By Elena Olmstead for TCAJoB
The buy American movement has been gaining momentum across the country, as more people chose to find ways to support local businesses to keep jobs in the country.
While it might be easy to buy American-grown produce, American-made jeans and made-in-America toys, buying a house built almost entirely out of American made products is a tall order.
But that’s what Aaron Sullivan, owner of Titan Homes has set out to do.
Sullivan broke ground in February on a 2,243-sq.-ft. home in Kennewick’s Inspiration Estates subdivision that will be constructed almost completely out of American-made products. Almost everything from the drywall to the light fixtures to the doorknobs will be made in America.
Sullivan said the idea for the home came from a Montana-based builder who took on the same challenge last spring.
Sullivan has been planning for about three months to get his “Built in America” home off the ground.
“We wanted to make sure we were not stepping into something we couldn’t follow through on,” Sullivan said.
He quickly points out that while he will strive to build it using as close to 100 percent American-made products as feasible, it’s nearly impossible to make sure that every nail, nut, bolt and screw, including those holding the stove and air conditioning units together, is made in the U.S. He estimates that when the project is complete, 98 percent of the house, including appliances, bathroom fixtures and windows, will be home grown.
Sullivan said he and his team haven’t been the only ones studying where their building supplies originate. Their building suppliers have put in a lot time researching where everything is sourced and made.
So far the trickiest thing has been finding appliances that are 100 percent made in U.S. He said so far they haven’t found a microwave that fits the bill and most of the other appliances, although assembled in the U.S., are built using components that are manufactured in a foreign country.
But Sullivan has been impressed to discover how readily available American-made building products are.
“I thought we’d get resistance…but (our suppliers) have really embraced it,” Sullivan said.
And the added cost of making the home from American made products isn’t as staggering as some might think. Sullivan said the made in America construction technique has added $6,000 to $8,000 to the cost of the home, which would originally sell for $299,000.
That means a built in America home costs approximately less than 3 percent more than a traditionally built home, which are typically made with about 50 percent American made products, Sullivan said. But for this project, his company will absorb the additional costs.
Sullivan said what really compelled him to take on the project was a report he read that said if American builders used just 5 percent more American-made products, they could generate 220,000 jobs across the country.
“And 5 percent is easy – any builder can do that without incurring costs,” Sullivan said. “So we decided to try to build as close to 100 percent as possible.”
One thing he’s learned through this process is that while buying American tends to add some cost it also limits their selection, especially when it comes to things made of metal – like light fixtures.
But if a builder is just changing 5 percent of their products it doesn’t have to be difficult and it can make a difference.
Sullivan said he plans to have a ribbon cutting for the house on July 4.
And as far as whether or not they will be making more built in America homes in the future, Sullivan said he’s going to have to see what the public thinks of the idea.
But one thing he knows for sure is that he’s going to strive to use 5 to 10 percent more American-made products in their everyday building.
He wants to use the project to raise awareness about the importance of buying American-made products. He said he’d like to challenge the big box stores to make it easy for customers to find American-made projects on their shelves, to decide for themselves if they want to pay a little more for nails made in America.
To help others, both professionals and do-it-yourselfers, to find American made building products, Sullivan said, his company is keeping a list of the American manufacturers whose products they are using for this project on their website at www.titanhomesllc.com.
“We’re going to keep a running list on our website of where people can go to see where our products are coming from,” Sullivan said.