Ryan Scott's entrepreneurial spirit is helping Avalon Master Builder meet growing consumer demand for sustainable homes. As his mid-size company thrives in a competitive industry dominated by larger players, SAIT talks with Scott, who graduated from SAIT's Business Administration program in 2001, about hard lessons, entrepreneurship and the value of keeping it simple.

How did Avalon Master Builder become a leader in sustainable building?

When my sister Christine and I took over the business from our dad in 2004, we brought together all our staff from both the Red Deer and Calgary offices for a two-day session to determine the guiding forces for our business.

Together we reframed our focus from customer service to "taking the stress out of buying a home." Our staff told us they were really interested in green building — something that wasn't much on people's minds at the time. Our thoughts around sustainability and "something to do with green" have morphed into "net zero at no extra cost for our customers." We've done a lot of work to set ourselves up as a leader in this space. And we've done a lot of work to find the right way to get to net zero — building homes that produce as much energy as they consume.

You've received numerous awards for your leadership in sustainable development. Have you had some hard lessons along the way?

We have! When you've been in business this long, you've definitely faced some challenges. We've learned a lot through an ongoing research and development partnership with SAIT called Discovery Homes, where students undertake projects exploring green building practices. One of the guiding principles we follow now is just to keep it simple. There are lots of great ideas for making homes more sustainable but if those ideas start getting too complex, they will likely also be too expensive to be viable in every home we build. The more bare bones the idea, the easier it is to describe to homebuyers and the more likely it is to succeed.

We've had some great learning experiences. The more you learn from your mistakes, the better you get. We are living in very fast-changing times and people who aren't willing to try new things and experiment are getting left behind. The people who are figuring out new things are going to be the leaders in the future.

What makes a good entrepreneur?

Having a strong vision and having the right people with you to make it happen. It takes a team to make any business successful and I work with a fantastic group of people.

Text by Jennifer Allford
Photos by Jager + Kokemor
Video by Grant Nolin

a view of the moutains and stream in between

Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.