BW Sessions: Point B Properties

BW Sessions: Point B Properties

by TODD STOLARSKI | Aug 13, 2015

It doesn't matter what your age or background is -- Point B Properties founder Robert Linn shares a defining characteristic with many adults in the built environment: as a kid, he liked to build things. After spending time in Ann Arbor earning a dual degree in architecture and engineering at the University of Michigan, in December 2004, he began Point B Properties. And once he had purchased his first property, he decided to embrace his passion for architecture and go "all in" as a developer.

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Once the recession hit in 2008, he relocated the company to Chicago to tackle a once-in-a-generation housing opportunity. Over a decade later, and throughout the residential general contracting process, Linn has become more focused on a project's HERS score (the industry standard for measuring a home's energy performance). When it comes to a HERS score, it's like a round of putt-putt -- the lower the number, the better.

For this BW Session, we caught up with Linn about his HERS ratings, quick energy saving tips, and all things Point B Properties... 

BuiltWorlds: What is the main idea behind Point B Properties, and where did it originate?

Founder Linn, the point man at Point B.

Founder Linn, the point man at Point B.

Rob Linn: To help fill the void in housing created by the recession. I am always curious what's going on in the real estate market, and the more I read, the more it seemed like a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Housing starts were the lowest they had been since WWII. So, I saw an opportunity for a higher quality product.

BW: How do you source new projects?

RL: There's no one way. Every time I find a really great source, it dries up. It's really being scrappy, staying well-networked.

BW: Any unexpected challenges?

RL: Keeping up with demand. The buyers we speak with recognize the value of what we offer, and want us to build homes for them.

BW: What void in the market does Point B look to fill?

RL:  We cater to sophisticated buyers who do their research. Buyers are getting smarter about the home-buying process and that is an advantage for us. For example, there are very few builders who are voluntarily doing HERS testing on their homes. It doesn't get much attention right now, but will soon be the standard homes are measured by, similar to the MPG rating on cars. It actually is a little odd that people spend so much more on their homes than their cars, but know less about its energy efficiency.

BW:  What measures does Point B use to gain a better HERS rating on its properties?

RL: It's really done by taking a holistic view of the house design and building envelope, and making sure energy efficiency is a design consideration from the start. One aspect of the process is the specs and mechanics of the HVAC units. We are able to push the scores lower through the air sealing. Constructing the house well to be energy efficient all around, too. Making sure that all of the systems work together. Ensuring that the home is really air-tight requires a lot of babysitting.

BW: Has the development of relationships with contractors over the last decade plus removed part of this babysitting element? 

RL: Of course. One of the challenges, at first, was getting the contractors to do things way different from what they have done for the last 20 years. That's gotten easier as I've hired my own people.

BW: Is Point B involved in a typical project from inception to completion? 

RL: Yes, everything. To achieve the best HERS rating, some aspects have to be looked at more than others. With carpentry, a few things can be done there. Whether we are GC-ing the project or someone else is, there's a checklist that we go down to make sure we achieve the best energy efficiency. 

 BW: During construction, what does Point B do to ensure the HERS score is where it needs to be?

RL: It starts with the initial design phase. I'll work with my architect and we'll send our design over to the HERS rater for their two cents. Then its a matter of getting the HVAC system sized right and making sure the insulation will be installed perfectly. Ultimately, making sure that the home will be designed to be energy efficient. It's all about energy efficiency.

BW: What's the lowest HERS score Point B has achieved? What's the average?

RL: Lowest is 52, average is 65. Depends on type of home. Smaller, modern homes (flat roofs) are easier to build tightly. One of the biggest energy losses in homes is through the drain created by a heat bridge through the wall studs. One way to get around that is through a staggered stud construction. 

BW: What are some easy energy-cutting measures homeowners can do on their own?

RL: During this hot summer, the sun is beating down in your house causing your air conditioning to turn on. Shading your windows can go a long way. Obviously, a smart (IoT) thermostat that clicks on 30 minutes before you arrive home from work helps. Those are the cheapest and easiest ways. The biggest energy loss through homes is through the windows. Get the best ones you can. If you are ready to do a remodel, do your research and hire an Energy Star-qualified contractor. In general, windows and air sealing are the first places I would go to after smart HVAC systems.


Today, over a decade into the game and Point B Properties may now be looking for more real estate elsewhere. In our discussion with Linn, he tells us that while local business is booming, investors are seeking to expand the company's bandwidth to other continents. With sustainable, energy-efficient structures in such high demand worldwide, it's no surprise that Point B may soon be, as well.

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