Jim Campbell, of Jim Campbell Homes, left, and Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, stand outside a Campbell home at 6501 NW 113 and talk about the association's Certified Professional Builder program, which recently received national industry attention. [PHOTO BY DOUG HOKE, THE OKLAHOMAN]
-The new house still had a way to go: Opening the front door released roiling clouds of wood stain fumes that spilled out to a lawn mired in a mix of mud and mayhem — weeds everywhere.
But a sign staked in front offered assurance to neighbors and passers-by: "Certified Professional Builder-OSHBA," a seal of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.
“This house burned down right after Christmas last year, and this guy had to find a builder,” builder Jim Campbell said. "The first thing he started looking for is, ‘How do I know this is someone I can trust?' ”
The seal certifies that Jim Campbell Homes participates in the state builders group's Certified Professional Builder program, which recently attracted national industry attention.
In place since 2003, the voluntary program requires participating builders to go through continuing education, build to code at minimum, work with written contracts, offer a one-year warranty on their work, meet credit standards as set by their local associations, and carry a minimum premium insurance policy of workers' compensation and a minimum $1 million in general liability coverage.
“This is something they (consumers) can go back to, if they have a problem," Campbell said. "What I point out is we don't license (builders) in Oklahoma, so this is as close as you're going to get.”
The Executive Officers Council of the National Association of Home Builders recently recognized the Certified Builder program with an Award of Excellence in Service. The council consists of the staff executives of 700-plus state and local builders groups making up the national association.
“Winning an Association Excellence Award is a great honor," said Eric Person, president of the Executive Officers Council and CEO of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Central Connecticut. "Each award recognizes the outstanding effort, commitment and achievement our homebuilding associations and their membership make to further the value and importance of their organization.”
The Certified Professional Builder program does that by highlighting what the state group already offers, said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.
"It's a program that recognizes our best of the best builders,” Means said. “What we do, by promoting the Certified Professional Builder program, is helping the builders.”
Campbell said the designation sends a clear message to the market.
“I think with this program, it brings builders out who are already doing the quality work,” he said. “So a lot of it's more about how I'm working with the public.
"What can I offer you to get the quality house built? One that has a warranty that comes with it? A builder that's going to be around in the long run? So if you need to you can call me and I'll take care of it. “
The state association also has an obligation to the builders who pursue certified designation, since it's voluntary, Campbell said.
“Our responsibility is to help promote the certified builders,” he said. “So if you go to the (OSHBA) website, the only builders you're going to see listed there are our Certified Professional Builders."
The association also arranges opportunities for builders to get the required annual continuing education.
One way is by staging events such as the annual Oklahoma Building Summit & Expo held earlier this month at Cox Convention Center, where expects expounded on topics such as cloud technology and advances in home automation.
Thanks to the exposure the Certified Builder program got with the national recognition, Means said Washington state builders are considering a similar program.
"That's what you do. When you put in for a program, you're putting yourself out there, and you know somebody's going to pick up on it.”
For Campbell, the motivation for seeking the certified designation stretches back to May 3, 1999, when a massive, slow-moving tornado churned its way through central Oklahoma, leaving death and destruction in Bridge Creek, Del City, Midwest City, Moore and parts of Oklahoma City.
“What struck me — that was the first time I was involved in a disaster — was the people who came out of the woodwork who were promoting themselves as builders,” Campbell said. “And, especially over in Del City where I was building, there were a lot of people who got halfway through builds, and then those guys would disappear."
Being a Certified Builder, he said, "gives us the background to say 'Hey, I'll be here.' I've been building since 1989. So I kind of push that fact.”