Home June 2018 Birkholz Homes: Helping to Build Edmonton from the Ground up

Birkholz Homes: Helping to Build Edmonton from the Ground up

The builder that makes dream homes come to life celebrates 50 years

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Birkholz Homes asks a lot of questions. You’d expect to be shown a portfolio of beautiful homes, the salesperson brimming with pride as they flip glossy pages of unique custom builds, but that comes later. One of the first things buyers of Birkholz homes notice is the 100 per cent focus on the needs of the home owner. What are your dreams? How will you use the space? For entertaining? For relaxing? Do you need flex space that will grow with your family? Are you aging in place so that you may require accessibility modifications down the road?

From the initial meeting with the Birkholz team to watching the home take shape before your eyes, to the follow-up after you are enjoying your one-of-a-kind home, the Birkholz experience is unlike any other homebuying adventure.

The term “Built by Birkholz” means something special in the industry. To Realtors, it means having a competitive edge for selling the home. For prospective buyers, it means unrivaled quality and futuristic touches that are ahead of their time. For Edmonton, it means a distinguishing mark in the landscape of custom home builders. For homeowners, it means home in the purest sense of the word. There is a lot of history, passion, and hard work behind those three little words – Built by Birkholz – and it all started 50 years ago when Horst and Doris Birkholz came to Edmonton.

“My father is of German descent, starts Kevin Birkholz,” company president and son of the original founders. “After they moved to Edmonton, my father started building houses with some German millworkers, cabinet makers, and tradespeople. This was the humble beginning of Birkholz Construction.

Horst’s talent for homebuilding was clear from the onset. He had the rare and special kind of talent for building, and an aptitude to learn quickly, that is seldom seen in the construction industry. In 1968, Horst incorporated and started to build his first home from the ground up – in the literal sense. Framing? He did that. Cabinets? He built them on site. Millwork? All Horst.

It wasn’t long before the Birkholz name started to become a buzzword among homebuyers. His first homes sold quickly; Horst and his wife Doris, who ran the administrative side of the business, became very busy. Soon, he was hiring contractors and carpenters to keep up with the demand, but he still insisted that every home had his special custom Birkholz touch.

“He was such a hands-on kind of guy,” smiles Kevin. “Most of his first homes were built on Edmonton’s north side. Then he branched out to develop and build a couple cul de sacs in St. Albert. In the 70s, he was building up to 100 houses a year.”

When the decade turned from the 70s to the bright and colourful 80s, Birkholz evolved again by taking an interest in Edmonton’s south side. In addition to entering the south side family home market, Horst and Doris moved their base of operations, and the company has been run from the city’s south side ever since.

“The goal,” Kevin explains, “has always been to build lasting projects that fulfill clients’ dreams through relationships.” You see, Birkholz isn’t just about building beautiful homes. It’s about building spaces where families can grow, laugh, love, and live in rooms that have been created specifically for them. It’s not about resale; it’s about the life the clients are living now and hope to live in the future. It’s about expert craftsmanship that is built to last. It’s about dreams coming to the surface and the capture of those dreams recorded in the soul of the home. It’s about the client turning to Birkholz to partner with them not for a house, but for a home that will stand for generations.

In 1968, Birkholz Homes had just two employees: Horst and Doris. Today, a core staff of 12 and more than 50 contractors build clients’ dream homes.

“I grew up in the business, loving to spend days with my dad touring the job site and watching him interact with people, clients, and the trades,” reminisces Kevin. “I grew up in construction, shovelling sand, cleaning up sites, then graduating to building decks and framing basements. I got my construction engineering diploma from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and formally joined the family business full time in 1995. I became president in 1997. A lot of the staff and the trades we work with have watched me grow up, and a lot of trades are transitioning into their second generation as well. The longevity, closeness, and family aspect of our, and their, business certainly plays a role in Birkholz’s success. We have very strong relationships with our subtrades.”

“Another key to Birkholz Home’s success is our reputation,” Kevin continues. “My father developed an excellent reputation in the city, and we are happy to maintain that.”

Decades, trends, and ownership has changed the company, but the time-honoured process remains. It starts with dreaming and discovery when the home owner sits down with Birkholz and has a conversation. There are no limits at this stage. Here is where the dream home is described and what the home owner wants and needs from the space is discovered.

Next comes the location selection. It could be an estate home on a sprawling acreage or a sleek infill in a mature or historic neighbourhood. For Birkholz, the location is just as important as the home itself.

Then it’s down to the nitty gritty. The dream gets translated into reality during the design and drafting phase. The client is present and engaged in every detail: material selection, colours, finishes. Birkholz guides the process to ensure the client is not overwhelmed by the many decisions that come with this phase.

Construction comes next, and this is where the 50 years of experience really shine. The project manager welcomes the homeowners’ input, site visits, and involvement as they watch the physical manifestation of their dream come to life. Questions are answered in a timely manner. Concerns are addressed promptly, and the team is adept at keeping the project on time and on budget.

The next stage is the most exciting for everyone. The client is introduced to their new home with a 2-3 hour walk-through that familiarizes them with not only the beautiful finishes and features, but also the functions behind the walls that keep the home running at peak efficiency and comfort. Appliance manuals, warranties, and product information are handed over with the keys in one convenient package so the homeowners have everything they need within reach at all times.

The final stage lasts for years – Birkholz continues to be there for its clients to answer questions, refresh spaces as needs or trends change, and to simply be there for anything their clients require.

What starts with a dream ends in the most beautiful and satisfying reality for everyone involved.

“We work very hard to give customers a great experience from top to bottom, from the staff to the designers, to the field staff. We strive to work very closely with our clients to allow them to make the selections and changes they need along the way to realizing their dream,” says Kevin.

With the changing times also comes more competition in the industry. “One of our challenges today is the very competitive marketplace,” admits Kevin. “We address this head on by showing prospective clients our value adds and our warranty. We are proud to stand 100 per cent behind our product, and we know that efficient communication is key among clients, staff, and the trades every step of the way.”

Birkholz incorporated in 1968, so this year, the company celebrates its 50th anniversary. The family business has witnessed many changes to the rapidly growing Capital City over the years. The young city matured and the new neighbourhoods became established older ones, giving Birkholz yet another opportunity to shine.

“Personally, I love infills!” Kevin laughs. “I love being able to go into a community and help clients design a product that is respectful of the environment and the maturity of the community. I think it’s wonderful to see new homes being built closer to the core of Edmonton, where there is such great access to the River Valley and to so many amenities. To sustain those communities and bring families back into them, you must build infills. It’s interesting because, today, a lot of our business is infill product.”

Fifty years later, Birkholz homes continues to move seamlessly with the trends and to listen closely to what their clients want and need. For example, “Kitchens have become more than places to come in and make dinner,” explains Kevin. “Kitchens have become complete entertaining spaces. Today, this is a space where families interact. Parents are making dinner while their children are doing homework on a laptop. Everyone witnesses the appetizers coming together at the party as they hang out by the kitchen island having a drink instead of having stilted conversation over an old fashioned in the ‘drawing room.’ With this complete change over the years, the size and flow of the kitchen has been increased.”

Examples of a modern kitchen in the signature Birkholz Home style can be seen in the company’s Jagare Ridge showhome at 705 Howatt Drive. In addition to the large, open, airy, and multi-purpose kitchen, Gaggenau appliances are on display, bringing the heritage of Birkholz full circle.

Like the company’s founders, Gaggenau originated in Germany. Gaggenau appliances are incredibly sleek and futuristic, delivering on a promise of craftsmanship and functionality at the highest possible level. Gaggenau came to life in Germany’s Black Forest over 300 years ago, when its founder, Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden, took a hammer to a mill to refine the ore deposits from the Murgtal Valley into stylish and lasting household goods. In doing so, he also opened up jobs and income for the region’s impoverished farmers and set in motion a brand that would stand the test of time. Today, Gaggenau’s proprietary enamel ovens and triple glazed thermal coatings are among the most sought-after features for discerning home owners, and Birkholz Homes could not be happier to be one of the very few elite builders to include this historic brand in select custom homes.

“We work in a dynamic business,” says Kevin. “You get out of the business everything you put in. Our team is everything. It’s all about people. You have to have strong people to be successful.

“The time out of the office is just as important as the time in the office. Work/life balance is very important for success on the personal and professional fronts. Some people would say I’m very good at work/life balance, but I know I can achieve it because of the people working for Birkholz Homes, the long-term employees, and the trust I have in the staff. You can’t do something like this alone. The team is all part of the greater Birkholz family.”

Edmonton has supported the Birkholz brand for more than half a century, and Birkholz Homes is happy to respond in kind. In addition to supporting multiple non-profit and charitable initiatives, Birkholz is proud to have built three homes for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation’s dream home lotteries.

Kevin couldn’t be happier to be part of the longstanding Birkholz legacy, and with children of his own now, he enjoys being able to say, “your grandfather built that home 30 years ago. This is one of ours.”

“Seeing Realtors adding ‘Birkholz-built home’ to their listing shows that we are a proven brand in the business,” says Kevin with pride.

Kevin and the Birkholz team wish to thank all their clients, staff, vendors, and the community for the opportunity to provide decades of outstanding service, and for the chance to continue to do so for many more years. Kevin is especially grateful for the support of his family, and for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, of which he’s been a part of for 14 years. He is also very grateful to the duo that started it all and put his life’s work and passion in motion – Horst and Doris Birkholz. To everyone that has brought Birkholz Homes to where it is today, Kevin says, “Thank you for the opportunity, trust, and privilege to be part of something so personal.”

He concludes, “The excitement of what’s next for us is in knowing that we will continue to bring something different and unique to the Edmonton marketplace. Birkholz stands for great products that come with great experience.”

To learn more about what sets this custom home building company apart in the Capital City, visit birkholzhomes.com.

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