Groza Construction, Inc. — A Foundation of Vision and Integrity
By Hayli Morrison
From American Builders Quarterly, Summer 2007
Visionary. That is perhaps the best descriptor for Groza Construction Inc., a California-based company founded in 1978 by Brian Groza. With an emphasis on elite custom homes in the Monterey Peninsula area, the 54-year-old builder does not shy away from challenges.
His most notable project—one that earned him several awards—was a 3,500-foot “green house,” constructed of board-formed concrete walls, photovoltaic panels, and a roof of wild grass and strawberries. The $1.9 million project in the Santa Lucia Preserve had a membrane roof with egg carton-like water storage capabilities that allowed excess water to escape through an intricate drainage system.
Another unique Groza home in the Santa Lucia Preserve was constructed with earth walls. Traditionally, the wall formation process for such structures involves compacting dirt in a cement mixer and then packing it into a preconstructed wire form—hence the name “rammed earth.” Groza’s house instead utilized “pneumatically impacted stabilized earth,” a dry mix of soil and ash. When sprayed onto a curtain form attached to a plywood frame, the mix hardened into a wall.
“It’s almost like doing a swimming pool,” Groza says, adding that his company hired a swimming pool contractor to bring equipment out and do the job. Groza says he prefers the innovative technique because it lends itself to a more natural, sleek finished product. “This was a soil that had a lot of decomposed granite in it and not a high clay content, so it was quite suitable for that process. You end up with a great wall that has a warm brown look,” he says.
The availability of new materials and building concepts have impacted the construction industry tremendously, Groza says. “Incorporating all these new materials and systems into houses, it becomes a very complex set of construction documents,” he says. The average four-page set of instructions when Groza started out in the industry has grown tenfold over the years.
Time has also brought an influx of architects into the Monterey Peninsula area with varying perspectives that add a whole new layer of innovation, Groza says. Home design there has taken a very eco-friendly turn, with photovoltaic energy panels on the rooftops and concrete floors to absorb heat and help warm the house.
The average Groza Construction home is around 6,500 square feet, although that number is beginning to decline. “Part of it is the cost factor, because people are realizing it’s expensive to maintain,” Groza says. “I think people are also realizing they don’t need that much space for enjoyment.” The math is staggering when figuring $400 to $600 per square foot of space—an average cost, according to Groza, that does not even include the $1 million to $2 million price for land in the Monterey Peninsula.
From a builder running those kinds of numbers, “modular homes” is probably the last thing expected to come up in conversation. But Groza, ever the entrepreneur, sees a gap in the market and he aims to fill it. “The affordability of housing in this area has just gone by the wayside,” he says, adding that it has expanded the distance from which he must recruit laborers. “We’re thinking there’s potential for some kind of development or in-fill of modular homes,” he says. “We’re looking at something that’s not your typical 1960s modular home. We want something more contemporary, with good architectural design and good flow, yet affordable.”
Due to land prices and cost of living in the Monterey Peninsula area, Groza says the modular homes may need to be built elsewhere or may even evolve into more of a downtown condominiums concept. One thing is certain—by no means will Groza be completely changing his market niche from high-end, custom residential to the construction of more affordable housing. “Long-term, though, if you want to diversify your company, we’re thinking that might be a good offshoot,” he says. “We do believe that’s going to be an important part of construction in the future.”
It is yet another example of Groza’s visionary mentality. The mid-sized company was founded on integrity and the concept of treating customers and staff fairly—something Groza refers to as “the formula for success.” With an average 15 percent annual increase in sales over the last five years, Groza Construction shows no signs of slowing down. This year’s sales projections stretch to the $10 million mark, and Groza is eyeing the creation of some LLCs from within company ranks.
“I love doing innovative things and I’m very much an optimist about what’s coming up,” says Groza. “I am always looking forward to the next project. My favorite project is the next one.”