The Builder that Gives Back to the Community

Dunsire Developments

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Dunsire Developments is a community and sustainability focused residential developer/builder that has formed trusted partnerships with homebuyers since its foundation. The company operates under the mandate that its customers don’t just purchase a home; they purchase a lifestyle.
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Shawn Keeper, Founder of Dunsire Developments, has had a passion for home building for as long as he can remember.

“I always loved building things. When I grew up in British Columbia, I used to build my own tree forts and play with construction stuff all the time. I told my mother that I wanted to become a carpenter, and she challenged me, ‘Why not become an engineer?’ he recounts.

After finishing his civil engineering degree, Keeper found a job with a great company that provided him with a training ground, to which he attributes his success to this day.

“I got to work for a great builder—one of Canada’s largest. It gave me an amazing opportunity to learn. The right things clicked in my passion for wanting to build homes, and gave me an opportunity where I was able to branch out on my own.”

Keeper strived to create an exceptional business that went above and beyond industry norms. One of Dunsire’s differentiating factors is that the company maintains its presence in the communities it builds, long after formal transactions have been completed. “We are continuously looking for opportunities to support our partners in the life cycle of home buying,” Keeper states. “We strive to make our communities feel like home, a place that you could raise your family and relax after a long day. We build pristine locations that offer fantastic amenities and peaceful serenity. We believe that our environment shapes who we are as individuals, and we take a lot of pride in creating master planned communities.”

Dunsire Developments’ catchphrase is “bringing community to life,” and everything from the design of its homes to the design of its communities is conceived with that phrase in mind. Dunsire offers single-family homes, estates, semi-detached homes, and townhomes. All of its Southwestern Ontario communities are carefully designed and situated in close proximity to scenic natural sites, conservation areas, or lakes, ensuring a high quality of life for homebuyers.

On top of Dunsire’s customer loyalty and beautifying architectural controls and selections—which are made to inspire from the moment you drive into the community—the builder has also exceeded expectations in another important way – Dunsire Developments offers Net Zero-Ready homes.

“Net Zero” homes are capable of generating as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. The Ontario government would like to make Net Zero a building standard by 2030. There is also proposed legislation to make energy certifications a part of the building code, so that when homeowners transfer homes, they will need to provide energy efficiency test results similar to emissions testing for vehicles.

“For us, it’s our way of being responsible for our carbon footprint and being proactive about climate change. It’s also about being innovators and leaders in the building industry, and getting ahead before it becomes the standard. I sit on the Net Zero Council of Canada, which is under the CHBA, in preparation for what will be a building standard in about 2030, and what we hope to make our standard moving forward wherever we can make it work,” Keeper says.

Last spring, Dunsire launched the first Net Zero-Ready community in the Toronto area. “Mount Pleasant Preserve is our first Net Zero-Ready community: 48 acres in Caledon, a beautiful community. The Toronto Conservation Authority has a large portion of the land as well, natural lands that they’re protecting. It was a very suitable location for us to launch our Net Zero-Ready homes. We’ve done very well with our sales, and we will begin home constructions in fall of this year. We are currently servicing the roads as we speak,” Keeper remarks.

Net Zero-ready homes are healthier, more air-tight homes, with upgraded features such as better insulation and triple-pane windows. “They are much more energy efficient than your standard Ontario homes, and even a step above Energy Star, from an energy ratings perspective,” says Keeper.

A Net Zero-Ready home, which is extremely efficient at using energy, becomes fully Net Zero when it produces sustainable energy as well, meaning that a renewable energy source (typically solar panels) must be installed.

The reason that the concept of “Net Zero” applies to annual usage is because in summer months, a Canadian homeowner will generate much more energy than they can consume, whereas in winter months they will almost certainly generate less. Homeowners who have upgraded a Net Zero-Ready home to Net Zero can install a battery pack to store that energy for usage at night or during later months through their hydro provider’s net metering program.

“In communities where this type of technology can make sense, we plan on making Net Zero-Ready the standard for future low-rise developments, so that when the homeowner feels it’s the right opportunity for them, they can upgrade the home through us or at a later date,” he says.

However, buyers should note one cannot be completely “off the grid”; all homeowners must have a net meter that allows energy to come into their home (and in the case of Net Zero homes, also from the home). Hydro companies charge a mandatory monthly connection fee on top of usage rates, but when solar panels are active, homeowners won’t pay much, if anything, for usage.

“Your utility bills will be significantly reduced, but you unfortunately can’t ‘zero’ them out entirely at this time. This is something that the building industry and associations are now working on with the local utility companies… rebates and credits that can potentially reduce some of those administration charges, so there is less burden on home owners that have chosen Net Zero,” Keeper explains.

Even so, Net Zero homeowners—and even Net Zero-Ready homeowners—pay much less for their utilities. Substantially lower monthly bills and a boosted resale value make Net Zero homes an attractive option for buyers in the current housing market, but Keeper clarifies that this isn’t his primary objective with taking the company in this new, modern direction. Dunsire Developments is building Net Zero-ready communities simply because it is the right thing to do for its partners, the planet, and the future.

“Our goal is to get on the forefront and be innovative. And instead of waiting for it to become code, we’d rather prepare for the future today.”

Dunsire is a company that values treating people well. This value shines through in how the Dunsire team interacts with home buying partners, how the company treats the environment and its own employees, and also its commitment to giving back to the community. For instance, Keeper has started a charity affiliated with Dunsire Developments, called Lights, Camera, Imagine, to help children.

“The charity is dedicated to providing unforgettable memories of the performing and visual arts to children who may be faced with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities. It’s a national charity that I founded in memory of my mother, Alison Dunsire Keeper, also who I named this company after,” he says.

Keeper’s mother was a teacher and pianist with a love for the arts. Her dream was for every child to be able to experience that joy.

The company conducts annual fundraising campaigns for its affiliated charity, and also donates staff time. “In lieu of having charity administration expenses, Dunsire Developments absorbs all of those costs. We volunteer our staff’s time and resources so that when people are making donations to Lights, Camera, Imagine, their funds are directly going towards events for the kids,” Keeper tells us.

In addition to staying at the forefront of advancements in green technology and remaining a generous and philanthropic corporate citizen, Keeper’s future plans for Dunsire include providing more integrated services for homeowners, such as growing the property management company (Dunsire Management), and continuing to foster a positive, family-oriented working environment for the Dunsire team.

In fact, Dunsire Developments is in the development stage of launching its own daycare, to give employees access to affordable care for their children. The new daycare centre will be called “Bratty Pants Daycare”—named by Keeper’s wife.

Other benefits to being a part of the Dunsire team include opportunities for continued education, a 24/7 support line, health allowances, and more. For those who feel Dunsire’s mandate speaks to them, Keeper encourages them to reach out: “Dunsire is growing,” he says. “We’re always looking for great talent to join the Dunsire family – people who are great at taking on new challenges, working hard, and having fun with a fresh-minded, innovative, and family-dedicated team. If anyone’s interested in joining the team, they can always email us at careers@dunsire.com.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 13, 2019, 10:16 PM EST