues a week’s paid vacation; between 5 and 10 years a fulltime employee accrues 2 weeks paid vacation; over 10 years a fulltime employee accrues 3 weeks paid vacation.

Simple IRA

You are eligible to participate in the plan if you have earned at least $5,000 during the last calendar year and are expected to earn at least $5,000 during this calendar year.  You may elect to defer as much of your wage as you’d like.  However, your total contribution may not exceed $6,000 annually.  You may alter the amount of your contribution every January 1 and July 1 after you initiate your Simple IRA. A-1 Builders will match your contribution dollar for dollar, but our contribution will not exceed 3% of your compensation.  This contribution may be reduced to a level below 3% – but not below 1% – in two out of every five years.

Vehicle Mileage

When you use your personal vehicle for business use you will be reimbursed at the federally-approved reimbursement rate.

SmartPhone and Data Package

You will be provided with a SmartPhone and data package at no cost to you.

Paid Holidays

Christmas Day is a paid holiday for every employee who has worked a minimum of 6 calendar months, with an average of at least 20 hours per week.

In addition, there is a paid ‘floater’ day that you pick and choose.

Anniversary Gifts

Anniversaries celebrating your longevity here are special events. These gifts differ depending upon your current wage and how many years you have been with us, with more significant gifts when you reach five year multipliers (e.g., at 5 years, 10 years, etc.).

Company Clothing

At one year of employment and every 5 years thereafter you will receive a $150 allowance to purchase a company coat upon which we place our logo.

Cafeteria Plan of Voluntary Benefits

We offer you a menu of voluntary, qualified benefits which allow you to pay for the selected benefit(s) on a pre-tax basis.  This Cafeteria Plan is a qualified plan under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Service Code. You are eligible for these benefits when you have worked here for 45 days, so long as you are at least 18 years old. When you reach these eligibility requirements you can choose any of the following voluntary benefits available to us through AFLAC (American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus):

  • The Cancer Protection Plan
  • Accident /Disability Plan
  • Hospital Intensive Care Plan
  • Short term disability



Stoney Bird;; (360) 647-6696

Rick Dubrow;; (360) 319-3705

Local Citizens Bring New Film We the People 2.0 to Bellingham

There is a growing movement for a Second American Revolution to realize a true democracy

Bellingham, WA – Local concerned citizens are hosting three special screenings of We the People 2.0 – The Second American Revolution.


Date Time Place
Friday, January 6, 2017 6:00 pm Bellingham Public Library, downstairs conference room
Saturday, January 14, 2017 2:00 pm Martin Luther King Human Rights Conference, Syre Hall, Whatcom Community College –
Thursday, March 16, 2017 6:00 pm Pickford Theater, 1318 Bay Street in downtown Bellingham. Tickets for this showing must be pre-purchased and are available here.

The documentary, presented by Tree Media and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), tells the story of people across the U.S. who have faced decades of environmental assaults – such as oil trains, coal trains, pipelines, fracking, and sludging of farmland – and what they are doing about it.

These communities recognize that ecosystems at home and around the globe are collapsing under inherently unsustainable laws and governing structures – what many have called a ‘corporate state.’ They have come to understand that the system is stacked against them and the natural environment. The film shares how they are working with CELDF and organizing to stop these assaults in their own communities through rights-based laws, which ban the harms as a violation of the rights both of the communities and their ecosystems.

The people of Bellingham vividly experienced how the system works against communities when they were not allowed to vote on a Community Bill of Rights a few years ago. The Bill of Rights would have banned the transportation of coal through Bellingham.

Communities across the country are laying the foundation for the sustainable future they envision. Further, they are joining together across states to advance democratic and environmental rights, building the next people’s movement through Community Rights.

Each showing will feature a short introduction, and will be followed by a panel involving participants in Bellingham’s effort to adopt a local Community Bill of Rights in 2012. Attendees will be invited to follow-up meetings for those wishing to move this work forward.

The showing at the Pickford Theater in March will be one of several showings planned for Western Washington that month. CELDF expects to host a Democracy School in Western Washington in April as a further follow-up. Tickets for the Pickford showing must be pre-purchased and are available here. If you expect to go to this showing, please order your tickets soon. Unless enough people order tickets in advance, the showing will not take place.

Learn more about the film, and view its trailer, right here.

Let’s work together and help make this happen… please forward this information on to those within your own world.

rick-2-compressedAll too often I’ll run into another hiker and the following conversation ensues:

“How many nights are you staying out?”

“None… I hope. We’re on a day hike.”

“Then why are you carrying so large a pack?”

Allow me to unpack my answer… an answer that addresses situations well beyond wilderness travel. An answer that extends into my settled, civilized life as well.  Why, at home, are Cindi and I prepared for a major natural or human-induced disaster?  Why, in our car, is it normal for the trunk to be half full of extra clothing and emergency gear?

‘cause shit happens. The fan is out there somewhere… rotating.  Car wrecks happen; falling down at home happens; broken ankles happen.

Hence this blog post… about our company’s day hike to Mt. Pilchuck this past summer that ended with a helicopter rescue. I vowed to write about what we learned: about safety; about appropriate preparation; about teamwork; at home, at work, in the wilderness.

I’m not suggesting that you should increase your worrying coefficient. Calm down. To the contrary, allow me to quote Cindi, that person who shares my personal and work life, when she talks about ‘creating structure to support your life.’  Preparation and planning reduces one’s need to worry… because if the shitty fan blade striketh, you’re ready for the ensuing stress.

Although you may be knowledgeable about first aid to some degree, have you thought much about second aid? During the initial aftermath of an accident or injury, it’s critical for you to guesstimate when  you can expect experienced aid to show up.  That estimate helps define what needs to happen early on, from the time an injury occurs until the time when an experienced rescue human can step in and take over.  The latter is often referred to as second aid.

First aid is up to you and yours, assuming you’re just about first on the scene. Our recent chopper rescue taught us this: proper preparation and planning depend upon first and second aid… stabilizing the victim and then either transporting the person or awaiting a rescue.

Seconds after Patricia broke her ankle we found her on the ground in severe pain and emotional trauma.  She was with her daughter and her daughter’s friend– strangers to our group of 5 co-workers. No bleeding and no apparent head injury, so her injuries weren’t life threatening.  That was a good thing, given that second aid would probably be many hours away. [The actual time between injury and helicopter arrival turned out to be 4 hours. Compare that to my present situation at work as I write this: I’m next door to a fire station!  The time between injury and rescue, at the moment, might be 30 to 60 seconds!]

Since we had cell phone reception to reach 911 we didn’t need to rely upon my recent purchase of a Delorme ‘inReach’ satellite communicator. [Some sick part of me wanted this rescue to depend upon this new state-of-the-art device I had just bought… for just this sort of situation!]  Emergency dispatch helped us determine that we shouldn’t splint her ankle; the chopper team would use an air splint. So our attention was focused upon:

Keeping her… and ourselves… warm.

Helping Patricia feel as calm, and as cared for, as possible. Call it ‘terror management’; she was one hurting puppy.

Preventing other hikers from tripping over her and us. [We were right on the trail attending to her needs.]

That said, while waiting, we had plenty of time to prepare for the chopper, discussing everything from the noise that would prevent verbal communication, to securing our clothing  that might blow around in the rotor wash. One thing we overlooked:  eye protection.  We should have put on our sunglasses to prevent the intense rotor wash that made seeing almost impossible while it hovered overhead.  Good thing I wasn’t responsible for splinting Patricia’s ankle! Given how poorly I could see without eye protection her lower leg would now look like a pretzel had I done the splinting!

In my pack I carried everything necessary to keep one person warm and dry for an unplanned overnight outside, and keeping Patricia warm required nearly everything I had in my 65-liter Gregory ‘Baltoro’ pack… and then some: extra clothing in others’ packs; some chemical warmers for under her armpits from another passerby. We slipped some insulation beneath her to protect her from the cold ground. We set up walking sticks as visual barriers so that others wouldn’t fall on top of her.

Ultimately, Patricia was invisible to an innocent passerby…wrapped within an insulated cocoon piled high with every piece of clothing and emergency gear imaginable! You couldn’t tell there was a human therein!


Yes, that’s Patricia, beneath the silver emergency blanket, as warm ‘n cozy as we could make her cocoon while we awaited second aid.

Two past events prepared me for this appropriate preparation, yielding this large pack that others often ponder about:

I was caught out on an unplanned overnight about 20 years ago, on an overcast, summer evening near the Twin Sisters to our east. My day pack volume at that time was perhaps 40 liters, too small to handle everything someone would need to reasonably make it through the night. So, for example, although I had shorts and light rain pants with me I didn’t have any long pants for warmth. [The very next day I bought a larger day pack, vowing never to make the same mistake again.]

During the 2001 Nisqually earthquake that battered Seattle I anchored a weekly radio program called ‘On The Level’ on KGMI… about remodeling and custom homes.  After the shake I interviewed Seattle’s emergency director on the air, learning how people took as many as 3 days to make it home because of damage to I-5 and its bisection of the city.  Most people had what was in their car; few were prepared with emergency gear.  Soon thereafter I started carrying a 3-day kit for two people in my car, and still do to this day [warm clothes; rain gear; flashlights; water; etc.].

That’s my point.  One needs to be prepared to survive until you can access second aid… outside help and expertise… a truism in an urban and wilderness setting alike!  But it’s one thing carrying this stuff around  in your car, another when one’s backpack weight shouldn’t exceed 25% of your own body weight.

Given these past two events, I took safe wilderness travel to heart. The Mountaineer’s Basic Climbing class provided the core of my learning, focused on wilderness first aid, and the inherent understanding that second aid is usually very far away!

Ask yourself this:  if you’re on a hike 5 miles from the nearest road, could you and your group sustain CPR for a victim until rescuers appear? Probably not if your numbers are few; administering CPR is extremely hard, physical work. Instead, sustained CPR just might produce additional injured victims instead of potentially saving the life of the original victim! Hence, the very nature of urban first aid is a far cry from wilderness first aid.

The 10 essentials; extra food and clothing; water; worthy rain gear… takes up a lot of volume!  Got space?

If not, get some! Don’t let your pack size limit your life expectancy!

Consider, too, carrying some technology in your pack. I carry my smart phone.  Why that extra weight?  Because it actually saves weight given what I no longer need to carry.  My phone is loaded with:

A wilderness first aid book

A survival medicine handbook

Freedom of the Hills [the Mountaineer’s textbook from their Basic Climbing class]]

A general-interest reading book for my backpack trips

Information about giardia and lightning

How to signal an aircraft with emergency information

Map and compass instructions

Information about pharmaceuticals I carry in my first aid kit

Owner’s manuals for items such as the satellite communicator, my camera and my UV water sterilizer [SteriPen]

The ‘Earthmate’ app synchs with the Delorme satellite communicator, providing a much larger screen and buttons than relying on the inReach by itself

No books to carry; more safety information on board; more peace of mind.

Enough about technology and what one carries.  A few words about the carrier – your body! Is your body ready, willing and able to submit to what you’ll be asking it to perform?

Consider this metaphor from my friend Phil Damon, referring to one’s body as one’s horse.  Just how well do you care for your horse?  You’re asking it to carry your pack, your essentials… your personality. Is there any obligation mightier than treating your horse with love and respect?  Preparing your horse for an adventure is perhaps the single most important piece of preparation.

A few more top-of-mind lessons to share:

Alert someone who’ll know where you’re going and when you’re expected to return. So important and simple, but how often is this overlooked? Even if you’re heading over a mountain pass in your car!  Someone needs to initiate a rescue if you’re too late! [And since you’ll lose cell coverage heading over the pass, why not take your Delorme inReach satellite communicator on such a trip as well?]

Before you start a trip, ask everyone else in your group to describe their pre-existing medical issues. Shouldn’t others know what to do if symptoms begin for some underlying issue?  Do they have drugs in their packs, or in their cars, that you should know about?

I was so very impressed by the rescue response for Patricia:  the chopper, its personnel… 4 men [pilot; 3 rescue techs]… and the equipment.  These dudes risked their own lives to help us. Isn’t that reason enough to honor, and act upon, one’s responsibility to be properly prepared when taking on an activity, wilderness or not?  I think so. After all, relying upon others instead of your own preparation seems selfish, unfair and unpredictable.   Sure, shit happens, but it’s your doodie to minimize the pile…

Prepare for the worst, expect the best, and embrace what comes.

Onward into the storm…



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